"The dream will never die"

I was at Madison Square Gardens when Edward Kennedy delivered his great concession speech at the 1980 Democratic Convention. It was a moment of great theatre which I will always remember - culminating in that great phrase "The dream will never die". His actual campaign for the democratic nomination against a wounded and struggling Jimmy Carter had been rather lacklustre. So the speech conceding defeat was in retrospect almost a catharsis, an outpouring of relief that he no longer had to carry that terrible burden of expectation.

I was there on a bit of a "boondoggle" - attending the conventions as member of a delegation of Europeans representing all the major parties in all the major countries of our continent. I had just been selected as the Liberal candidate for St Albans in my first time round, and the scale and chaos and spectacle and lavishness of an American presidential convention was a truly one-off experience. Other memories - a speech by "Governor Moonbeam" Jerry Brown of California - best remembered for sleeping on a mattress (occasionally with rock star Linda Ronstadt) in the Governor's Mansion now occupied by Arnold Schwarzenegger. And Jimmy Carter in his laboured acceptance speech referring to that year's death of "Hubert Horatio Hornblower" when he meant to say Hubert Horatio Humphrey - a classic case of a deeply stressed politician mis-speaking, as Gordon Brown did in Normandy this year when he accidentally referred to "Obama Beach" rather than Omaha Beach. For all the Kennedy flaws and exaggerations of their talent (except perhaps for Bobby), there was an extraordinary magic that touched people and uplifted them. We need a bit of that in Britain!

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