I didn't sleep long. We would have to leave for the center no later than 6:30 if we had any hope of being on time. I had not had the chance to rehearse my remarks on the teleprompter and had not seen the text in two days. Nor would I again until I spoke it. We showered and dressed at the hospital. Someone was combing my hair as the aides stared at their wristwatches; someone else was wrapping my hand in an Ace bandage, to conceal the intravenous line still implanted there.

Larry Horowitz was on the phone with the Pepsi Center. They needed to know which version of the speech if any to put in the teleprompter. I said the original one that I had rehearsed at the Cape, but Vicki and Larry persuaded me that Shrum's abbreviated version was probably a better idea.

"Let’s go," I said. The three Larrys—Ronan, Horowitz, and Larry Allen, a wonderful young doctor we had met when I had surgery at Duke who had coincidentally moved to Denver—escorted us to a waiting van. Vicki and I sat in the middle seats, between the driver and the doctors. We sped off toward a convention hall I'd never been in, and a stage whose contours I did not know, to give a version of a speech that I had never seen. Even the full speech had become the stuff of distant memory.

I can handle this, I kept telling myself. I can handle this.

My niece Caroline Kennedy gave a beautiful and heartwarming introduction. After a spectacular film produced by Mark Herzog and Ken Burns, we heard the announcer’s voice: "Ladies and gentlemen, Senator Edward Kennedy." This was it. Showtime.
From the book True Compass: A Memoir. Copyright © 2009 by Edward M. Kennedy. Reprinted by permission of Twelve Books/Hachette Book Group, New York, NY. All rights reserved.


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