Late Sen. Ted Kennedy's widow, Victoria, and son, Patrick, co-founders of the educational center bearing his name in Boston, said Sunday the new facility is a fitting legacy for the man often called the "lion of the Senate."
The Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate,
will be dedicated Monday in Boston, with guest speakers to include President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry, Sen. John McCain, and Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker.
It comes complete with a full-sized replica of the Senate chamber, said NBC "Meet the Press"
host Chuck Todd, who toured the new center with Mrs. Kennedy and discussed the late senator's legacy with his son after.
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The center was the idea of Ed Schlossberg, the husband of Caroline Kennedy, during a family dinner, Vicki Kennedy said.
"He was the one who had this nugget of an idea that it would be great to have an institute for the United States Senate, for the study of the Senate. And Teddy thought, and his eyes lit up, and he said yes."
The 68,000 square foot building with the late Democratic leader's name is more than just about his legacy, Todd explained. The building uses today's technology to teach about the history of the Senate and allows visitors to feel as if they are actually acting as a senator.
"Every single visitor into this institute will have the opportunity to cast a vote as a United States senator," Kennedy told Todd.
The complete replica also points out where Kennedy always sat in the back of the chamber, where "he liked reaching out to new senators, on both sides of the aisle," his widow explained.
She hopes the exhibit helps to inspire future leaders to become involved.
"It's about the United States Senate," she said. "We have this wonderful exhibit, but it is about the Senate he loved, it is about public service, it is about inspiring the next generation to be involved. That is the spirit of Ted Kennedy. That is what he wanted this place to be."
In an opinion piece for The Boston Globe
on Friday, Kennedy described her late husband's legacy center as a vital place where young people can learn about their government.
"Today, only one-third of graduating high school seniors even knows that we have three branches of government," she wrote. "The Institute seeks to change that with a hands-on, interactive experience. Visitors will have the chance to be senators for a few hours — to debate issues, to vote, and, most important, to come together face-to-face to try to find common ground."
Kennedy's son, a former congressman himself, talked about what his famous father would have thought about the state of divisive politics today.
"We're in a period of history, like many others, where we think this will be the way it always is," he said. "It is not. It is going to change. The key is how is it going to change. Are we going to move it toward better days ahead or think, oh, it is all for naught and not even begin to try?"
And what the Senate needs to do now, he said, is "persevere and become the place that my dad wanted always for it to be, a place where major conflicts were resolved for the national interest. Not for either party's interest, but for the national interest."
And as far as the new Boston center is concerned, Kennedy said his father would be "so happy" to see it came true.
"He would get so excited if he saw the kids come running through the doors," he said. "Two joys in this life, kids and the Senate. He would be in heaven. He is in heaven. This is going to be carrying on the legacy he fought so hard for, to make this a better country for the future."
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