Thousands filed past Kennedy’s casket in Boston as brothers remembered as allies of tribes

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By Denise Lavoie
Boston, Massachusetts (AP) 9-09

Kennedy brothers,President John F. Kennedy,(Left) Robert and Edward (Ted) Kennedy-1960s.

The last time Ginger Romano saw Sen. Edward Kennedy, she wasn’t at her best.

As she took clothing, blankets and other supplies to a high school for people whose homes had been damaged in Boston’s great blizzard of 1978, she tripped over a snow bank. A pair of hands helped her to her feet. It was Kennedy, who had been walking behind her.

“He said to me, ‘What can I do to help you?”’ she said. “Then he thanked me and my family.”

The weather was fairer but the mood somber Friday at his public viewing, where Romano took her turn along with tens of thousands of other people to thank Kennedy, who lay in repose for a second day in a flag-draped casket at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library.
Members of the Kennedy family, including his daughter Kara Kennedy Allen, nephew Tim Shriver and 81-year-old Jean Kennedy Smith, the senator’s sister and the last surviving Kennedy sibling, greeted visitors.

Smith, the former U.S. ambassador to Ireland, choked back tears. “This is a hard time for me,” she said when asked to talk about her brother. She was joined briefly by her son, William Kennedy Smith.

“It’s a wonderful tribute to Teddy and the lives that he touched,” he said of the line of thousands.

A five-person military honor guard stood at attention around the casket in a high-ceilinged room with a spectacular view of Boston Harbor. Large photos greeted mourners on their way into the room, including one of Kennedy as a boy with his father, Joseph P. Kennedy, and a 1960s-era shot of Kennedy with his slain brothers, John and Robert.

The library was supposed to close at 11 p.m. Thursday, but the doors were left open until 2 a.m. Friday as 25,000 people paid their respects. Visitation resumed before 8 a.m. Friday and continued until shortly before 3 p.m., when the event was closed to get preparations under way for a collection of big political names converging for a private “Celebration of Life” service Friday night.


Scheduled speakers include Vice President Joe Biden; Sens. John McCain, Orrin Hatch and Christopher Dodd; and niece Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of President Kennedy. Performances will include Kennedy’s favorite song, “The Impossible Dream,” sung by Broadway star Brian Stokes Mitchell. Also on tap is a video tribute directed by renowned documentarian Ken Burns.

Among the visitors Friday was the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who said Kennedy helped change the country through his work for minorities, the disabled and the poor.

“As a rich person, no one reached back further for the poor or exalted them higher,” Jackson said.

Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, a longtime civil rights leader, noted Kennedy’s substantial influence on the movement.

“He’s one man that changed America forever,” Lewis said. “He made America a better place. ... Sen. Kennedy was our champion. He was our leader. He was our shepherd.”

Visitors represented a cross-section of race and class, and many of them said they had benefited directly from Kennedy’s 47 years of work in the Senate.

Fred Foster, 51, of Boston’s Brighton neighborhood, said he was helped by Kennedy’s work on COBRA, the federal program that allows people to retain their former company’s health benefits under some circumstances.

“A few years ago I was laid off and I continued to have my health insurance because of COBRA, and that’s a direct result of what Sen. Kennedy did,” Foster said.

George Thomas, a member of Connecticut’s Pequot tribe, arrived Aug. 28 wearing an otter turban and said he brought prayers and condolences for Kennedy’s family from 40 tribes across the Northeast and Southwest.

If a tribe had a dispute over land or water rights, “a simple call to his office would resolve it,” Thomas said.

A funeral Mass is scheduled for Our Lady of Perpetual Help Basilica – better known as the Mission Church – in Boston on Saturday. Cellist Yo-Yo Ma and tenor Placido Domingo will perform, and President Barack Obama is delivering the eulogy.

All the living former presidents are expected to attend except for George H.W. Bush. Spokesman Jim McGrath said Friday that the 85-year-old Bush feels his son’s presence will “amply and well represent” the family.

Kennedy’s body was delivered to the library Thursday by a motorcade of family members and friends who had celebrated a private Mass at the family compound in Hyannis Port, 70 miles away, where Kennedy spent his final days.

Kennedy was buried near his brothers at Arlington National Cemetery in northern Virginia.

Associated Press writers Ray Henry in Hyannis Port and Jeannie Nuss and Russell Contreras in Boston contributed to this report.
 Recognizing the Passing of Senator Edward Kennedy
 Massachusetts Senator Edward “Ted” Kennedy who passed away August 25., will be  widely missed throughout Indian Country. Ernie Stevens Jr. of the National Indian Gaming Association referred to him aslong with his brothers, John and Robert as great champions for Native Americans.

The National Indian Education Association also extended the deepest condolences to the family and colleagues of Senator Edward Kennedy. A tireless champion of education and opportunity for all people, Senator Kennedy was a powerful advocate for the education of Native children, always seeking ways to ensure that the U.S. government honored its legal, moral, and ethical obligations to Native communities.

As Chairman of the Senate subcommittee on Indian Education, Senator Kennedy oversaw the 1969 special report Indian Education: A National Tragedy  –  A National Challenge, calling for accountability for the failures of the federal government in Indian education, advocating for increased Native control, and leading to the establishment of the Office of Indian Education under the U.S. Department of Education. His integral role in the passage of the Indian Education Act of 1972 paved the way for greater Native self-determination in education, a goal he continually supported and affirmed through multiple pieces of legislation and policy, including the 1978 Tribally Controlled College and University Assistance Act.

Over the years, Senator Kennedy always made the needs of Native students a top priority and responsibility; his door always open to tribal delegations, Native organizations, and Native people themselves. And while his legacy of service and support for Native communities will be profoundly missed, the greatest legacy that Senator Kennedy leaves us is our inheritance of his work in building a better future for Native children across generations. We share our deepest gratitude and sincerest grief in marking the passing of this extraordinary leader, advocate, and person.

"Clearly, effective education lies at the heart of any lasting solution. And that education should no longer be one which assumes that cultural differences mean cultural inferiority." Senator Edward Kennedy, Foreword to Indian Education: A National Tragedy — A National Challenge, 1969.