September 9th, 2009
09:10 PM ET
14 years ago

Obama invokes Kennedy's 'character of America'


During his address before Congress Wednesday, the president share a letter he received from the late Sen. Ted Kennedy. (Photo Credit: Pete Souza/Official White House photo distributed via
WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Barack Obama invoked the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy on Wednesday, citing a letter in which the senator said that health-care reform "is above all a moral issue."

"'At stake are not just the details of policy, but fundamental principles of social justice and the character of our country,'" the president said, quoting the letter which Kennedy had written in May and asked to be delivered after his death.

"I've thought about that phrase quite a bit in recent days - the character of our country," Obama said to a joint session of Congress. "One of the unique and wonderful things about America has always been our self-reliance, our rugged individualism, our fierce defense of freedom and our healthy skepticism of government."

Kennedy recognized, however, that with all of the drive of Americans to stand strong, there comes a time when government must step in to help, Obama said.

"When fortune turns against one of us, others are there to lend a helping hand," the president said, citing "a belief that in this country, hard work and responsibility should be rewarded by some measure of security and fair play; and an acknowledgment that sometimes government has to step in to help deliver on that promise."

Filed under: Health care • President Obama • Ted Kennedy
soundoff (39 Responses)
  1. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    I read Mrs. Kennedy's lips and she said "that was amazing."

    September 9, 2009 09:13 pm at 9:13 pm |
  2. MWM

    Wow. What an incredible speech the president gave tonight. I am so jazzed. I really feel we are going to get healthcare reform this time.

    September 9, 2009 09:13 pm at 9:13 pm |
  3. Deuce

    Obama the Alchemist.. Trying to get blood from a stone.

    September 9, 2009 09:14 pm at 9:14 pm |
  4. Cecilia

    Please help me understand. Why is the Republican party allowed to voice a rebuttle immediately following each Presidential speech? I'm new to politics to please be kind.

    September 9, 2009 09:14 pm at 9:14 pm |

    Great speech. Let's see we better not let our school children hear somebody with so much intelligence.

    September 9, 2009 09:15 pm at 9:15 pm |
  6. Truth-Bomb Thrower

    What? Did I hear him say "Ted Kennedy" and the word "character" in the same sentence? WHAT A LAUGH!! 🙂

    September 9, 2009 09:15 pm at 9:15 pm |
  7. Penn Voter

    I don't buy into what he is saying. Not that I don't believe that we need to do something. But this idea that we are going receive all these things without increasing the deficit, without increase taxes, without cutting coverage..... I say no way. If this bill is forced on us, we will kick this gang out in 2010 and 2012.

    September 9, 2009 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |
  8. lilalove

    I thought it was his best speech ever. I also thought he was forthright and firmly honest. The big news is that the public option would only be available to people who have no health insurance. He flirted with tarp reform and capping medical law suits. He made it clear that their would be no single payer health plan. He also called republicans, looking right in their eyes, on the poopoo ball lies they have been smearing him with.
    It brought his glow back.

    September 9, 2009 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |
  9. chuck

    Perhaps, even in passing, the late Sen. Kennedy will promote bi-partisanship. While his seat remains empty, as a reminder of the lion lost, the Democrats also are in more need of Republican support to pass a bill. Hopefully this will put to rest any notion of pushing a bill through and lead to the mutual respect needed to address the heart of the issue, just as Teddy would've worked to do.

    September 9, 2009 09:19 pm at 9:19 pm |
  10. Dave

    Say Ted Kennedy three times and click your heels and health care will be passed!

    Or was that something to do with going to Kansas.

    (I hope the CNN moderator's are old enough to understand my play on words.)

    September 9, 2009 09:20 pm at 9:20 pm |
  11. Obama's shine is rubbing off!

    Obama is washed up– exposed as a liar (he raised cigarette taxes on people under 250K) and hates America as we have known it. Look at his dropping poll numbers and think Jimmy Carter with a chip on his shoulder. Only difference is Obama is bankrupting the country with his stimulus that created no jobs, and now he wants to ruin healthcare, put grandma to sleep and hike our energy bills with cap and trade, what a loser. He is the worst president in history.

