The US Senate opened the Edward M. Kennedy Institute on Monday, and the dedication ceremony offered President Barack Obama the opportunity to call for closer cooperation between politicians of different ideology.
Mr. Obama asked Senate members to follow the example of the liberal champion and become more open to compromise and collegiality. Other people attending the ceremony also paid their tributes to Edward Kennedy, such as Vice President Joe Biden, who thinks current frictions between Democrats and Republicans only lead to a broken political system.
The Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate – which cost federal authorities about $78 million – is addressed mostly at high school students in an attempt to teach young Americans the values the US Senate stands for through role play activities and interactive exhibits. The President expressed his hopes the institute will “set an example for the kids who enter these doors and exit with higher expectations for this country.”
The late Senator Edward M. Kennedy is remembered as a liberal politician who did not back off from cooperating with the same people who often challenged his views. The institute is his testimony to younger generations, since he often imagined a place where a place where high school students and others would learn more about the Senate.
He hoped to show young people the institution is more than the sum of the political scandals that often leak into the press nowadays, aiming to educate students on why the Senate works the way it does. The later part of his life was dedicated to see this ambition accomplished. Now, his dream finally came true, as the Edward M. Kennedy Institute sits on the University of Massachusetts campus, alongside other iconic monuments of American democracy, such as the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library.
Mr. Obama pinpointed the true nature of Kennedy, describing him as one who could “howl at injustice on the Senate floor like a force of nature” while at the same time reaching out to his fellow senators. The President remarked the presence of Republican politicians in the audience, indicating that even his political opponents had a great deal of respect for the late senator. “It’s not because they shared Ted’s ideology or his positions, but they knew Ted was someone who bridged the partisan divide over and over and over again,” Obama said if Republicans.
The White House chief had to opportunity to meet Edward Kennedy, and for a short time they served together as US senators. Mr. Obama declared he considered the senator a friend, benefiting from his endorsement when he first launched his 2008 presidential campaign. The President also took the opportunity to remind those attending the ceremony about the importance of the Affordable Care Act, describing Kennedy as a model with his lifelong advocacy for universal healthcare.
Senate veterans, such as Republican John McCain, recalled the times he used to fight with Kennedy, who in his view made the Senate “a little more productive and a lot more fun.” McCain said he believes the Democrats now lack a strong character such as Ted Kennedy.
Other important Republican figures present at the event kept the same note. Former Senate majority leader Trent Lott, now a member on the Edward M. Kennedy Institute board, actually worked with the late senator on a few projects. “Oh yes, we disagreed. We had some fiery discussions. He knew how to give and take and get a result,” Lott emphatically described his former opponent.
Kennedy is also remembered by some as a politician who endorsed projects without seeking any short term political gain, especially in his later years. Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, of the Democratic Party, described how Kennedy backed her up unconditionally on a bill she was trying to push through. “Sen. Ted Kennedy, the lion of the Senate, agreed to lead this fight because it was the right thing to do,” Warren, who is now the occupant of Kennedy’s former seat, remembered the turning point in her career.
Vice President Joe Biden still thinks of Kennedy as a mentor, having been taken under his wing since he still was a young senator. He urged current senators to walk in the footsteps of his tutor, suggesting a president can be challenged without doing damage to the presidential institution, as Kennedy did with the eight presidents he served under.
Senators attending the ceremony gave those present a first sample of how the institute is set to work in the future. After Mr. Obama’s speech in the actual-size replica of the Senate chamber, Biden presided over a so-called senator meeting, alongside about 17 current and former members of Senate.
Image Source: Guardian
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