MIDDLETOWN, Conn. - Filling in for Sen. Edward Kennedy and tying himself to the family's legacy, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama urged college graduates yesterday to "make us believe again" by dedicating themselves to public service.
"We may disagree as Americans on certain issues and positions, but I believe we can be unified in service to a greater good. I intend to make it a cause of my presidency, and I believe with all my heart that this generation is ready and eager and up to the challenge," Mr. Obama told Wesleyan University's class of 2008.
The Illinois senator peppered his speech with references to the Kennedy legacy: John F. Kennedy urging Americans to ask what they can do for their country, the Peace Corps, and Robert Kennedy talking about people creating "ripples of hope."
He devoted special attention and praise to the longtime Massachusetts senator, who had planned to deliver the graduation address but backed out last week after he was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor.
Mr. Kennedy has endorsed Mr. Obama in the nominating contest against fellow Democrat Hillary Clinton and has campaigned for him.
Mr. Obama said Mr. Kennedy has helped provide health care to children, given parents leave time to spend with new babies, raised the minimum wage, and let people keep health insurance when changing jobs.
"And I have a feeling that Ted Kennedy is not done just yet." Mr. Obama said.
Mr. Kennedy's stepdaughter, Caroline Raclin, is a member of Wesleyan's class of 2008.
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