Obama Honors the Greatest Legislator of Our Time’

Posted August 29, 2009 at 12:08pm

President Barack Obama hailed the life and work of Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) on Saturday, eulogizing his friend and colleague 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 U.S. Senate a man whose name graces nearly 1,000 laws, and who penned more than 300 himself.—Obama gave his eulogy at Kennedy’s funeral, held at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Basilica in Boston. Kennedy died Tuesday evening after a yearlong battle with brain cancer.Striking a similar note to that of Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who gave his own emotional tribute to Kennedy during Friday’s memorial service, Obama spent much of his eulogy focusing on the private Kennedy.“Those of us who loved him, and ache with his passing, know Ted Kennedy by the other titles he held: Father. Brother. Husband. Uncle Teddy, or as he was often known to his younger nieces and nephews, The Grand Fromage,’ or The Big Cheese.’ I, like so many others in the city where he worked for nearly half a century, knew him as a colleague, a mentor, and above all, a friend,— Obama said.Obama also stressed Kennedy’s emphasis on trying to help the powerless, minorities and other disenfranchised groups throughout his career, and how despite political differences, he was able to use friendship to bridge political gaps.“Ted Kennedy’s life’s work was not to champion those with wealth or power or special connections. It was to give a voice to those who were not heard; to add a rung to the ladder of opportunity; to make real the dream of our founding. … We can still hear his voice bellowing through the Senate chamber, face reddened, fist pounding the podium, a veritable force of nature, in support of health care or workers’ rights or civil rights,— Obama said.“And yet, while his causes became deeply personal, his disagreements never did. While he was seen by his fiercest critics as a partisan lightning rod, that is not the prism through which Ted Kennedy saw the world, nor was it the prism through which his colleagues saw him,— Obama said. “And that’s how Ted Kennedy became the greatest legislator of our time. He did it by hewing to principle, but also by seeking compromise and common cause not through deal-making and horse-trading alone, but through friendship, and kindness, and humor.—[IMGCAP(1)]Hundreds of family members, friends and colleagues attended the funeral service, including Presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, former Vice President Al Gore, Irish Taoiseach Brian Cowen, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Vice President Joseph Biden and former Vice President Dan Quayle. A delegation of 52 Senators, 21 former Senators and dozens of House Members was led by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). The delegation included Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Senate Republican Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Sens. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), John Kerry (D-Mass.), Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.).Following the funeral, Kennedy’s body was to be taken to Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, where a motorcade would transport it to the Capitol for a brief prayer ceremony. Kennedy will then be laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery next to his brothers, President John F. Kennedy and Sen. Robert Kennedy (D-Mass.).Unlike some of his fellow Democrats, who have used their tributes over the last several days to renew calls for universal health care, Obama largely shunned politics, wrapping up his eulogy on a poignant note.“Ted Kennedy has gone home now, guided by his faith and by the light of those he has loved and lost. At last he is with them once more, leaving those of us who grieve his passing with the memories he gave, the good he did, the dream he kept alive, and a single, enduring image the image of a man on a boat; white mane tousled; smiling broadly as he sails into the wind, ready for what storms may come, carrying on toward some new and wondrous place just beyond the horizon,— Obama said. “May God bless Ted Kennedy, and may he rest in eternal peace.—