The First Presidential Debate: Highlights

PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN 2008 WATCH: THE FIRST PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE

The first presidential debate was held September 26, 2008 at the University of Mississippi, moderated by Jim Lehrer of PBS, with the main focus on foreign policy.

Senators John McCain and Barack Obama. (Photo: Doug Mills/The New York Times)

The Stats

In the News…

Candidate Soundbites

  • Full Transcript Download
  • On the Economy

  • OBAMA: So we have to move swiftly, and we have to move wisely. And I’ve put forward a series of proposals that make sure that we protect taxpayers as we engage in this important rescue effort.
    No. 1, we’ve got to make sure that we’ve got oversight over this whole process; $700 billion, potentially, is a lot of money.
    No. 2, we’ve got to make sure that taxpayers, when they are putting their money at risk, have the possibility of getting that money back and gains, if the market — and when the market returns.
    No. 3, we’ve got to make sure that none of that money is going to pad CEO bank accounts or to promote golden parachutes.
    And, No. 4, we’ve got to make sure that we’re helping homeowners, because the root problem here has to do with the foreclosures that are taking place all across the country.
    Now, we also have to recognize that this is a final verdict on eight years of failed economic policies promoted by George Bush, supported by Senator McCain, a theory that basically says that we can shred regulations and consumer protections and give more and more to the most, and somehow prosperity will trickle down.
  • MCCAIN: But the point is — the point is, we have finally seen Republicans and Democrats sitting down and negotiating together and coming up with a package….
  • MCCAIN: As president of the United States, I want to assure you, I’ve got a pen. This one’s kind of old. I’ve got a pen, and I’m going to veto every single spending bill that comes across my desk. I will make them famous. You will know their names.
  • OBAMA: Well, Senator McCain is absolutely right that the earmarks process has been abused, which is why I suspended any requests for my home state, whether it was for senior centers or what have you, until we cleaned it up. And he’s also right that oftentimes lobbyists and special interests are the ones that are introducing these kinds of requests, although that wasn’t the case with me…. Now, $18 billion is important; $300 billion is really important… And over time, that, I think, is going to be a better recipe for economic growth than the — the policies of President Bush that John McCain wants to — wants to follow.
  • MCCAIN: Senator Obama suspended those requests for pork-barrel projects after he was running for president of the United States. He didn’t happen to see that light during the first three years as a member of the United States Senate, $932 million in requests.
  • MCCAIN: Senator Obama has the most liberal voting record in the United States Senate. It’s hard to reach across the aisle from that far to the left….
  • MCCAIN: How about a spending freeze on everything but defense, veteran affairs and entitlement programs…. I think we ought to seriously consider with the exceptions the caring of veterans national defense and several other vital issues.
  • OBAMA: The problem with a spending freeze is you’re using a hatchet where you need a scalpel. There are some programs that are very important that are under funded. I went to increase early childhood education and the notion that we should freeze that when there may be, for example, this Medicare subsidy doesn’t make sense.
  • MCCAIN: Well, I want to make sure we’re not handing the health care system over to the federal government which is basically what would ultimately happen with Senator Obama’s health care plan. I want the families to make decisions between themselves and their doctors. Not the federal government. Look. We have to obviously cut spending. I have fought to cut spending. Senator Obama has $800 billion in new spending programs. I would suggest he start by canceling some of those new spending program that he has.
  • OBAMA: John, it’s been your president who you said you agreed with 90 percent of the time who presided over this increase in spending.
  • MCCAIN: It’s well-known that I have not been elected Miss Congeniality in the United States Senate nor with the administration. I have opposed the president on spending, on climate change, on torture of prisoner, on – on Guantanamo Bay.
  • On Iraq

