A LIBERAL LION’S FINAL ROAR…. Caroline Kennedy gave a touching speech about her “Uncle Teddy” last night, which segued into a Ken Burns-crafted tribute on the extraordinary career for Sen. Ted Kennedy. But it was Kennedy’s speech — a poignant bookend to his “The Dream Will Never Die” speech to the 1980 Democratic convention — that tug on the heart-strings. Hell, even Sullivan found himself “choking up a little.”

Given his battle with brain cancer, Kennedy’s appearance was by no means a given. It’s why he seemed entirely sincere when he began his speech, “My fellow Democrats, my fellow Americans, it is so wonderful to be here. And nothing — nothing — is going to keep me away from this special gathering tonight.” After Kennedy took labored steps to the podium to give the speech, a stool was slipped in behind him. He ignored it.

As for the substance, it was hard to miss the issue the Liberal Lion cared about most. As Ezra noted, “Before he even mentioned Obama’s name. Health care. After he spoke of the hope Obama brings. Health care. In the last few weeks, I’ve spoken to a couple Kennedy aides who all told me the same thing: Health care…. It will be his legacy. It is his dream. Health care.”

Rhetorically, Kennedy’s voice still boomed, and his message still resonated: “There is a new wave of change all around us, and if we set our compass true, we will reach our destination — not merely victory for our party, but renewal for our nation. And this November, the torch will be passed again to a new generation of Americans. So with Barack Obama, and for you and for me, our country will be committed to his cause. The work begins anew. The hope rises again. And the dream lives on.”

Kennedy seemed frailer than we’re accustomed to seeing him, and his eyes rarely strayed from the prompter at the back of the arena. I’m pretty sure those watching couldn’t have cared less. His speech, like his career, was a triumph.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.