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August 31, 09

NEWS / Senates Liberal Lion Mourned by Political Friends and Foes

A grateful nation lays Kennedy to rest at Arlington National Cemetery

By Bridget Hunter
Staff Writer

Washington — The United States has bid farewell to a statesman who lived his entire life in the political spotlight, the youngest son in a family that many have called American royalty.

It would be more accurate to call the Kennedys American democrats — the lowercase “d” is deliberate — because of how their very public lives and losses played out on the larger stage of American history and how they helped shape the still-evolving U.S. democracy.

Personal wealth enabled the Kennedys to live privileged, leisurely lives, but instead they chose to serve their country. The name Kennedy now is linked inextricably with empowering legislation like the Civil Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act and with inspiring programs like the Peace Corps, the Special Olympics and the space program.

On August 30, Edward Kennedy, the only one among four brothers granted a full span of years, was formally mourned at the family retreat on Massachusetts’ Cape Cod, in a Boston cathedral and near the steps of the U.S. Capitol as his body made its final journey to join those of his brothers resting on a green hillside in Arlington National Cemetery.

The senior senator from Massachusetts died August 25 at the age of 77 after a yearlong battle with brain cancer.

“Today we say goodbye to the youngest child of Rose and Joseph Kennedy,” President Obama said in a eulogy at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Basilica in Boston. “The world will long remember their son Edward as the heir to a weighty legacy; a champion for those who had none; the soul of the Democratic Party; and the lion of the United States Senate — a man who graces nearly 1,000 laws, and who penned more than 300 laws himself.”


The mourners who crowded the cathedral for the Mass of Resurrection, the Catholic funeral service, included past and present holders of the nation’s highest offices (presidents, senators, governors and justices), emissaries from foreign governments, an extended Kennedy family now more than 100 strong and a throng of friends built through a lifetime of warmth and good humor.

Many of those crowding the pews had been fierce political adversaries: former President Jimmy Carter, whom Kennedy had challenged for the 1980 Democratic presidential nomination; former President George W. Bush, whose Iraq policy drew blistering Kennedy attacks, and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who had been disappointed by Kennedy’s endorsement of Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential race.

Most U.S. senators, Republican and Democrat, also made the trek to Boston to pay their final respects, including 2008 Republican presidential nominee John McCain, because, despite the political and philosophical differences many had with Kennedy, his hard work had commanded his colleagues’ respect and his warm charm had won many of their hearts.

“While he was seen by his fiercest critics as a partisan lightning rod, that’s not the prism through which Ted Kennedy saw the world, nor was it the prism through which his colleagues saw Ted Kennedy,” Obama said. He was a product of an age when the joy and nobility of politics prevented differences of party and platform and philosophy from becoming barriers to cooperation and mutual respect — a time when adversaries still saw each other as patriots.

“And that’s how Ted Kennedy became the greatest legislator of our time. He did it by hewing to principle, yes, but also by seeking compromise and common cause — not through deal-making and horse-trading alone, but through friendship, and kindness, and humor.”


From Boston the senator’s body was flown to Andrews Air Force Base near Washington. The funeral procession then wound its way through the city, passing Americans of all ages and races lined up along the boulevards waving flags, snapping pictures or quietly saluting.

On the steps of the east front of the U.S. Capitol, current and past senators joined by current and past staff members waited for hours to welcome that last visit to the Senate. That stop had not been announced in advance to the public but, as word spread, thousands assembled on the Capitol grounds for a last tribute, and to hear the words of the chaplain of the House of Representatives.

Then, in a twilight scene eerily reminiscent of the graveside service for Senator Robert Kennedy more than four decades ago, family and close friends laid Edward Kennedy’s body to rest near the graves of his brothers, with military honors and the thanks of a grateful nation.

An orator in an age increasingly reliant on sound bites, Edward Kennedy’s eloquence, profoundly moving at the funeral of his slain brother, also serves as a fitting summary of his own life. For, like Robert, Edward “need not be idealized, or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life; to be remembered simply as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it.

“Those of us who loved him and who take him to his rest today, pray that what he was to us and what he wished for others will some day come to pass for all the world.

“As he said many times, in many parts of this nation, to those he touched and who sought to touch him: ‘Some men see things as they are and say why. I dream things that never were and say why not.’”


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