On a cold winter morning on January 28, 2008, I watched as then Senator Barack Obama listened to Senator Ted Kennedy endorse him for the Democratic nominee for President of the US at American University. I had almost decided to go to work that day. But the history major in me knew this was history in the making. And I had to be there. As I arrived at American University on that day, I realized that the auditorium was already filled to capacity. As I arrived at the campus, I met another woman along the way en route. She and I would not be deterred on our mission. We were rewarded for our tenacity. We were able to see and hear Senator Kennedy, Caroline Kennedy, then Congressman Patrick Kennedy and Barack Obama. We proudly shared the moment together. And we have remained connected since that special day.
What we saw and experienced that day seems like light years ago—much longer than 4 years. We saw the Kennedys and their Camelot mystique embrace then Senator Barack Obama over the tried and tested Senator Hillary Clinton. And we saw a humbled Senator Barack Obama realizing what the moment meant for his campaign.
As I reflect back on that day, I’ve often wondered what course the Obama presidency would have taken if Senator Ted Kennedy had lived longer. I wonder if Senator Kennedy, the liberal Lion of the Senate, would have been able to broker the missing public option in the Affordable Health Care Act. Perhaps, he would have pushed for more liberal or leftist changes as the GOP would prefer to call them, in our jobs and economic situation. Perhaps he would not have been able to make any change with the GOP controlled Congress and the current political stalemate.
One thing is for sure. Senator Ted Kennedy made a difference that day in helping President Obama become the Democratic nominee for President with his early endorsement. And that is perhaps Kennedy’s greatest legacy, Ted Kennedy, who himself, would never see his own dream fulfilled of becoming President. Yet, he lived to see the dream of President Obama elected as the first African American president.
As I reflect back on 4 years ago and all the unwanted and unexpected changes since then, I still say I’m proud to have been there that day. And I say, there is so much more work to do. And I’m sure Ted Kennedy would agree and again wholeheartedly endorse President Obama.
Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a lawyer, blogger, former prosecutor and legal and political commentator who frequently is seen in the media speaking on issues affecting race and gender. She also writes for the Huffington Post and the Women’s Media Center. She holds a Juris Doctorate from George Washington University Law School and a BA from the University of Pennsylvania.