Obama lauds Kennedy as voice of poor

He was the soul of the Democratic Party and the lion of the US Senate

The casket of Senator Edward Kennedy sits between his family (left-right) Kara Kennedy Allen, Edward Kennedy Jr, Vicki Reggie Kennedy,  former president Bill Clinton, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former president George W Bush and his wife Barbara, President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joseph Biden and his wife Jill, former first lady Rosalynn Carter and former President Jimmy Carter during the funeral services for US Senator Edward Kennedy at the Basilica of Our Lady of  Perpetual Help in Boston, Massachusetts, on Saturday. REUTERS

Obama hailed fellow Democrat Kennedy as a champion of the landmark Civil Rights Act, immigration reform and children’s health care, but did not dwell on what the senator had called “the cause of my life” —overhauling the US healthcare system.
Speaking at Kennedy’s funeral service at a Roman Catholic basilica in Boston, Obama called him “the soul of the Democratic Party and the lion of the US Senate” who had authored more than three hundred laws.

“He was a product of an age when the joy and nobility of politics prevented differences of party and philosophy from becoming barriers to cooperation and mutual respect, a time when adversaries still saw each other as patriots,” said Obama, who has often bemoaned the deep partisan divide between his Democrats, who control Congress, and Republicans.

“And that’s how Ted Kennedy became the greatest legislator of our time,” he said.
In January 2008, Kennedy endorsed Obama, who was serving his first term as a senator, for the Democratic presidential nomination. Many saw the endorsement as the passing of the political torch to a new generation.
“I, like so many others in the city where he worked for nearly half a century, knew him as a colleague, a mentor, and above all, a friend,” Obama said.
Obama interrupted his vacation on nearby Martha’s Vineyard to attend Kennedy’s funeral. Dozens of lawmakers from the last several decades — many of whom had been Kennedy’s fiercest foes on legislation — attended the traditional Catholic funeral Mass in the stone, 130-year-old Our Lady of Perpetual Help Basilica. Mourners from Hollywood star Jack Nicholson to Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer packed the church beneath soaring arches and stained glass.

Cellist Yo-Yo Ma played and opera star Placido Domingo sang as the sound of rain could be heard pounding the roof. Readings came from several generations of the Kennedys.

Obama and former presidents Jimmy Carter, George W Bush and Bill Clinton sat at the front with their wives.

Series of memorials
Since Edward Kennedy’s death on Tuesday of brain cancer at age 77, Americans have staged a series of memorials to the last of the Kennedy brothers, and his death has been treated like the passing of a president. Kennedy’s casket was to be flown to Washington after the funeral and taken to Arlington National Cemetery to be buried close to his brothers, former United States President John F Kennedy and Senator Robert Kennedy, who were assassinated in the 1960s.

Police said about 50,000 people came out to pay respects over the past two days.
“Where would I be as a black man without the Kennedys? They believe in civil rights and that’s why I am here to honor this great man,” said Clint Haymon, one of hundreds of mourners gathered outside the church despite the rain.
“We had to come here. He committed a lot of his time to causes we believe in,” said Douglas Geer, 43, of Walpole, Massachusetts, the father of an autistic child. “Our child benefited from his work.”

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