Kennedy Will Not Attend Medal of Freedom Ceremony

Posted August 12, 2009 at 10:59am

Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), weakened from his ongoing battle with brain cancer, will not be present at the White House on Wednesday to accept a Presidential Medal of Freedom.

“Sen. Kennedy will not be at the White House today,— spokesman Anthony Coley said, adding: “All five of his children and his daughter-in-law will attend instead. His oldest, Kara, will accept the award on his behalf.—

The Kennedy family has huddled in recent days with the passing Tuesday of Eunice Kennedy Shriver, Kennedy’s 88-year-old sister who had been in declining health due to a series of strokes.

“Throughout her extraordinary life, she touched the lives of millions,— Kennedy fondly recalled of Shriver, who founded the Special Olympics. Shriver died at Cape Cod Hospital in Hyannis, Mass.

Kennedy, 77, has largely stayed out of the spotlight this year. He recently missed the confirmation vote of Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and has been absent from the Senate health care debate. Kennedy is the chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. His longtime friend Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) has been overseeing that panel’s work on health care reform in his absence.

Kennedy allies say the second-longest-serving Democrat has been kept apprised of the health care debate; he recently penned a lengthy article in Newsweek in which he declared overhauling the health system “the cause of my life.—

President Barack Obama named Kennedy a Medal of Freedom recipient on July 30. All 16 nominees to the nation’s highest civilian honor will be recognized at a White House event Wednesday.

Other notable recipients include the late Rep. Jack Kemp (R-N.Y.), retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, tennis all-star Billie Jean King and Academy Award-winner Sidney Poitier.

Kennedy was first diagnosed with brain cancer in May 2008.