‘Be more like Ted Kennedy,’ Obama ex­horts

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL - BY DAVID ESPO AND NE­DRA PICK­LER

U.S. Pres­i­dent Barack Obama said Mon­day that Amer­i­can politi­cians in an era of par­ti­san­ship should try to carry them­selves more like Ed­ward M. Kennedy, as politi­cians from both par­ties lauded the late se­na­tor’s col­le­gial spirit at the ded­i­ca­tion of an in­sti­tute that bears his name.

The US$79 mil­lion in­sti­tute, built next to the John F. Kennedy pres­i­den­tial li­brary on Bos­ton’s Columbia Point, was en­vi­sioned by Kennedy be­fore he was di­ag­nosed with brain can­cer in 2008. He died the fol­low­ing year. Ed­ward Kennedy was the late pres­i­dent’s youngest brother.

Obama said it was ap­pro­pri­ate for Kennedy to want “a mon­u­ment not to him­self but to what we the peo­ple have the power to do to­gether.” He said he hoped the in­sti­tute could help re­store con­fi­dence in gov­ern­ment at a time of great cyn­i­cism, giv­ing a young stu­dent a chance to de­bate in its full-scale replica of the U.S. Se­nate cham­ber.

“What if our pol­i­tics, our democ­racy, were as el­e­vated as he en­vi­sions it to be?” Obama said. In­stead, he said cit­i­zens are cyn­i­cal about gov­ern­ment and dis­gusted by politi­cians’ triv­ial pur­suits and grand­stand­ing for “cam­eras in­stead of col­leagues.”

“Fear so per­me­ates our pol­i­tics in­stead of hope. Peo­ple fight to get in the Se­nate only to get afraid,” the pres­i­dent told some 1,800 Kennedy friends, fam­ily and politi­cians from both par­ties gath­ered for the ded­i­ca­tion. He said Kennedy was never afraid to com­pro­mise with Repub­li­cans, even if it would anger his sup­port­ers.

“What if we car­ried our­selves more like Ted Kennedy?” Obama asked.

Speaker af­ter speaker spoke of Kennedy’s out­sized in­flu­ence on the Se­nate, where he served for 47 years, and held his con­sen­sus­build­ing up in con­trast to the grid­lock that has be­come the hall­mark of the mod­ern Congress.

Ari­zona Repub­li­can Sen. John McCain re­mem­bered Kennedy’s “zest for po­lit­i­cal ar­gu­ment” and said they would of­ten laugh to­gether af­ter fight­ing on the Se­nate floor. He said the Se­nate hasn’t been the same with­out him. “That’s mostly for rea­sons un­re­lated to los­ing Ted, but I have no doubt the place would be a lit­tle more pro­duc­tive and a lot more fun if he were there,” McCain said.

“I miss fight­ing with him to be hon­est. It’s got­ten harder to find peo­ple who en­joy a good fight as much as Ted did,” McCain said to laugh­ter.

Kennedy’s widow, Vic­to­ria Kennedy, said her late hus­band hoped the in­sti­tute would honor the nearly 2,000 who have served there and in­spire fu­ture sen­a­tors. She said he wanted vis­i­tors to feel the awe of walk­ing into the cham­ber.

Guests, i nclud­ing stu­dent groups, will be able to role-play as sen­a­tors and de­bate some of the ma­jor is­sues of the day. The fa­cil­ity also in­cludes a re-cre­ation of Kennedy’s Se­nate of­fice, vir­tu­ally un­changed from how it ap­peared when he died.

“He be­lieved in the majesty of the place and its abil­ity to in­spire,” she said. She said he wanted vis­i­tors to feel “pol­i­tics is a noble pro­fes­sion, even if it’s messy, even if it’s hard.”

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