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As Senate Institute Opens, Kennedy's Ability To Find 'Common Ground' Recalled

Surrounded by Kennedys and other politicians, like Sen. Elizabeth Warren, President Obama speaks at the dedication of the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate in Boston on Monday. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)MoreCloseclosemore
Surrounded by Kennedys and other politicians, like Sen. Elizabeth Warren, President Obama speaks at the dedication of the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate in Boston on Monday. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

At the formal dedication for the institute that bears his name, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, the late "Liberal Lion" of the U.S. Senate, was remembered Monday for his devotion to causes he cared for and his ability to find "common ground" with Republicans.

"Ted understood that the only point in running for office was to get something done," President Obama said outside the newly opened Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate.

Obama, along with others, contrasted Kennedy's ability to forge bipartisan compromise with the current gridlocked state of the U.S. Senate.

"What if we worked to follow his example a little bit harder?" Obama asked.

“When you did find common ground, he was the best ally,” Republican Sen. John McCain said in remarks. He added that the Senate would be “a little more productive and a lot more fun” if Kennedy were still there.

Vice President Joe Biden speaks at the Kennedy institute dedication. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Vice President Joe Biden speaks at the Kennedy institute dedication. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Vice President Joe Biden, who worked with Kennedy for decades, said Kennedy "was an anchor to many of us in our personal lives, but he was also an anchor in an institution we revered [the Senate].”

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren recalled a time before she was a politician, when she visited Kennedy to get his buy-in for a bankruptcy reform package. After a 15-minute meeting turned into an hour and a half, he told her she had his vote. Then he agreed to lead on the issue.

Kennedy “changed my life and changed what I understood about public service,” Warren said.

Kennedy's widow, Victoria, speaks at the Kennedy institute dedication. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Kennedy's widow, Victoria, speaks at the Kennedy institute dedication. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Other speakers included: U.S. Sen. Ed Markey, Gov. Charlie Baker and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh.

The institute opens to the public Tuesday. Read Asma Khalid's feature on the institute's goals and interactive exhibits.

Vice President Biden, right, leads the dedication ceremony inside the mock Senate chamber. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Vice President Biden, right, leads the dedication ceremony inside the mock Senate chamber. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Related audio


See below for updates from the dedication ceremony.

Update at 12:42 p.m.: Near closing, Obama said:


Update at 12:29 p.m.: The president is now speaking about Kennedy and the current gridlocked state of the Senate.

"What if we worked to follow his example a little bit harder?" Obama added.

Update at 12:23 p.m.: The president is now remembering Kennedy. "No one made the Senate come alive like Ted Kennedy," he said.

Update at 12:16 p.m.: President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama have arrived, and walked in with Kennedy's widow, Victoria, who just spoke:


Update at 11:57 a.m.: More from VP Biden:

Update at 11:48 a.m.: "He was an anchor to many of us in our personal lives," Vice President Joe Biden said, "but he was also an anchor in an institution we revered [the Senate]."

Update at 11:35 a.m.: "I miss my friend," Republican Sen. John McCain said. He added that the Senate would be "a little more productive and a lot more fun" if Kennedy were still there.

"When you did find common ground, he was the best ally," McCain said.

Update at 11:25 a.m.: U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren recalled a time before she was a politician, when she visited Kennedy to get his buy-in for bankruptcy reform. After a 15-minute meeting turned into an hour and a half, he told her she had his vote. Then he agreed to lead on the issue.

Kennedy "changed my life and changed what I understood about public service," Warren said.

Update at 11:17 a.m.: U.S. Sen. Ed Markey said the institute will be "a place where hope and history will rhyme."

Update at 11:10 a.m.: Gov. Charlie Baker recalled meeting Kennedy to discuss health care. And citing Kennedy's influence, Baker said building relationships, establishing trust and following-through are key to getting things done.

Update at 11:05 a.m.: "Welcome to Kennedy country," Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said. Walsh recalled Kennedy's dedication in delivering for Boston. The former union leader added: "American workers never had a better friend."

Update at 10:59 a.m.: "Yes, a Republican from Mississippi... is proud to be here today," former Sen. Trent Lott said to laughs. Lott then said he and Kennedy came together in a bipartisan fashion many times, including an effort to pass immigration reform.

Update at 10:40 a.m.: Jean MacCormack, president of the institute, has opened the dedication ceremony. She cited her Dorchester roots and her pride in seeing the new institute open in the neighborhood.

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Benjamin Swasey Twitter Digital Manager
Ben is WBUR's digital manager. He occasionally reports about economic and transportation policy, social issues and politics.

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