Obama to attend Boston opening of Institute honoring Sen. Kennedy
BOSTON (AP) The late "liberal lion" Sen. Edward Kennedy was hailed by political leaders from across the country and political spectrum Monday at the formal dedication of an institute named for him in Boston featuring a full-size replica of the Senate chamber.
The $79 million institute, built next to the John F. Kennedy presidential library on Boston's Columbia Point, was envisioned by Kennedy before he was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2008, family members said. He died the following year.
Speaker after speaker spoke of Kennedy's outsized influence on the Senate, where he served for 47 years. Vice President Joe Biden said Kennedy "treated me like a little brother" and was a master at generating trust and mutual respect necessary to bring about consensus.
"All politics is personal," Biden said. "No one in my life understood that better than Ted Kennedy."
President Barack Obama also was scheduled to speak.
Former Senate GOP Leader Trent Lott noted the irony of his inclusion on the institute's board of directors.
"Yes, a Republican from Mississippi," said Lott, to laughter and applause, "is proud to be here today."
Lott said although the two disagreed and had "some fiery discussions," they came together sometimes in a bipartisan way. Lott recalled after he worked with Kennedy on an immigration bill that lost on a procedural vote in 2007, he told him, "Ted, every time I work with you I get in trouble man."
"But just think how different thinks would be now if we passed immigration reform in 2007," he added to applause.
Lott said there's no other place in America to honor the Senate Kennedy hoped it will teach about the important role the body plays in American government. Guests, including student groups, will be able to role-play as senators and debate some of the major issues of the day. The facility also includes a re-creation of Kennedy's Senate office, virtually unchanged from how it appeared when he died.
Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who now holds the seat that Kennedy once did, recalled the first time she met Kennedy in 1998 and urged him to lead a fight to protect middle-class Americans who were being pushed into bankruptcy.
"His eyes were puffy, he was a little stooped, he was in constant back pain. He looked tired and he looked over at the big satchel of papers that he always carried, the satchel full of a zillion other commitments that he had already made, a zillion other fights that he had already agreed to fight. He looked at them, then he looked back at me, and then he said: I'll do it," she said.
Warren, who said she had not liked politics before that day, said she cried after getting Kennedy's commitment. "He kept his word and he led that fight for 10 years," said Warren.
Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain remembered Kennedy's "zest for political argument" and said they would often laugh together after a debate. "If we were on the Senate floor at the same temperature, well, watch out," McCain said.
"I miss fighting with him to be honest. It's gotten harder to find people who enjoy a good fight as much as Ted did," McCain said. "The place hasn't been the same without him."
Associated Press writer Bob Salsberg contributed to this report. Pickler reported from Washington