President Obama spoke at the opening of the Edward M. Kennedy Institute in Boston today, remembering his friend and former colleague.
During his speech, Obama lamented the loss of the “magic of the Senate” during Ted Kennedy’s service in it, recalling the time when he served with the veteran Democrat in the Senate.
“Ted grieved the loss of camaraderie and collegiality, the face to face interaction,” Obama said. “I think he regretted the arguments now made to cameras not to colleagues, directed at a narrow base instead of the body-politic as a whole.”
Obama criticized senators for refusing to fight for issues they cared about, instead positioning themselves to win re-election.
“Fear so permeates our politics instead of hope, people fight to get in the Senate and then they are afraid, we fight to get these positions and then we don’t want to do anything with them,” Obama said, criticizing politicians more worried about polls, donors, and the next election than actually getting things done in the Senate.
“We live in a time of such great cynicism about our institutions, and we are cynical about government and about Washington most of all,” Obama added. “It’s hard for our children to see in the noisy and too often trivial pursuits of today’s politics the possibilities of our democracy.”
Obama recalled when Kennedy brought him into his circle while serving in the Senate, telling him stories about the history of the institution.
“He was my friend, I owe him a lot,” Obama admitted. Kennedy famously endorsed Obama in January 2008 instead of Hillary Clinton.
While lamenting the current state of the Senate, Obama asked everyone to think about one thing as they attended the ceremony.
“What if we carried ourselves more like Ted Kennedy?” he asked. “What if we worked to follow his example a little bit harder?”