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The Torch

I loved seeing Teddy Kennedy up there tonight. I haven't always been a fan of the Kennedys and their place in American politics, but to see him up there tonight like a squat Irish bulldog, just back from a fight at death's door, was like seeing the heart of the Democratic Party alive on stage. There's a damned good chance—I hope not, but we know the reality—that this was the last appearance of one of the Kennedy brothers at a Democratic convention, fifty-two years after his brother nominated Adlai Stevenson in Chicago. But what Teddy embodied up there tonight stretched back before his brother, back through FDR and all the way to William Jennings Bryan, all the generations of Democrats who've fought for the welfare of the common people against the enrichment of the few. And when he recalled his brother's line about the torch that's been passed to a new generation, it was more than a rhetorical flourish, it was an episcopal laying on of hands, a passing on of that core Democratic tradition. Now Barack Obama's got the torch. He's a puzzling guy sometimes, this Obama—sometimes thrilling, sometimes squishy, smart and nerdy with a slippery surface. It's hard to be sure who he'll be as a president. But tonight he was handing the frigging torch, and he's got to carry it for all of us. And when he stumbles, we've all got to help him keep it upright.

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earlier handoff

Ted handed the torch to Barack in another touching moment earlier this summer.  Ted was to be the commencement speaker at Wesleyan University in May. The Sunday before commencement he suffered his first seizures. The campus was first and foremost worried about Ted all week. But they also wondered about who, if anyone, would address the graduating seniors. Not to worry. On Thursday they got word that Barack Obama would fill in for Ted.

Obama's address was all about public service - perfectly paying tribute to Ted (generation 1), explaining his own motivations (generation 2), and inspiring the new grads at public service-minded Wesleyan (generation 3). Very moving.

 View it at http://www.wesleyan.edu/rc/2008/video/commencement/5/

Kate www.marshallbooks.net