From Kenya to Camelot
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images In a New York Times editorial Sunday, Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg, daughter of former U.S. president John F. Kennedy, officially endorsed Illinois Senator Barack Obama for president, saying “I have never had a president who inspired me the way people tell me that my father inspired them… I believe I have found the ...
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
In a New York Times editorial Sunday, Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg, daughter of former U.S. president John F. Kennedy, officially endorsed Illinois Senator Barack Obama for president, saying “I have never had a president who inspired me the way people tell me that my father inspired them… I believe I have found the man who could be that president.”
Coming on the heels of Obama’s towering victory in South Carolina, it must have felt like a kick in the teeth for the Clinton campaign. But Uncle Teddy was really the main event today as he hitched Obama to the Camelot star during a rally at American University in Washington, D.C. In an impassioned speech, Sen. Kennedy made countless comparisons between Barack Obama and America’s greatest leaders:
He understands what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called the ‘fierce urgency of now.'”
“Let us remember that when Franklin Roosevelt envisioned Social Security, he didn’t decide—no, it was too ambitious, too big a dream, too hard. When John Kennedy thought of going to the moon, he didn’t say no, it was too far, maybe we couldn’t get there and shouldn’t even try.”
He even referenced President Abraham Lincoln’s famous inaugural address, when praising Obama for his ability to bring out the best in people:
He is tough-minded, but he also has an uncommon capacity to appeal to ‘the better angels of our nature.'”
Kennedy also rejected the Clinton campaign’s main criticism of Obama—that he’s too inexperienced to be commander in chief—saying, “I know that he’s ready to be president on day one.”
None of this was surprising; it was an endorsement speech, after all. But then, Obama stood up to speak and revealed a surprise: his personal connection to JFK. When he visited his father’s ancestral village in Kenya, Barack said, his grandmother gave him nearly three dozen letters the elder Obama had written to universities in the United States in the hopes of finding sponsorship for study in America:
[W]hat made it possible for him to come here was an effort by the young senator from Massachusetts at the time, John F. Kennedy, and by a grant from the Kennedy Foundation to help Kenyan students pay for travel. So it is partly because of their generosity that my father came to this country, and because he did, I stand before you today – inspired by America’s past, filled with hope for America’s future, and determined to do my part in writing our next great chapter.”
If Teddy’s endorsement is as valuable as many analysts say, it may be Kennedy generosity once again that puts an Obama right where he wants to be: this time, in the White House.
More from Foreign Policy
A New Multilateralism
How the United States can rejuvenate the global institutions it created.
America Prepares for a Pacific War With China It Doesn’t Want
Embedded with U.S. forces in the Pacific, I saw the dilemmas of deterrence firsthand.
The Endless Frustration of Chinese Diplomacy
Beijing’s representatives are always scared they could be the next to vanish.
The End of America’s Middle East
The region’s four major countries have all forfeited Washington’s trust.