Members of the Kennedy family are joining Gov. Deval Patrick and other officials Friday to break ground on the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate.
The institute will be adjacent to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum at Columbia Point in Dorchester. Vicki Kennedy said the center that bears her late husband’s name will be built on a foundation of “civic engagement.”
“It means having people care and be involved, and believe and understand that they can make a difference,” Kennedy said. “That’s really what Teddy wanted. It was having people participate in our system of government because that’s what it takes to make our democracy work.
“The way the institute will do it is so exciting to me because it’s going to have the highest, advanced technology to be totally interactive.”
The center, which has raised $60 million in private donations and $38 million in federal funding, will feature a replica of the Senate chamber where the Massachusetts Democrat served for 47 years until his 2009 death from brain cancer.
Each visitor will have a unique experience based on a particular area of interest. The institute aims to peel away the layer of secrecy and open up the legislative process through experiential learning. It’s a behind-the-scenes peak at what happens on Capitol Hill everyday. For example, a heated budget debate.
“Let’s look at the current situation with the budget. Let’s pretend that the institute were open today and you would walk into the institute and you would watch the debate going on the budget,” Kennedy said. “You would also have a screen that would point you to research you could do on the government shutdown and the budget debates going back into the '90s when the government shut down.
“It would be easy to understand what happened. What were the repercussions? You could have that dialogue in a current way.”
Kennedy hopes that those kinds of experiences at the institute could, in the future, change the tenor of debate in Washington.
Many Massachusetts Democrats have suggested Vicki Kennedy run for her husband's old Senate seat, but she insists a campaign is not in her future.
“I am very committed to advancing Teddy’s ideals, to continuing the work that he did and fighting for the causes that he fought for, but I don’t want his job,” Kennedy said.
Construction on the institute should be fully underway by summer of 2011 and completed within three years.
This program aired on April 8, 2011.