The Barack Obama tribute to Ted Kennedy was surprising for a variety of reasons. See the video and read the many White House statements, fundraising letters, and speeches from President Obama about Edward Kennedy’s legacy.

Obama Tribute

Foremost among the surprises is that the first Obama tribute came very late after his passing, which tells us that the Kennedy family was not communicating with anyone in the White House about the Senator’s condition while they were communicating with many others. So while all the major newspapers were ready with the expected story, team Obama was scrambling to catch up.

Read more here and here and here.

Secondly was the sheer number of Obama tributes both above and beneath the radar. We learned among other gestures that flags at all federal building will fly at half-mast upon Obama’s orders. This action is unprecedented in the history of the country for a U.S. Senator dying of natural causes. The respectful precedents of the greatest U.S. Senators, Henry Clay, John C. Calhoun, Daniel Webster, Robert Taft and Robert La Follette, were not respected by this White House.

What few people outside of Democrat donors will know is that the fundraising arm of the Obama political operation ratcheted into high gear. Obama is famous for his prolific email messages to supporters which mix snippets from his agenda with donation requests as if he were still running a campaign. Today’s message was an Obama tribute:

Michelle and I were heartbroken to learn this morning of the death of our dear friend, Senator Ted Kennedy.

For nearly five decades, virtually every major piece of legislation to advance the civil rights, health and economic well-being of the American people bore his name and resulted from his efforts.

His ideas and ideals are stamped on scores of laws and reflected in millions of lives — in seniors who know new dignity; in families that know new opportunity; in children who know education’s promise; and in all who can pursue their dream in an America that is more equal and more just, including me. In the United States Senate, I can think of no one who engendered greater respect or affection from members of both sides of the aisle. His seriousness of purpose was perpetually matched by humility, warmth and good cheer.

He battled passionately on the Senate floor for the causes that he held dear, and yet still maintained warm friendships across party lines.

And that’s one reason he became not only one of the greatest senators of our time, but one of the most accomplished Americans ever to serve our democracy.

I personally valued his wise counsel in the Senate, where, regardless of the swirl of events, he always had time for a new colleague.

I cherished his confidence and momentous support in my race for the Presidency.

And even as he waged a valiant struggle with a mortal illness, I’ve benefited as President from his encouragement and wisdom.

His fight gave us the opportunity we were denied when his brothers John and Robert were taken from us: the blessing of time to say thank you and goodbye.

The outpouring of love, gratitude and fond memories to which we’ve all borne witness is a testament to the way this singular figure in American history touched so many lives.

For America, he was a defender of a dream. For his family, he was a guardian. Our hearts and prayers go out to them today — to his wonderful wife, Vicki, his children Ted Jr., Patrick and Kara, his grandchildren and his extended family. Today, our country mourns.

We say goodbye to a friend and a true leader who challenged us all to live out our noblest values. And we give thanks for his memory, which inspires us still. Sincerely, President Barack Obama.

Obama Tribute to Edward Kennedy
August 26th, 2009 (Fundraising Email)

Another Obama tribute came in the form of a more official White House statement which was shorter than the fundraising letter. Pull out about half of the lines from the above statement and you have the official White House Obama tribute.

But just in case these tributes weren’t enough, the White House issued a renewed quote on the homepage this evening. According to that Obama tribute recycled from the others, Edward Kennedy was “not only one of the greatest senators of our time, but one of the most accomplished Americans ever to serve our democracy” (President Obama Tribute Statement)

And lastly is the ‘defender of a dream’ speech coming from Obama himself at a time he was vacationing. See the video below.

Obama Tribute: Ted Kennedy Speech (Video)