  • MCCAIN: The next president of the United States is not going to have to address the issue as to whether we went into Iraq or not. The next president of the United States is going to have to decide how we leave, when we leave, and what we leave behind. That’s the decision of the next president of the United States. Senator Obama said the surge could not work, said it would increase sectarian violence, said it was doomed to failure. Recently on a television program he said it exceeded our wildest expectations. But yet, after conceding that, he still says that he would oppose the surge if he had to decide that again today. Incredibly, incredibly Sen. Obama didn’t go to Iraq for 900 days and never asked for a meeting with General [David] Petraeus.
  • OBAMA: John, you like to pretend like the war started in 2007. You talk about the surge. The war started in 2003, and at the time when the war started, you said it was going to be quick and easy. You said we knew where the weapons of mass destruction were. You were wrong. You said that there was no history of violence between Shia and Sunni and you were wrong.
  • MCCAIN: I’m afraid Sen. Obama doesn’t understand the difference between a tactic and a strategy…. And this strategy, and this general, they are winning. Senator Obama refuses to acknowledge that we are winning in Iraq.
  • OBAMA: That’s not true…. I absolutely understand the difference between tactics and strategy. And the strategic question that the president has to ask is not whether or not we are employing a particular approach in the country once we have made the decision to be there.
  • On Iran

  • MCCAIN: My reading of the threat from Iran is that if Iran acquires nuclear weapons, it is an existential threat to the State of Israel and to other countries in the region because the other countries in the region will feel compelling requirement to acquire nuclear weapons as well. Now we cannot a second Holocaust. Let’s just make that very clear. What I have proposed for a long time, and I’ve had conversation with foreign leaders about forming a league of democracies, let’s be clear and let’s have some straight talk. The Russians are preventing significant action in the United Nations Security Council.
  • OBAMA: So obviously, our policy over the last eight years has not worked. Senator McCain is absolutely right, we cannot tolerate a nuclear Iran. It would be a game changer. Not only would it threaten Israel, a country that is our stalwart ally, but it would also create an environment in which you could set off an arms race in this Middle East.
  • On Geoorgia and Russia

  • OBAMA: Well, I think that, given what’s happened over the last several weeks and months, our entire Russian approach has to be evaluated, because a resurgent and very aggressive Russia is a threat to the peace and stability of the region. Their actions in Georgia were unacceptable. They were unwarranted. And at this point, it is absolutely critical for the next president to make clear that we have to follow through on our six-party — or the six-point cease-fire. They have to remove themselves from South Ossetia and Abkhazia. It is absolutely important that we have a unified alliance and that we explain to the Russians that you cannot be a 21st-century superpower, or power, and act like a 20th-century dictatorship.
  • MCCAIN: Well, I was interested in Senator Obama’s reaction to the Russian aggression against Georgia. His first statement was, “Both sides ought to show restraint.” Again, a little bit of naivete there. He doesn’t understand that Russia committed serious aggression against Georgia. And Russia has now become a nation fueled by petro-dollars that is basically a KGB apparatchik-run government. I looked into Mr. Putin’s eyes, and I saw three letters, a “K,” a “G,” and a “B.” And their aggression in Georgia is not acceptable behavior…. Now, I think the Russians ought to understand that we will support — we, the United States — will support the inclusion of Georgia and Ukraine in the natural process, inclusion into NATO.
  • On Terrorism

  • MCCAIN: But I can tell you that I think America is safer today than it was on 9/11. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t have a long way to go. And I’d like to remind you, also, as a result of those recommendations, we’ve probably had the largest reorganization of government since we established the Defense Department. And I think that those men and women in those agencies are doing a great job. But we still have a long way to go before we can declare America safe, and that means doing a better job along our borders, as well.
  • OBAMA: Well, first of all, I think that we are safer in some ways. Obviously, we’ve poured billions of dollars into airport security. We have done some work in terms of securing potential targets, but we still have a long way to go.
  • MCCAIN: The consequences of defeat, which would result from his plan of withdrawal and according to date certain, regardless of conditions, according to our military leaders, according to every expert, would lead to defeat — possible defeat, loss of all the fragile sacrifice that we’ve made of American blood and treasure, which grieves us all. All of that would be lost if we followed Senator Obama’s plan to have specific dates with withdrawal, regardless of conditions on the ground.
  • OBAMA: Oh, there’s no doubt. Look, over the last eight years, this administration, along with Senator McCain, have been solely focused on Iraq. That has been their priority. That has been where all our resources have gone. In the meantime, bin Laden is still out there. He is not captured. He is not killed. Al Qaida is resurgent.

Bloopers / Humor

  • Check Point: The First Debate – NYT, The Caucus, 9-26-08
  • LEHRER: Say it directly to him.
    OBAMA: I do not think that they are.
    LEHRER: Say it directly to him.
    OBAMA: Well, the — John, 10 days ago, you said that the fundamentals of the economy are sound. And…
    MCCAIN: Are you afraid I couldn’t hear him?