    September 9, 2009 09:20 pm at 9:20 pm |
  12. Peter


    Please stop "translating" the address in your own words and opinions.

    It is most irritating.

    September 9, 2009 09:23 pm at 9:23 pm |
  13. lilalove

    Calling low brow republicans that play in their own poopoo and that just want to throw it on him is a sad job he is going to have to do. Obama is a grown up, it's time he calls the low brow republicans on their crap.
    Lets have honest debate based on factchecks. The politics are hurting our Country.

    September 9, 2009 09:23 pm at 9:23 pm |
  14. steve

    Who was the Republican (who has no character) and called the President a liar? Let him be called out for what he is. I he has a claim let him substantiate it in writing and justify his actions to America!

    September 9, 2009 09:24 pm at 9:24 pm |
  15. Penn Voter

    Wrapping this plan in the robes of Kennedy, in the robes of charity, in the robes of moral causes....... doesn't change the fact that at its core it is crap.

    September 9, 2009 09:24 pm at 9:24 pm |
  16. A Democrat of 51 years who has finally got smart to their follishness.

    Use of Kennedy will not gain him much support. The man was too unscrupolous.

    September 9, 2009 09:25 pm at 9:25 pm |
  17. M Stephens

    President Obama’s message this evening was profoundly outstanding!

    He laid out for the American public what insurance reform should contain. He was clear. His points seemed practical.

    His effectively and passionately addressed the skepticism.

    And, his references of Ted Kennedy’s letter and efforts brought tears to my eyes.

    Yes, America “still believes” in insurance reform now.

    September 9, 2009 09:30 pm at 9:30 pm |
  18. betts

    I am ASHAMED OF MY REPUBLICAN PARTY~ The President extended his hand and an open ear and Cantor sat there and texted. OBAMA changed my mind. I support him now.

    September 9, 2009 09:32 pm at 9:32 pm |
  19. Hazel

    Do the republicians have character? Did see any stand when the president said thats the charater of America.

    September 9, 2009 09:32 pm at 9:32 pm |
  20. T'SAH from Virginia

    Brought tears to my eyes because it's TRUE – If the Kennedys could not afford the health care his children received, the outcome would have been different. I know this for a fact and it takes someone that has been through it to KNOW IT!! This is why I commend Ted Kennedy on his efforts towards Health Care Reform!!

    September 9, 2009 09:34 pm at 9:34 pm |
  21. Marie MD

    We have become a nation of me first and as long as I am living the life I don't care about anybody else.
    The heckling of the President from a SC member of congress was pathetic. Is this where the healthcare mobsters get their lessons from?
    boustany, has been sued three times and he is a birther. What happened? Jindal was too busy? They wanted the rebuttal to be from an unknown. Guess he should stay, and will stay, that way!
    Guess Cantor was too busy twitting away so don't ask him what the President said.

    September 9, 2009 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |
  22. Melissa

    The way he did it, this was quite the brilliant move.

    September 9, 2009 09:38 pm at 9:38 pm |
  23. vic nashville , Tn

    I saw tears in my family and me that time

    September 9, 2009 09:45 pm at 9:45 pm |
  24. Frankie

    The one statement out of all of this plan is, It will be illegal for any insurance company to deny coverage because of pre-existing conditions!!!!! That in itself is a yes to reform for me.

    It is clear the insurance business needs clear regulation. Just as a any other business. If you let a child loose in a candy store, he will more than likely not just take a little, he will take as much candy as he can. So goes the insurance companies, pharmaceuticals, bought and paid for congressman fighting for the lobbyists etc.

    September 9, 2009 09:54 pm at 9:54 pm |
  25. jts

    Is anyone surprised that a middle aged white guy from the south thinks its okay to yell and call the first AA POTUS a liar during a world wide televised address to Congress? Why do people continue to suggest that there is no element of racism at the base of the criticisms and opposition of Pres. Obama? Wilson's hate so overwhelmed him that he could not contain himself. So sad.

    September 9, 2009 09:55 pm at 9:55 pm |
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