30 Aug 2009

Obama pays tribute to Ted Kennedy

1:06 pm on 30 August 2009

US President Barack Obama has spoken warmly at the funeral service of Senator Edward Kennedy, describing him as a voice for the poor and dispossessed.

Mr Obama said Senator Kennedy, who died on Tuesday of brain cancer at the age of 77, was a champion for those who had none, the soul of the Democratic Party and the lion of the US Senate.

He spoke to 1500 mourners in a Roman Catholic basilica in Boston, including members of the extended Kennedy dynasty and former presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and George W Bush.

Mr Obama referred to some of the tragedies that had befallen the Kennedy family, saying it was a string of events that would have broken a lesser man.

Senator Kennedy was a "veritable force of nature" in the debating chamber, in support of health care or workers' rights or civil rights, said Mr Obama.

"And yet while his causes became deeply personal, his disagreements never did. And that's how Ted Kennedy became the greatest legislator of our time."

Mr Kennedy was laid to rest in the Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia next to his two brothers, John and Robert, both of whom were assassinated in the 1960s.

Last party

Tens of thousands of mourners filed past the body of Senator Edward Kennedy during a two-day public viewing in Boston.

After the public viewing ended, however, Kennedy family members had an old-fashioned Irish wake in the hall containing the senator's flag-draped coffin.

AFB reports that there were tears at the gathering, dubbed a "celebration", but far more laughter as those present cracked jokes, sang songs and told tales in a ceremony modeled on Irish tradition.

The final party for Ted Kennedy - a noted and occasionally notorious bon vivant - included a choral performance of "Just a Closer Walk with Thee" and a solo rendition of "The Impossible Dream".

In addition to prayers and a video tribute, a dozen family members and friends spoke movingly about the senator's life.