Historians’ Comments

  • MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, Presidential Historian on “Obama strategy unexpected”: To save my life, if I had to quote to you a line from the last 90 minutes, I’d have a hard time. And that’s pretty unusual, if you think of presidential debates.
    And, you know, what surprised me was this. I thought that Barack Obama was fully credible, and nuanced, and sophisticated, fully credible as a commander-in-chief tonight.
    But, you know, he was in a position where he could have attacked John McCain on three of the things that are very tough for a presidential candidate, an unpopular president of your own party, an unpopular war, and an economy that is going south very fast and has yet to be fixed.
    Yet despite all of that, for a lot of this debate, John McCain was repeatedly on the offensive and, to some extent, Obama was on the defensive. I was surprised by that.
    In terms of strategy, we’ll see what works. But oftentimes in debates, if a candidate does go on the offensive, it does tend to work. That’s what Kennedy did in 1960. It’s what Ronald Reagan did in 1980. And it is what Bill Clinton did in 1992.
    So I think, you know, you can certainly question the strategy, but those were two potential commanders-in-chief out there tonight. – PBS, Newshour, 9-26-08
  • Alan Brinkley on Last Night’s Debate: I doubt the first debate will make a decisive difference. There were no “There you go again” moments and no terrible blunders. Both candidates stuck to their talking points, and there was nothing very new about the debate other than the opportunity to contrast the two men more vividly than has been possible before. On the substance, I think Obama won, but not by much. He had a crisp and effective answer to the key question about the economy. McCain floundered and ended up talking about earmarks, as if he were running for the Senate. On the war, while I think Obama was correct in what he said, McCain seemed more confident.
    But substance, as we should know by now, has never been the chief determinant of how the public evaluates debate. From John Kennedy to Al Gore, most debates have been more important for style than substance, and for likeability than intelligence. And that is why this debate seems to me to be something close to a wash. McCain on the whole looked confident and avuncular. Obama seemed intelligent and articulate. McCain sometimes appeared too a ggressive and angry, and Obama sometimes was too cool and professorial. Fortunately for McCain, his “suspend the debates” stunt–which could have been portrayed as (and in reality was) an embarrassing failure–seemed to play no role in last night’s debate. But I do think that barring some startling turnaround in the next few weeks, the economy will continue to dominate the campaign–and McCain remains the weaker candidate on that issue. – The New Republic, 9-27-08
  • Richard Norton Smith on “Past debates show pitfalls, opportunities”: “Obama has to put people at ease that if a call came in at 3 o’clock in the morning that he would know what to do, and that’s not a terribly high bar to cross,” said Richard Norton Smith, a presidential historian at George Mason University. “A draw will not only be perceived as a victory in public terms — for the rest of the campaign it will focus the campaign on domestic issues.” – Politco, 9-26-08
  • Julian Zelizer on “John McCain: I’ll be at the debate — Obama and McCain to face off Friday night in Mississippi”: The first and most important thing that people judge is always how the candidates appear and their physical demeanor rather than what they actually say. – NY Daily News, 9-26-08
  • Chad Israelson on “Obama, McCain Take Center Stage”: “People like a winner and if someone emerges tonight and really does well, it can be the kind of thing where the other person never really catches up,” says RCTC History Professor Chad Israelson. – KAALtv.com, MN, 9-26-08
  • David Sansing on “The Choice of Ole Miss to Host Tonight’s Debate Sends a Message to the World: Here We Go Again” “I think what we have here is really a confluence of two lines of history, where you have a new Ole Miss, a postracial Ole Miss, and you have a postracial black candidate running for president,” said David Sansing, professor emeritus of history at the university. “Nowhere in America could these two forces reinforce each other as they do here at Ole Miss.” – Stop the ACLU, PA
  • Gil Troy: The Debates: Sweat the Small Stuff, It Can Sway the Election: So I, like most of my fellow Americans, will watch these debates on two levels. I will really, really try to follow the sometimes extremely technical exchanges. This will be particularly important this year because both candidates have responded to the recent financial meltdown with superficialities and demagoguery. I would love to hear a more detailed and substantive discussion between them, so I can learn about how they understand the Wall Street chaos and what they plan to do about it. Moreover, having just written a book on the importance of moderation, “Leading from the Center: Why Moderates Make the Best Presidents,” I will be hoping to hear signs of centrism (in fact, student volunteers from McGill will be monitoring the debates on our website www.themoderometer.blogspot.com to assess how moderate the various statements are)….
  • Reviewing the presidential debates since 1960 – CNN, 9-25-08

The week that was….

