Washington, Aug 29 (DPA) US President Barack Obama was among the hundreds of mourners who attended Senator Edward ‘Ted’ Kennedy’s funeral Saturday in a final farewell to the last brother of the celebrated family.
Obama and predecessors Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush as well as Kennedy’s family, friends, colleagues and political adversaries gathered at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Basilica in Boston for the Catholic funeral.
Obama delivered the main eulogy during the services on a gloomy, overcast day in one of America’s oldest cities and birthplace of the uprising that marked the beginning of the War of Independence more than 200 years ago.
“We do not weep for him today because of the prestige attached to his name or his office. We weep because we loved this kind and tender hero who persevered through pain and tragedy, not for the sake of ambition or vanity, not for wealth or power, but only for the people and the country he loved,” Obama said.
The three former presidents sat in a second row. Clinton leaned forward to chat with Obama before the services, while Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton engaged in conversation with Bush.
Kennedy’s widow, Vicki Reggie, looked on solemnly from her front row aisle seat directly across from Obama as the service got under way. Those in attendance sang, and wiped their eyes while occasionally laughing as friends and family related stories about the
iconic American figure.
Father J. Donald Monan, a longtime friend of the Kennedy family, presided over the funeral. Kennedy’s nephews, nieces and other younger generations of Kennedys paid tribute to their family patriarch. Monan praised Kennedy for his record of helping the less fortunate.
“Senator Kennedy was a towering strength to his family and a towering presence on the American landscape,” Monan said.
Kennedy died Tuesday at his home in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts after battling brain cancer for more than a year. His death at the age of 77 was marked with great sadness in the US and generated an outpouring of condolences from around the world. The
funeral was aired live on all the major US television networks.
Despite the scandal that sometimes dogged Kennedy and his family, he was remembered for his tireless fight against poverty and for better health care during his decades in the Senate and as the backbone of the Democratic Party.
“He was not perfect – far from it,” son Teddy said, while wiping away tears. “But my father believed in redemption.”
Obama praised Kennedy as the “greatest legislator of our time” who helped pass thousands of legislative bills and authored more than 300 himself, addressing critical issues like civil rights, education, immigration, health and voting rights.
“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,” Obama said.
Following the mass, Kennedy’s body was being taken to Washington for a late afternoon burial at Arlington National Cemetery, the graveyard near the Pentagon that is the final resting place of many of America’s war dead. The funeral procession will make a brief stop at the Capitol Building.
Kennedy’s final resting place is steps away from the graves of his assassinated brothers – president John F. Kennedy, who was shot in 1963, and Robert Kennedy, who suffered the same fate while campaigning for the presidency in 1968.
“He was given the gift of time that his brothers were not, and he used that gift to touch as many lives and right as many wrongs as the years would allow,” Obama said.
Saturday’s services followed two days of morning in Boston, the capital of Massachusetts – the state Kennedy represented in the Senate for more than 47 years.
His American flag-draped casket had been placed in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum for a public viewing. More than 50,000 people filed past the casket, watched over by a US military honour guard.
A private service was held Friday night. Sharing anecdotes from decades past and recent weeks, Kennedy’s relatives and colleagues recalled his passion for public service, his optimism in the possible, his large-heartedness, dignity, generosity and refusal to
Among the speakers were Vice President Joe Biden and former Republican presidential nominee John McCain. Both spent decades as Kennedy’s Senate colleagues.
“In an astonishing and totally unexpected way he ended up playing a part in every critical moment of my adult life,” Biden said. “He crept into my heart and before I knew it, he owned a piece of it.”
In the eulogy Saturday, Obama urged onlookers to use their time on earth to carry Kennedy’s legacy by making a difference in people’s lives.
“We can strive at all costs to make a better world, so that some day, if we are blessed with the chance to look back on our time here, we can know that we spent it well, that we made a difference, that our fleeting presence had a lasting impact on the lives of
others,” Obama said.
“This is how Ted Kennedy lived. This is his legacy.”