EXETER — Like President John F. Kennedy in the 1960s, presidential candidate Barack Obama uses good judgment, according to Ted Sorensen, counsel and speechwriter to Kennedy during his presidency.
The characteristic is what makes the Illinois senator the best candidate for president, Sorensen said during a visit with about 50 residents and community members at RiverWoods on Thursday.
"Looking back at all these years and my 11 years with John F. Kennedy ... I realized that the single most important quality in a president is not their position on any particular issue, it's not their promises for this and that, which are too easily made and forgotten," Sorensen said. "What matters most is the quality of the person and the quality of their judgment."
Sorensen began working for Kennedy in the U.S. Senate and followed him to the White House as special counsel and adviser and primary speechwriter. Sorensen is best-known for his role in writing Kennedy's famous 1960 inaugural address.
"Kennedy, overnight, became a national figure because of television, and he and I traveled the nation together," Sorensen said.
While at RiverWoods, Sorensen said he didn't want to cover what Obama would do for seniors, because as one himself he knows they spend much more time concerned about their country and its young citizens than they do about themselves and their pocketbooks.
"The votes you cast may be the most important you may ever make in your entire lives," he said. "It's not just impacting you, but the country, its children, your grandchildren, my grandchildren."
Sorensen told his audience that he thinks this is the most important election the country has faced since the Civil War, particularly because the United States has lost the respect from other countries and even its allies.
"It's shocking. It's serious," he said. "We live in such a dangerous world that to have that lack of respect out there is dangerous for us as a country."
That danger is why Sorensen said he supports Obama, the one candidate he said can make a change. "He represents change," he said. "In fact, he is change. We need the change that he represents."
Sorensen's visit was organized by RiverWoods resident Burt Harvey, who said he would usually like to see the candidate make a visit, but jumped at the chance to welcome Sorensen.
"All of us who remember exactly where we were when Kennedy was shot will remember exactly who Ted was," Harvey said.
Members of the audience asked Sorensen what he thought about Obama's experience and how he would deal with the "mess" in Iraq.
"We need a president who will crack down and make change," Sorensen said. "The fact is that there is such a mess for the next president that you can't be sure anyone of them will be able to fulfill the hopes and expectations of the country."
Regarding Obama's experience, Sorensen said, "Experience is like the light at the stern of a ship, it shows you where it's been, but not where it's going."
The response hit home for Elizabeth Terry who said members of the Bush administration had experience when they headed into the Iraq war.
"I've known Ted from a distance for a number of years and always admired him. What he says is right," she said.
Resident Barbara Gildersleeve said she was impressed by Sorensen's ability to answer residents' questions and that the visit just increased her support for Obama.
"I think if anybody was wavering, they might have un-wavered," she said.