  • September 26, 2008: 7 subpoenaed Palin aides fail to show up for hearing into her possible abuse of power … Georgian president thanks Biden for flying to Tblisi to show support during Russian invasion … Groups want Texas governor to extend voter registration deadline in Ike-hit counties … – AP, 9-27-08
    First presidential debate is on as McCain agrees to participate … Biden meets Georgian president without reporters during opening photo opportunity … David Letterman commiserates with Paris Hilton over McCain ‘disses’ … Palin says she will donate money from those implicated in federal corruption probe – AP, 9-26-08
  • September 25, 2008: Democrats, some Republicans question the impact of McCain’s intervention in bailout talks … Alaska legislators say McCain campaign moving on ‘many fronts’ to stall Palin probe … With agreement between Congress and administration unfinished, debate prospects questionable … – AP, 9-26-08
    McCain optimistic at news of agreement in principle, no change in debate status … Palin defends claim that living so close to Russia makes for foreign policy experience … Biden chokes up at Pa. rally recalling Steelers’ kindness during tough time for his family … Palin kept donations from tainted Alaska politicians, including one she urged to step down – AP, 9-25-08
  • September 24, 2008: Obama, McCain make political moves on crisis even while saying politics should play no part … Palin says US could be facing another Great Depression if Congress doesn’t act … Sarah Palin received blessing in 2005 to keep her free from ‘witchcraft’ – AP, 9-25-08
  • September 23, 2008: Days before debate on foreign affairs, Biden says McCain often wrong about security issues … McCain seeks bailout opinions from Romney, business executives while in New York … Poll finds 18 percent of voters are up for grabs, economy the key to getting their support … Obama making big push to flip reliably Republican Indiana, while McCain camp stays low key … Source says Freddie Mac paid $15,000 a month to lobbying firm of McCain campaign manager – AP, 9-24-08
    Palin meets her first world leaders in a tightly controlled diplomatic debut in New York … Obama says Wall Street bailout must protect Main Street, stands by tax-cut plans … McCain says his support for bailout would be contingent on five principles … Obama begins three days of debate preparations … Poll: Obama’s backing from Clinton supporters stuck at same levels as in June – AP, 9-23-08
  • September 22, 2008: Obama says massive financial bailout probably would delay his spending initiatives … Poll: Obama’s support from former Clinton supporters stuck at same levels as in June … Clinton says Democratic win in 2008 should be obvious, given GOP policies … For Palin, meet-and-greet time with world leaders at UN session in NY – AP, 9-23-08
    Obama pledges deep cuts in spending to fix economy … McCain calls for greater oversight of proposed financial bailout plan … Stars of ‘American Chopper’ surprise McCain with a motorcycle – AP, 9-22-08
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Democratic Convention Day 1: August 25, 2008

Day 1 Schedule

    Barack Obama’s story is an American story that reflects a life of struggle, opportunity and responsibility like those faced by Americans everyday. The opening night of the Convention will highlight Barack’s life story, his commitment to change, and the voices of Americans who are calling for a new direction for this country.

    Monday’s headline prime-time speaker was Michelle Obama.

Michelle Obama addressing the Democratic National Convention (NYT)

Michelle Obama addressing the Democratic National Convention (NYT)

    Other Monday night speakers include: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi; Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri; Barack Obama’s sister Maya Soetero-Ng and Craig Robinson, Michelle Obama’s older brother; Jerry Kellman, mentor and long-time friend of Barack Obama; Representative Jesse Jackson, Jr.; former Indiana Representative Lee Hamilton; Tom Balanoff, President of Illinois SEIU; Nancy Keenan, President of NARAL Pro-Choice America; NEA President Reg Weaver; AFT President Randi Weingarten; Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan; State Comptroller Dan Hynes; Illinois State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulis; Chicago City Clerk Miguel del Valle; and Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper. Monday night also featured a tribute to Senator Edward M. Kennedy, and a speech by the senator. – DemConvention.com

