Sen. Edward M.
Kennedy endorsed Barack Obama for the Democratic
presidential nomination on Monday as a "man with
extraordinary gifts of leadership and character" and a
worthy heir to his brother, John F. Kennedy, who is
still revered among Democrats four decades after his
assassination. "I feel change in the air," Kennedy said in
prepared remarks salted with scarcely veiled criticism of
Obama's chief rival for the nomination, Sen. Hillary
Rodham Clinton, as well as her husband, the former
The support of
Kennedy pits two influential Democratic families -- the
Kennedys and the Clintons -- against each other. It
increases pressure on Clinton, building on Obama's
decisive win over the former first lady in the South
Carolina primary Saturday.
endorsement was ardently sought by all three of the
remaining presidential contenders, and he delivered it
at a pivotal time in the race. A liberal lion in his
fifth decade in the Senate, the Massachusetts senator
is in a position to help Obama court Hispanic voters as well
as rank-and-file members of labor unions, two key
elements of the Democratic Party.
He is expected to
campaign actively for Obama in the eight days leading
up to next Tuesday's delegate-rich primaries and caucuses
across 22 states, beginning later this week in
Arizona, New Mexico, and California.
The senator made
his comments at a crowded campaign rally at American
University that took on the appearance of a Kennedy family
embrace of Obama.
He was introduced
by Caroline Kennedy, daughter of the late president,
who said Obama "offers that same sense of hope and
inspiration" as did her father.
just about politics for me. It's personal,'' Obama, 46,
said when it came time for him to speak. ''I was too young
to remember John Kennedy, and I was just a child when
Robert Kennedy ran for president. But in the stories I
heard growing up, I saw how my grandparents and mother
spoke about them, and about that period in our
nation's life as a time of great hope and achievement.''
In his own
remarks, Kennedy sought one by one to rebut many of the
arguments leveled by Obama's critics.
beginning, he opposed the war in Iraq. And let no one deny
that truth,'' he said, an obvious reference to former
president Bill Clinton's statement that Obama's early
antiwar stance was a ''fairy tale.''
Obama, we will turn the page on the old politics of
misrepresentation and distortion.
Obama we will close the book on the old politics of race
against race, gender against gender, ethnic group against
ethnic group, and straight against gay,'' Kennedy
senator had remained on the sidelines of the
presidential campaign for months, saying he was friends with
Obama, Clinton, and former North Carolina senator John
Edwards as well as several Senate colleagues who are
no longer in the race.
to several associates, Kennedy became angered with what
he viewed as racially divisive comments by Bill Clinton.
Nearly two weeks ago he played a personal key role in
arranging a brief truce between the Clintons and Obama
on the issue.
only sparingly to his assassinated brothers, John and
Robert, in his public remarks, and his endorsement of Obama
was cast in terms that aides said was unusually
another time, when another young candidate was running for
president and challenging America to cross a new frontier.
He faced criticism from the preceding Democratic
president, who was widely respected in the party,''
Kennedy said, referring to Harry Truman.
Kennedy replied, 'The world is changing. The old ways will
not do.... It is time for a new generation of
''So it is with
Barack Obama,'' he added.
Kennedy began his
remarks by paying tribute to Senator Clinton's advocacy
for issues such as health care and women's rights. ''Whoever
is our nominee will have my enthusiastic support,'' he
But he quickly
pivoted to a strong endorsement of Obama, whom he said
''has extraordinary gifts of leadership and character,
matched to the extraordinary demands of this moment in
''I believe that
a wave of change is moving across America,'' Kennedy
Obama picked up the endorsement of Nobel
Prize-winning author Toni Morrison, who once
nicknamed Bill Clinton the "first black president."
Morrison said she has admired Obama rival Hillary
Rodham Clinton for years because of her knowledge and
mastery of politics, but cited Obama's "creative
imagination which coupled with brilliance equals
wisdom." (David Espo, AP)