A year to the day before Sen. Edward Kennedy died, the ailing liberal lion made a surprise appearance at the Democratic National Convention’s opening night in Denver. Just months after being diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor, his voice breaking, the Massachusetts Democrat vowed he would be there on the floor of the U.S. Senate when Barack Obama was sworn in as president.
“For me this is a season of hope,” Kennedy declared, “new hope for a justice and fair prosperity for the many, and not just for the few. New hope.”
“And this is the cause of my life,” he went on, his voice strengthening and reaching his familiar cadence. “New hope that we will break the old gridlock and guarantee that every American — north, south, east, west, young, old — will have decent, quality health care as a fundamental right and not a privilege.”
A video tribute to the senator preceded his speech and was introduced by his niece, Caroline Kennedy, whose early endorsement of Obama proved crucial in his drive to the nomination.
Watch the entire Kennedy package on this C-SPAN video:
Here’s a transcript of Kennedy’s speech, provided by the DNC:
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, Caroline.
My fellow Democrats, my fellow Americans, it is so wonderful to be here.
And nothing — nothing is going to keep me away from this special gathering tonight.
I have come here tonight to stand with you to change America, to restore its future, to rise to our best ideals, and to elect Barack Obama president of the United States.
As I look ahead, I am strengthened by family and friendship. So many of you have been with me in the happiest days and the hardest days. Together we have known success and seen setbacks, victory and defeat.
But we have never lost our belief that we are all called to a better country and a newer world. And I pledge to you — I pledge to you that I will be there next January on the floor of the United States Senate when we begin the great test.
Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you.
For me this is a season of hope — new hope for a justice and fair prosperity for the many, and not just for the few — new hope.
And this is the cause of my life — new hope that we will break the old gridlock and guarantee that every American — north, south, east, west, young, old — will have decent, quality health care as a fundamental right and not a privilege.
We can meet these challenges with Barack Obama. Yes, we can, and finally, yes, we will.
Barack Obama will close the book on the old politics of race and gender and group against group and straight against gay.
And Barack Obama will be a commander-in-chief who understands that young Americans in uniform must never be committed to a mistake, but always for a mission worthy of their bravery.
We are told that Barack Obama believes too much in an America of high principle and bold endeavor, but when John Kennedy called of going to the moon, he didn’t say it’s too far to get there. We shouldn’t even try.
Our people answered his call and rose to the challenge, and today an American flag still marks the surface of the moon.
Yes, we are all Americans. This is what we do. We reach the moon. We scale the heights. I know it. I’ve seen it. I’ve lived it. And we can do it again.
There is a new wave of change all around us, and if we set our compass true, we will reach our destination — not merely victory for our Party, but renewal for our nation.
And this November the torch will be passed again to a new generation of Americans, so with Barack Obama and for you and for me, our country will be committed to his cause. The work begins anew. The hope rises again. And the dream lives on.