Historians’ Comments

  • PBS Newshour with Jim Lehrer: Historical Perspective A panel of historians, including NewsHour regulars Michael Beschloss and Richard Norton Smith, offers a historical perspective on this week’s Democratic event. – Mp3, RealAudio
  • Richard Reeves on “Kennedy passes the torch to Obama”: Others were wary of making too much the Kennedy-Obama link. The Kennedy magic was unique to its time, said Richard Reeves, author of a book on John Kennedy. The family legacy was in keeping with the spirit of the New Deal and grounded in the common generational experiences of the Great Depression and World War II. “Obama’s totally a new phenomenon,” Reeves said. “He represents totally different things.” – McClatchy Newspapers, 8-25-08
  • Thomas Whalen on “Ailing Kennedy refuses to miss big event”: “This may be Ted Kennedy’s final gift to the party,” said Thomas Whalen, a Boston University political historian who has written on the Kennedys. “This says that he feels this is the Democrats’ year and the party is not as unified as he’d like it to be. His appearance takes the headlines away from the Clinton faction.” “The greatest legacy Kennedy would want would be an Obama victory in November,” Whalen said. – USA Today, 8-26-08
  • Paula Giddings on “Michelle Obama as First Lady”: “People are trying to fit her somewhere in their minds and in this array of images we have in our culture about African-American women, as the vixen, or the mammy or the angry black woman,” said Paula Giddings, a black studies professor at Smith College. “But she doesn’t fit any of the molds so she is kind of unsettling to a lot of people. She is something new.” “Imagine seeing her in the White House. Just the picture of her on the lawn with her two girls,” Giddings said. “In deep ways and superficial ways, it would be a dramatic shift.” – Newsday, 8-25-08<
  • Myra Gutin on “Michelle Obama as First Lady”: “For some people she is supposed to represent a woman who is more traditional in her approach to the office of first lady and be somebody to do the requisite entertaining and look after her husband,” said Myra Gutin, a historian of first ladies. “But some feel like the first lady should be more of an activist in the model of Eleanor Roosevelt or Hillary Clinton.” But Monday night, Gutin said, Michelle Obama must first address some of the negative feelings she has generated, and show that she will be a good first lady. – Newsday, 8-25-08<
  • Jim Lorence on “UWMC History Professor Says Biden a Good Pick for Obama’s Running Mate”: Monday NewsChannel 7 spoke to Professor Jim Lorence of the University of Wisconsin-Marathon County about the importance of picking the right running mate for a presidential campaign. He gave us some insight past vice presidential candidates have influenced elections. “The campaign in which the vice presidency did make a difference was in 1960 when Lyndon Johnson was on the Kennedy ticket, and Johnson brought Texas into the democratic column.” Presidential candidate Barack Obama has already chosen his running mate, Senator Joe Biden of Delaware, who has six terms in the Senate and 35 years of political experience. “He [Biden] may make people feel more comfortable with Obama because he brings that foreign policy expertise to the ticket.” Presidential hopeful John McCain is expected to announce his running mate by the end of this week. Rumors are circulating that it will most likely be a McCain-Romney ticket. “I think that Romney’s expertise in the area of foreign policy, or at least his background in the private sector and in business and on economic issues is going to be an important factor in the selection of a vice president,” says Professor Lorence. – WSAW, WI, 8-25-08
  • Sean Wilentz on “Obama Hope of Audacity Means Race Isn’t About Losing Liberals”: Obama has shown an “enormous ability to arouse the intense admiration and affection of his base,” says Sean Wilentz, a history professor at Princeton University. “Exactly what he means by change, hope and transformation — all the sort of big-payoff words that appear in his speeches — he has yet to clearly define.” – Bloomberg, 8-25-08
  • Fred Siegel on “Obama’s ideological elusiveness”: Some critics voice skepticism. They see an ambitious fellow who remains intentionally undefined. “His philosophy is ambition,” said Fred Siegel, a historian at the Cooper Union in New York. “I see him as having a rhetoric rather than a philosophy.” Senator, what is your view of the Supreme Court decision barring the execution of child rapists? The question was standard fare for a politician who has questioned the equity of the death penalty. But Obama’s answer set reporters to typing furiously. “I have said repeatedly that I think that the death penalty should be applied in very narrow circumstances for the most egregious of crimes,” he said. “I think the rape of a small child, 6 or 8 years old, is a heinous crime.” – International Herald Tribune, 8-25-08
  • Vermont Gov. Madeline Kunin: Former governor and historian to speak at the Democratic National Convention – PolitickerVT, 8-25-08
  • Julian E. Zelizer on “Conventions now even timed for strategy”: Political conventions are no longer the venues where presidential candidates are selected and introduced to the nation’s voters, said Julian E. Zelizer, professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University. That now happens during each party’s primary race, which begins early in the election year. “Basically conventions are now made for the media — carefully choreographed, staged events intended to promote the candidate and the party on the national stage as the real election season kicks off,” Zelizer said. “With their new function, it makes more sense to have them as close as possible to the general election.” – Daily Record, 8-24-08
  • Julian Zelizer on “Obama’s Pick Taking The Measure Of Joe Biden, The Longtime Senator And Democrats’ Choice For VP”: “The role of the attack dog is something he is quite comfortable with,” said Julian E. Zelizer, professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University. – CBS News, 8-24-08

