Glen Johnson/Globe Staff
The words and spirit of Senator Edward M. Kennedy were evoked this morning at the groundbreaking ceremony for the educational institute that will bear the late Democrat’s name.
Under glorious skies, hundreds of former staffers, local and national political figures, as well as average citizens, flocked to the groundbreaking for the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate. It will be built, starting later this summer, on Columbia Point next to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.
Among those in attendance were the senator’s widow, Victoria Reggie Kennedy; children, Edward Jr., Kara, and Patrick; as well as relatives Caroline Kennedy, Joseph P. Kennedy II, and Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.
The ceremony included a film about Kennedy’s nearly 47-year career, which ended in August 2009 when he died of brain cancer. President Obama was a surprise narrator for a portion of the film.
The nearly 90-minute event concluded with a ceremonial dirt-tossing exercise.
In her remarks to the crowd, Vicki Kennedy promised an “exciting” and “dynamic” and “cutting-edge” institute, because, she said, her husband was all three.
She was joined on stage by two dozen relatives, including the newest family member, Amy Petitgout, the New Jersey school teacher recently engaged to Patrick Kennedy, the former Rhode Island congressman.
The most political of the day’s remarks came from Governor Deval Patrick, who said the institute and its educational component were badly needed amid the partisanship that had brought the country to the brink of a government shutdown.
He complained about the “poisonous” atmosphere created by “the so-called conservative movement” that was sapping the country of its optimism.
Senator Scott Brown, who replaced Kennedy in the Senate, recalled how he promised Vicki Kennedy he would attend, despite their different political parties. But he also did not let Patrick’s criticisms go unchallenged, saying he was returning to Washington along with other lawmakers of goodwill to do the people’s business.
Perhaps the funniest speech came from Mayor Thomas M. Menino, who recalled once being stuck with the bill after a lunch in Boston with Kennedy and then-President Bill Clinton.
Turning serious, the mayor said: “We have lost Teddy’s voice; we have not lost his example.”
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.