.,*$.,,, UVW1JVH w ol The Kennedy Moment New York Former Texas Sen. Ralph Yarborough called it an “American classic.” President Jimmy Carter hailed it as “a magnificent statement of what the Democratic Party has meant to the people of our country.” Sen. Edward M. Kennedy’s speech on economic issues to the Democratic National Convention, hours after he had conceded defeat and withdrawn his candidacy for the party’s presidential nomination, was by far the best oration of his political career. In retrospect, it upstaged all else at the convention: Even Carter’s victory celebration two nights later was cast into shadow. From the moment the Massachusetts senator launched into his address, bursts of applause, cheers and approving laughter erupted repeatedly from the crowd inside Madison Square Garden. But before it was over teats were welling in the eyes of many delegates, obviously choked up by what marked the end of their long and bitterly fought campaign. “For me, a few hours ago, this campaign came to an end,” said Kennedy. “For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dream shall never die.” For more than half-an-hour after Kennedy had left the podium, Tuesday night, Aug. 12, thousands of his supporters stood roaring. They waved blue signs and banners, the floor of the arena seemingly transformed into a choppy sea. The level of their response was deafening; they were chanting, “We want Ted! We want Ted!” “There has never been a better speech by a candidate who has been denied the nomination of his party,” observed Sen. Yarborough, attending as a Carter delegate. “It will go down in history. It was a tremendous speech.” He rated it second, in recent history, only to the inaugural address he had heard given by John F. Kennedy in 1960. The text of Edward Kennedy’s address was by Robert Shrum and Carey Parker, the senator’s speech writers throughout the primary campaign. Kennedy edited the final draft. He sought the advice of Theodore C. Sorenson and Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., two of the Kennedy family’s closest friends and advisors. But as much as the text was a superior document, Kennedy’s delivery was flawless, stirring and strong, containing none of the blunders and faults that often plagued his appearances early in the campaign. He spoke forcefully, without sounding shrill or harsh, as he had at times in the past; his words were delivered with eloquent, emotional strength. Reaction to the senator’s address was uniformly enthusiastic. “The speech set the tone and the issues for the ’80’s,” said Billie Carr, a Kennedy delegate from Houston and member of the Democratic National Committee. Bob Krueger, former congressman from Texas who is now Carter’s special ambassador to Mexico, called the speech “magnificent,” adding that it “made us all proud to be Democrats.” As with most great speeches, immediate circumstance lent its fair share to the importance of the address. Until the night before, Kennedy had pressed his campaign against all odds of winning, finally conceding at a late hour after having lost the rules fight to Carter that might have -breathed new life into his candidacy. Kennedy’s people, as a result, were somewhat embittered and despondent. The prospect of lingering divisions in the party seemed great. In this moment, a moment which might have been used to drive a wedge even deeper into the party, Kennedy THE TEXAS OBSERVER 9
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