Obama Eulogizes Ted Kennedy

President calls late senator the 'soul of the Democratic Party.'

Posted:
 
owvickie
President Obama embraces Ted Kennedy's widow Victoria Kennedy

President Barack Obama led the nation Saturday in mourning and remembering "the greatest legislator of our time," celebrating the indelible impact of Edward M. Kennedy as a senator for nearly a half-century and leader of America's most famous family during tragedy and triumph. Delivering an emotional, simple eulogy for Kennedy that capped a two-hour Roman Catholic funeral Mass, Obama employed humor, his own experiences and timeless anecdotes to memorialize the senator, who died Tuesday at 77 after battling brain cancer for more than a year.

The country may have viewed him as "heir to a weighty legacy," Obama said, but he was playfully known by the youngest Kennedys less grandly: as the big cheese, "The Grand Fromage."

"Ted Kennedy's life's work was not to champion those with wealth or power or special connections," Obama said. "It was to give a voice to those who were not heard, to add a rung to the ladder of opportunity, to make real the dream of our founding." The president said that "though it is Ted Kennedy's historic body of achievements we will remember, it is his giving heart that we will miss."

The service drew to Our Lady of Perpetual Help Basilica three of the four living former presidents, dozens of Kennedy relatives, pews full of current and former members of Congress and hundreds of others affected by the senator in ways large and small. No fewer than seven priests, 11 pallbearers and 29 honorary pallbearers took part. Mournful performances came from tenor Placido Domingo and cellist Yo-Yo Ma.

Earlier, Kennedy's flag-draped casket — carried by a military honor guard of eight — was wrapped tightly in plastic to guard against a steady rain as it was removed from his brother's presidential library and placed in a hearse for the drive to the church. His widow, Victoria, closed her eyes slowly and appeared to choke back tears as she watched under cover of an umbrella. The family had held a brief and private prayer service at the library in the morning.

The motorcade route was lined with people, some holding "Kennedy-Thanks" signs and one person waving a lone red heart.

"We welcome the body of our friend," said a priest as the casket entered the church.

Under the soaring dome and saint-covered arches of the basilica, a church Kennedy had frequented almost daily while his daughter, Kara, battled cancer at a nearby hospital, over a dozen Kennedy family members accompanied the casket — now covered by a white cloth — down the church aisle, each straining to touch it.

Kara Kennedy was the first family member to speak at the service, reading Psalm 72. Ten of Kennedy's grandchildren, nieces and nephews offered a set of brief prayers.

Ted Kennedy Jr., the eldest son, told a story from shortly after he lost a leg to cancer at age 12, when his father helped him up a snow-covered hill with an arm around his waist and words of encouragement. "There's nothing you can't do," he said his father told him. Choking back tears, Kennedy Jr. said: "My father taught me that even our most profound losses are survivable."