The Speeches…

  • Barack Obama on the Campaign Trail in Iowa: “I can’t wait to hear Michelle’s speech, I will tell you that I did get a little preview of the video they did of her, and she was extraordinary.”
  • Nancy Pelosi:
    This week is the culmination of an historic race that has brought millions of voters to the polls–many voting for the first time. All Democrats salute Senator Hillary Clinton for her excellent campaign. Our party and our country are strengthened by her candidacy.

    Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House of Representatives addressing the Democratic National Convention (CNN)

    Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House of Representatives addressing the Democratic National Convention (CNN)

    We meet today at a defining moment in our history. America stands at a crossroads, with an historic choice between two paths for our country. One is a path of renewing opportunity and promoting innovation here at home, and of greater security and respect around the world. It is the path that renews our democracy by bringing us together as one nation under God. But there is another path–it leads us to the same broken promises and failed policies that have diminished the American dream and weakened the security of our nation.

    We call this convention to order tonight to put America on the path begun by our founders–a path that renews America’s promise for a new century. We call this convention to order to nominate a new leader for our time– Barack Obama–the next President of the United States. Two years ago, the American people set our nation in a new direction–electing a new Democratic majority in Congress committed to real change….

    Barack Obama’s dream is the American dream. He gives us renewed faith in a vision of the future that is free of the constraints of the tired policies of the past–a vision that is new and bold and calls forth the best in the American people.

    Barack Obama’s change is the change America needs. Whether in Illinois or in Washington, Barack Obama has bridged partisanship to bring about significant reform. Barack Obama knew that to change policy in Washington you had to change how Washington works.

    That means restoring integrity to government by reducing the influence of special interests. I saw firsthand his strong leadership on one of the toughest issues: enacting the toughest ethics reform legislation in the history of Congress. This was only possible with Barack Obama’s leadership…..

    One hundred and fifteen years ago, a young woman named Katharine Lee Bates visited Denver. From the top of Pike’s Peak, she looked across Colorado–to the bountiful golden prairies to the east and to the majestic mountains to the west. That night she returned to her hotel room, opened her notebook, and the words of “America the Beautiful” spilled from her pen. My favorite verse is the fourth: O beautiful, for patriot dream, that sees beyond the years…

    Today, Barack Obama is a 21st century patriot who sees beyond the years. As president, Barack Obama will renew the American dream; Barack Obama is the leader for America’s future.

    Inspired by that same vision of “America the Beautiful,” Democrats will leave this Denver convention, unified, organized, and stronger than ever to take America in a new direction with Barack Obama and Joe Biden as President and Vice President of the United States! – Download, PBS

  • Caroline Kennedy:I am here tonight to pay tribute to two men who have changed my life and the life of this country: Barack Obama and Edward M. Kennedy. Their stories are very different, but they share a commitment to the timeless American ideals of justice and fairness, service and sacrifice, faith and family.Leaders like them come along rarely. But once or twice in a lifetime, they come along just when we need them the most. This is one of those moments. As our nation faces a fundamental choice between moving forward or falling further behind, Senator Obama offers the change we need….I have never had someone inspire me the way people tell me my father inspired them, but I do now, Barack Obama. And I know someone else who’s been inspired all over again by Senator Obama. In our family, he’s known as Uncle Teddy. More than any senator of his generation, or perhaps any generation, Teddy has made life better for people in this country and around the world.For 46 years, he has been so much more than just a senator for the people of Massachusetts. He’s been a senator for all who believe in a dream that’s never died. If you’re no longer being denied a job because of your race, gender or disability, or if you’ve seen a rise in the minimum wage you’re being paid, Teddy is your senator too….

