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Kennedy Promises to Be Obama’s Strongest Senate Ally

Making his first major public appearance since having brain surgery earlier this summer, Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) drew deafening applause during Monday night’s convention speeches as he pledged to be on the Senate floor in January to watch Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) serve as the nation’s first black president.

Caroline Kennedy, a top Obama campaign ally, first introduced a video tribute to her uncle and elicited cheers as she drew lines between the visions of Obama and the Kennedy family.

”When [Obama is] president, he will have no stronger partner in the U.S. Senate,” Kennedy said about her ailing uncle.

Greeted onstage by a sea of signs bearing his name, an energized Sen. Kennedy told the crowd ”nothing, nothing is going to keep me away from this special gathering tonight.”

The Massachusetts Senator said helping Obama get elected as president is the ”cause of my life” because the Illinois Democrat is committed to breaking ”the old gridlock” on the issue of providing health care to all Americans.

”Yes we can, and finally, yes we will,” said Kennedy, 76, whose white hair seemed a bit thinner and whose voice was at times hoarse. But he otherwise showed no outward effects of his ongoing cancer treatments.

Taking a jab at President Bush, Kennedy declared that Obama would be a leader who ”understands that young Americans in uniform must never be committed to a mistake.” Obama will also ”close the book on the old politics of race, gender and group against group and straight against gay,” he said.

As the song ”Still the One” by Orleans cued up, members of the Kennedy clan emerged onstage and the veteran Senator shook hands with Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) before leaving the spotlight.