Obama eulogizes 'greatest legislator of our time'

President Obama on Saturday eulogized Sen. Edward Kennedy as the "greatest legislator of our time" before a packed house at a Boston church.

"We can still hear his voice bellowing through the Senate chamber, face reddened, fist pounding the podium, a veritable force of nature, in support of health care or workers’ rights or civil rights," Obama said.

ADVERTISEMENT
Although a passionate advocate for causes he supported, Kennedy did not become a great legislator by remaining unbending, Obama said. Instead, it was his relationships with members on both sides of the aisle that enabled his many legislative triumphs.

"He did it by hewing to principle, but also by seeking compromise and common cause – not through deal-making and horse-trading alone, but through friendship, and kindness, and humor," Obama said.

The funeral, held at the Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in a working-class neighborhood in Roxbury, attracted 58 members of Congress, three of four living former presidents and a stable of dignitaries from around the globe.

Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), Reps. Bill Delahunt and Ed Markey and former staffers including Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer and White House domestic policy advisor Melody Barnes were among the honorary pallbearers. Former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush sat next to each other, with Bush chatting happily with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Sinn Fein chief Gerry Adams, famed cellist Yo Yo Ma, singers Tony Bennett and Placido Domingo and Boston Celtic legend Bill Russell all attended, as did civil rights leaders Jesse Jackson Sr. and Martin Luther King III.

"Though it is Ted Kennedy’s historic body of achievements we will remember, it is his giving heart that we will miss," Obama said. The president said Kennedy had given him two treasured gifts -- the family's Portugese water dog Bo and a painting of the Cape Cod seascape Obama once admired while stopping by Kennedy's office.

"We cannot know for certain how long we have here. We cannot foresee the trials or misfortunes that will test us along the way. We cannot know God’s plan for us," Obama said.

"What we can do is to live out our lives as best we can with purpose, and love, and joy. We can use each day to show those who are closest to us how much we care about them, and treat others with the kindness and respect that we wish for ourselves. We can learn from our mistakes and grow from our failures. And we can strive at all costs to make a better world, so that someday, 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 other human beings."

"This is how Ted Kennedy lived. This is his legacy."