    He is a man who always insists that America live up to her highest ideals, who always fights for what he knows is right and who is always there for others. I’ve seen it in my own life. No matter how busy he is, he never fails to find time for those in pain, those in grief or those who just need a hug. In our family, he has never missed a first communion, a graduation, or a chance to walk one of his nieces down the aisle.

    He has a special relationship with each of us. And his 60 great nieces and nephews all know that the best cookies and the best laughs are always found at Uncle Teddy’s. Whether he is teaching us about sailing, about the Senate or about life, he has shown us how to chart our course, take the helm and sail against the wind. And this summer, as he faced yet another challenge, he and Vicki have taught us all about dignity, courage and the power of love.

                                                  In this campaign, Barack Obama has no greater champion. When he is president, he will have no stronger partner in the United States Senate. Now, it is my honor to introduce a tribute to Senator Edward M. Kennedy. – Download, PBS

  • Senator Edward Kennedy: My fellow Democrats, my fellow Americans, it is so wonderful to be here.And nothing — nothing is going to keep me away from this special gathering tonight.I have come here tonight to stand with you to change America, to restore its future, to rise to our best ideals, and to elect Barack Obama president of the United States.As I look ahead, I am strengthened by family and friendship. So many of you have been with me in the happiest days and the hardest days. Together we have known success and seen setbacks, victory and defeat.
    Senator Edward Kennedy addressing the Democration National Convention after a tribute given by his niece Caroline Kennedy

    Senator Edward Kennedy addressing the Democratic National Convention after a tribute given by his niece Caroline Kennedy

    But we have never lost our belief that we are all called to a better country and a newer world. And I pledge to you — I pledge to you that I will be there next January on the floor of the United States Senate when we begin the great test.

    For me this is a season of hope — new hope for a justice and fair prosperity for the many, and not just for the few — new hope.

    And this is the cause of my life — new hope that we will break the old gridlock and guarantee that every American — north, south, east, west, young, old — will have decent, quality health care as a fundamental right and not a privilege.

    We can meet these challenges with Barack Obama. Yes, we can, and finally, yes, we will.

    Barack Obama will close the book on the old politics of race and gender and group against group and straight against gay.

    And Barack Obama will be a commander in chief who understands that young Americans in uniform must never be committed to a mistake, but always for a mission worthy of their bravery.

    We are told that Barack Obama believes too much in an America of high principle and bold endeavor, but when John Kennedy called of going to the moon, he didn’t say it’s too far to get there. We shouldn’t even try.

    Our people answered his call and rose to the challenge, and today an American flag still marks the surface of the moon.

    Yes, we are all Americans. This is what we do. We reach the moon. We scale the heights. I know it. I’ve seen it. I’ve lived it. And we can do it again.

    There is a new wave of change all around us, and if we set our compass true, we will reach our destination — not merely victory for our party, but renewal for our nation.

  • And this November the torch will be passed again to a new generation of Americans, so with Barack Obama and for you and for me, our country will be committed to his cause. The work begins anew. The hope rises again. And the dream lives on.
  • Michelle Obama: … every step of the way since that clear day, February, 19 months ago, when, with little more than our faith in each other and a hunger for change, we joined my husband, Barack Obama, on the improbable journey that has led us to this moment. But each of us comes here also by way of our own improbable journey.
    Michelle Obama rehersing her speech with younger daughter Sacha holding the convention gravel

    Michelle Obama rehersing her speech with younger daughter Sacha holding the convention gravel

    I come here tonight as a sister, blessed with a brother who is my mentor, my protector, and my lifelong friend. And I come here as a wife who loves my husband and believes he will be an extraordinary president.

    And I come here as a mom, as a mom whose girls are the heart of my heart and the center of my world. They’re the first things I think about when I wake up in the morning and the last thing I think about before I go to bed at night. Their future — and all our children’s future — is my stake in this election.

    And I come here as a daughter, raised on the South Side of Chicago…

    And, you know, what struck me when I first met Barack was that, even though he had this funny name, and even though he had grown up all the way across the continent in Hawaii, his family was so much like mine.

