Former President Bill Clinton, Vice President-elect Joe Biden, and Senator Edward M. Kennedy were among those paying tribute today at the funeral of former Senator Claiborne Pell of Rhode Island.
Pell, who died Jan. 1 at age 90, was a former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and also championed student aid, with grants bearing his name.
Kennedy's remarks, as delivered in Newport, R.I., are below.
President Clinton, Vice President-elect Biden, colleagues in government. Nuala, Dallas, Toby and Janet, Jeannie, Julie Smith and all of the grandchildren Claiborne loved so much. I’m deeply honored to be with you today to pay tribute to an extraordinary man -- a respected leader, and a valued colleague and a wonderful friend – Senator Claiborne Pell.
Claiborne’s life was defined by service. He was so proud to have served in the Coast Guard – “Our mission was to save lives,” he loved to say. The Coast Guard’s motto is Semper Paratus – always prepared. Doesn’t that describe Claiborne to a tee?
Throughout his career, he was always prepared – always eager to serve the people of Rhode Island, the nation and the world.
Claiborne and I joined together in the Senate for 34 of his 36 years there –we served on the same committee. But I knew all about him long before that.
Claiborne Pell was an early supporter of my brother, the President. And years later, he was an early supporter of Patrick. And none of the rest of our family had ever forgot that.
In 1960, Claiborne won the first of his six elections as United States Senator from Rhode Island, and my brother won the election as President.
But something was quite clear on that election night in November 1960 – in Rhode Island, the most popular person on the ticket was Claiborne Pell.
All of us who knew and loved him, Claiborne Pell understood how important his family was to him. Nuala was his anchor. They were inseparable partners for more than sixty years.
They reveled in the accomplishments of their children and grandchildren. And they suffered together the unspeakable and untimely loss of Bertie and then Julie, and somehow managed to be strong for the rest of the family – and for the rest of us.
My wife Vicki and I have memories of so many happy days with Claiborne and Nuala.
Every summer, Vicki and I sailed up from Long Island to Cape Cod, just the two us on our sailboat Mya. And we always stopped in Newport to take Claiborne and Nuala and often one or more of their children and grandchildren – for a sail. And what fun we had.
I have a vivid memory of one year in particular, when I decided to come to Newport Harbor under full sail and asked Claiborne to come out to my boat in a rubber raft. Claiborne didn’t blink. I headed Mya up into the wind, and the rubber raft came along side her, and Claiborne jumped on the sailboat like the seaman he was. We then headed down for a truly glorious sail, swapping stories about everything from Senate business to the swimming off Bailey’s Beach.
The quiet joy of the wind on his face was a sight to behold. And even in recent years, when Claiborne could no longer jump into the boat, we continued our summer sailing tradition.
I loved to point out the Pell Bridge and all the sights. Claiborne still loved the feeling of the wind on his face. And that same quiet joy was reflected in his eyes.
Day after day at sea, we would spend the evening at the Pell’s dinner table --which always meant delicious food, interesting guests, and lively conversations about the issues of the day. And how I cherish those memories.
As a United States Senator, Claiborne Pell never hesitated to give credit to others to help achieve the causes he held dear. I smile when I think of the many times I heard him say, “I always try to let the other fellow have my way.”
Claiborne Pell was a gentleman and a gentle man. On the outside, he was calm and composed. But deep down, he was a real fighter.
During his brilliant career, he amassed a treasure trove of accomplishments that few will ever match.
It was Claiborne Pell who opened the doors of opportunity and progress for millions of young Americans, who have been able to go to college because of a Pell Grant.
It was Claiborne Pell who sponsored the landmark legislation that created both the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
It was Claiborne Pell who said no, our sea beds will not be used as a nuclear testing ground.
It was Claiborne Pell who advocated the power of diplomacy before resorting to the power our military might.
And it was Claiborne Pell who was an environmentalist long before it was cool.
Claiborne was a Senator of high character, great decency and fundamental honesty. And that’s why he became the longest-serving Senator in the history of Rhode Island.
He was a Senator for our time and for all time. He was an original. He was my friend. And I will miss him very much.
I’d like to end with the closing words of the Coast Guard prayer:
“Bless the keepers of the lights and be Thou their close friend in lonely watches. Keep the beacons of honor and duty burning that they may reach the home port with duty well performed, in service to Thee and our land. Amen.”
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.