• Acknowledges the death early:
In the YouTube video of Senator Edward (Ted) Kennedy’s funeral mass, President Barack Obama first acknowledges the family members and relatives of the senator who were present. Then the President recognized the rest of those in attendance as well as the television viewing audience.
President Obama acknowledges Senator Kennedy’s death within 30 seconds of his opening remarks saying, “Today, we say good-bye to the youngest child of Rose and Joseph Kennedy. The world will long remember their son, Edward, as the heir to a weighty legacy.”
• Keeps the deceased the center of discourse:
President Obama highlights Senator Kennedy’s legislative legacy, citing many landmark laws of which the Massachusetts legislator was instrumental in passing, including the Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, immigration reform, the Family Medical Leave act, insurance and children’s health care legislation.
As President Obama put it, “These were Kennedy’s life’s work. They were not for those with wealth, power or special connections but to give a voice to those who were not heard, to add a rung to the ladder of opportunity.”
President Obama continued saying, “He (Ted) was given the gift of time that his brothers were not and he used that gift to touch as many lives as he could and right as many wrongs as the years would allow.”
• Reunites the sundered community
Later in the eulogy President Obama describes the time after the tragedy of September 11 when Senator Kennedy personally called 177 families in Massachusetts who lost family members in the attacks. This event brought Americans and even the world together, regardless of party affiliation, race or creed. President Obama talks of Senator Kennedy’s ongoing outreach to these families on each anniversary of the September 11 attacks.
Using the words Senator Kennedy wrote to the widow of one of the victims, President Obama states, “As you know so well, the passage of time never really heals the tragic memory of such a great loss. But we carry on because we have to, because our loved ones would want us to. And because there is still light to guide us in the world from the love they gave us. We carry on.”
• Immortalizes the deceased
As President Obama remembers Senator Kennedy, he recalls words that Kennedy used for the eulogy of his deceased brother Bobby. “He (Bobby) should not be idealized or enlarged in death because of what he was in life.” These words appropriately describe Senator Ted Kennedy with President Obama adding, “The greatest expectations were placed on Ted Kennedy’s shoulders because of who he was, but he surpassed them all because of who he became.”
At the end of his remarks, President Obama says, “Ted Kennedy has gone home now, guided by his faith and by the light of those that he has loved and lost. At last, he is with them once more, leaving those of us who grieve his passing with the memories he gave, the good that he did and the dream he kept alive.”
2. Does the speaker due anything wrong in this eulogy? In light of the four requirements, give some examples and explain. (20 Pts.)
When compared to the eulogy that the Earl of Spencer gave for Princess Diana, as shown in the YouTube video, President Obama’s delivery lacks the heartfelt emotion that is evident in the Earl’s eulogy for his sister. The feelings expressed by the Earl of Spencer are palpable to those watching, and even bring back memories of sadness felt throughout the world over Princess Diana’s untimely death.
In the eulogy for Senator Kennedy, President Obama’s trademark cool demeanor can make him appear disengaged to the point of being unfeeling. While America’s President even recalled his own personal experiences and fond memories he had with Senator Kennedy, his speech style leaves the viewer to feel that giving the eulogy was obligatory.
3. Given the nature of this eulogy, does it fit the criteria? Are parts lacking? What was done well? What could have been done better? (15 pts.)
President Obama’s eulogy for Senator Ted Kennedy does fit the criteria. That said, he lacks emotion as he presented such an historic message for a man who, for so many people, was larger than life itself. The President’s speech style disconnects the powerful words and examples he used and may have had the unintended consequence of disengaging viewers.
Though President Obama’s style comes across emotionless, he shares a couple of instances from Senator Kennedy life that show the senator’s sense of humor, which stirred laughter among those in attendance. It added some levity in an otherwise somber occasion.
Senator Kennedy qualities of friendship and kindness are described in a numerous ways during the eulogy. President Obama recalled Senator Kennedy instilling in his own children ‘service and selflessness’ that were characteristics that Senator Kennedy’s parents gave him.
More emotion, which viewers could have seen and felt as President Obama spoke, would have given this eulogy a more personal and memorable quality than that of a prepared speech.