    He was raised by grandparents who were working-class folks just like my parents and by a single mother who struggled to pay the bills just like we did. And like my family, they scrimped and saved so that he could have opportunities that they never had for themselves.

    And Barack and I were raised with so many of the same values: like, you work hard for what you want in life; that your word is your bond; that you do what you say you’re going to do; that you treat people with dignity and respect, even if you don’t know them and even if you don’t agree with them.

    And Barack and I set out to build lives guided by these values and to pass them onto the next generation, because we want our children — and all children in this nation — to know that the only limit to the height of your achievements is the reach of your dreams and your willingness to work hard for them…. And Barack stood up that day, and he spoke words that have stayed with me ever since. He talked about “the world as it is” and “the world as it should be.” And he said that, all too often, we accept the distance between the two and we settle for the world as it is, even when it doesn’t reflect our values and aspirations.
    But he reminded us that we also know what our world should like — look like. He said we know what fairness and justice and opportunity look like. And he urged us to believe in ourselves, to find the strength within ourselves to strive for the world as it should be. And isn’t that the great American story?…

    … and the 45th anniversary — and the 45th anniversary of that hot summer day when Dr. King lifted our sights and our hearts with his dream for our nation.

    And I stand here today at the crosscurrents of that history, knowing that my piece of the American dream is a blessing hard won by those who came before me, all of them driven by the same conviction that drove my dad to get up an hour early each day to painstakingly dress himself for work, the same conviction that drives the men and women I’ve met all across this country.

    People who work the day shift, they kiss their kids goodnight, and head out for the night shift, without disappointment, without regret, see, that goodnight kiss is a reminder of everything they’re working for.

    The military families who say grace each night with an empty seat at the table.

    The servicemen…

    The servicemen and women who love this country so much, they leave those they love most to defend it.

    The young people across America serving our communities, teaching children, cleaning up neighborhoods, caring for the least among us each and every day.

    People like Hillary Clinton…

    … who put those 18 million cracks in that glass ceiling so that our daughters and our sons can dream a little bigger and aim a little higher.

    People like Joe Biden…

    … who has never forgotten where he came from and never stopped fighting for folks who work long hours and face long odds and need someone on their side again.

    All of us driven by the simple belief that the world as it is just won’t do, that we have an obligation to fight for the world as it should be.

    And that is the thread that connects our hearts. That is the thread that runs through my journey and Barack’s journey and so many other improbable journeys that have brought us here tonight, where the current of history meets this new tide of hope.

    And, you see, that is why I love this country….

    It’s what he’s done in the United States Senate, fighting to ensure that the men and women who serve this country are welcomed home not just with medals and parades, but with good jobs, and benefits, and health care, including mental health care.

    See, that’s why Barack’s running: to end the war in Iraq responsibly…

    … to build an economy that lifts every family, to make sure health care is available for every American, and to make sure that every single child in this nation has a world-class education all the way from preschool to college.

    That’s what Barack Obama will do as president of the United States of America….

    … millions of Americans who know that Barack understands their dreams, millions of Americans who know that Barack will fight for people like them, and that Barack will bring finally the change that we need.

    And in the end, and in the end, after all that’s happened these past 19 months, see, the Barack Obama I know today is the same man I fell in love with 19 years ago.

    He’s the same man who drove me and our new baby daughter home from the hospital 10 years ago this summer, inching along at a snail’s pace, peering at us anxiously at — through the rearview mirror, feeling the whole weight of her future in his hands, determined to give her everything he’d struggled so hard for himself, determined to give her something he never had, the affirming embrace of a father’s love….

    … how this time — how this time we decided to stop doubting and to start dreaming…

    … how this time, in this great country, where a girl from the South Side of Chicago can go to college and law school, and the son of a single mother from Hawaii can go all the way to the White House…

    … that we committed ourselves…

    … we committed ourselves to building the world as it should be.

    So tonight, in honor of my father’s memory and my daughters’ future, out of gratitude for those whose triumphs we mark this week, and those whose everyday sacrifices have brought us to this moment, let us devote ourselves to finishing their work, let us work together to fulfill their hopes, and let’s stand together to elect Barack Obama president of the United States of America.

    Thank you. God bless you, and God bless America.

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