Obama pays tribute to Edward Kennedy at Boston ceremony

Senator’s contribution to Northern Ireland noted at dedication of institute in his name

President Obama is applauded as he takes the stage to make remarks at the dedication ceremony for the Edward M Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate. Photograph: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

President Obama is applauded as he takes the stage to make remarks at the dedication ceremony for the Edward M Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate. Photograph: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

 

US president Barack Obama paid tribute to late senator Edward Kennedy and his ability to find compromise with political opponents, saying, “No one made the Senate come alive like Ted Kennedy. ”

Speaking at the dedication to the new Edward M Kennedy Institute, in Boston, Mr Obama, a senator from 2004 to 2008, said it was “one of the great pleasures of my life to hear Ted Kennedy deliver one of his stem-winders” in the Senate.

“Rarely was he more animated than when he’d lead you through the living museums that were his offices,” he said. “He could, and he would, tell you everything that there was to know about all of it.”

Mr Obama spoke of the “quick Irish wit” of late president John F Kennedy and his banter with his younger brother, Teddy.

Mr Obama said Edward Kennedy’s legacy and that of his brother were “alive as ever” in Boston with the new institute dedicated to teaching about and encouraging participation in government.

Among the attendees were US vice-president Joe Biden and local Democratic figures, such as Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren, along with some Republicans, including Senator John McCain.

This high-profile Kennedy family occasion was not complete without references to Ireland and the role the late senator played to help end the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

Peacemaker

Ed MarkeyTeddy Kennedy

Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan, who attended on behalf of the Government, told The Irish Times that Mr Kennedy’s contribution to peace came “at a most difficult juncture” but that it ensured that “principles of democracy won through at a time when feelings were running very high on this side of the Atlantic.”

“He was very passionate [about Ireland] and he was a peacemaker,” Mr Kennedy’s widow, Victoria Reggie Kennedy, told The Irish Times. “It was something that was very, very important to him.” The $78 million institute would include an exhibit to her husband’s involvement in Ireland, she said.

Childhood

Marty Walsh

“As a child I walked this shore and listened to my mother, an Irish immigrant. She had stories of the Kennedy family standing up for people like us,” he said.

In his address Mr Obama noted how Mr Kennedy, who died in 2009 after serving more than 47 years in the US Senate, grieved for “the loss of camaraderie and collegiality, the face-to-face interaction” between politicians from opposing sides in his later years in politics.

Mr Obama made a plea to politicians to follow Kennedy’s example by reaching out to political opponents. “What if we carried ourselves more like Ted Kennedy?” he said.