Sunday, January 06, 2008

Obama's Kennedy Connection

There were echoes in his Iowa victory speech Thursday night that may come from the influence on Barack Obama of the man who worked with JFK on "Profiles in Courage" and his Inaugural Address in 1960.

At 79, Ted Sorensen has been out on the campaign trail, introducing Obama and comparing him to the President he served almost half a century ago.

"Obama is older than Kennedy was when Kennedy ran for president," Sorensen has been pointing out. "He's had the same experience in the Senate as Kennedy had when he ran for president, and he's had the same opportunity to view the country from abroad as Kennedy did when he ran for president."

Sorensen, who doesn't see well now and needs help getting up to speak, tells crowds, "Don't worry about my eyesight. I have more vision than the President of the United States."

Taking the oath of office, John F. Kennedy said "the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans--born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage--and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this Nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.'

In Des Moines, Obama said, "The time has come for a president who will be honest about the choices and the challenges we face, who will listen to you and learn from you, even when we disagree, who won't just tell you what you want to hear, but what you need to know...who restores our moral standing, who understands that 9/11 is not a way to scare up votes but a challenge that should unite America and the world against the common threats of the 21st century."

Sorensen was at Robert Kennedy's side when he campaigned for President in 1968 and would say, "Some men see things as they are and say why. I dream things that never were and say why not." Now Obama is telling Americans "our destiny will not be written for us, but by us, by all those men and women who are not content to settle for the world as it is, who have the courage to remake the world as it should be."

In last night's debate, Hillary Clinton observed that "words are not actions, as beautifully presented and passionately felt as they are." But Obama insisted that "words do inspire. Words do help people get involved...Don't discount that power."

With Ted Sorensen at his side, Barack Obama is not likely to forget that.


Ron Davison said...

As usual, another fascinating lesson in history and context. Thanks!

Liza said...

I agree. Great post.