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Patrick, Late Sen. Kennedy Play Big Role In Convention’s Opening Night

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — On Tuesday, a speech by Gov. Deval Patrick and a tribute to the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy helped open the Democratic National Convention’s first night.

A Familiar Voice

The crowded convention hall fell silent as a familiar voice boomed over the speakers. It was Ted Kennedy’s:

For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.

The delegates erupted into applause and gave the video several standing ovations as it ticked through Kennedy’s accomplishments after some 50 years in the U.S. Senate. This is the first convention without him since 1956.

Delegates got the most pleasure out of a video clip of Kennedy debating Mitt Romney in 1994, when Romney challenged Kennedy for his Senate seat.

“I believe that since Roe v. Wade has been the law for 20 years that we should sustain and support it, and I sustain and support that law, and the right of a woman to make that choice,” Romney said then.

“On the question of the choice issue,” Kennedy responded, “I have supported the Roe v. Wade. I am pro-choice. My opponent is multiple choice.”

Romney is now pro-life.

The video tribute ended with an image, from behind, of Kennedy and President Obama walking outside, deep in conversation. The moment evoked powerful emotions in Sue Thompson, from Malden.

“I thought it was absolutely wonderful,” said Thompson, who had tears in her eyes. “I mean the only thing that makes the loss of Ted bearable is that we have Obama as our president. He truly passed the torch to him.”

Kennedy was the best legislator, according to E. Henry Twiggs, a member of the Springfield City Council. Twiggs said the video brought Kennedy, and all that he stood for, back to life.

“Just like he was alive,” Twiggs said. “He was saying ‘the dream would never die’ and I think this is what people are exercising. He will always be with us, always.”

When he introduced the tribute, the senator’s grand nephew, Joseph Kennedy III, recalled how “Uncle Teddy” always gave his best to everyone he met.

“Whether a sick child, an injured soldier, an unemployed worker,” Kennedy III said. “That idea guided him through the bigger battles — to guarantee the right to organize, to end Apartheid, to bring peace to Northern Ireland and health care to all.”

It was the young Kennedy’s first time on a national stage. He’s running for the 4th Congressional District, and faces a primary contest Thursday.

An Impassioned Voice

One of the most impassioned speeches from the podium Tuesday came from Patrick. He started by telling the delegates that what’s at stake in this election is the American Dream. He said he knows Romney isn’t the answer to keeping it alive.

“In Massachusetts, we know Mitt Romney,” Patrick said. “By the time he left office, Massachusetts was 47th in the nation in job creation during better economic times, and household income in our state was declining. He cut education deeper than anywhere else in America. Roads and bridges were crumbling, businesses taxes were up, and business confidence was down.”

Patrick worked up a sweat telling delegates that it’s time for them to stand up and talk about Obama’s accomplishments: universal health care, bringing Osama bin Laden to justice, and repealing the ban on open gays in the military.

“With a record like that, and a vision that hopeful and powerful, I for one will not stand by and let him be bullied out of office, and neither should you,” Patrick said.

The delegation cheered wildly for their governor. Robert Peters, from Lexington, said he felt energized.

“The governor has been on fire for the last 60 days or so on this campaign,” Peters said. “He’s about the most effective advocate the president has, and we are going to do the job, we are going to re-elect the president.”

The governor will continue to play a large role at this convention, attending breakfasts, forums and receptions.

And other Massachusetts leaders will also have a high profile. Among them: Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren, who speaks Wednesday night, and Sen. John Kerry, who’ll address the convention Thursday night.

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