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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Teddy Lives on at Columbia Point

Jeremy Ackman
Beneath bright skies students joined Vikki Kennedy to toss dirt in celebration of Kennedy Institute construction, from left, Abel Cano, Neil MacInnes-Barker, Juliette Rorie, Vikki Kennedy, UMB’s Chancellor Motley, UMass President Wilson

Before a reading from Kennedy’s 1964 contribution to the senate civil rights debate at the recent groundbreaking ceremony for the Kennedy Institute, UMB’s student president Neil MacInnes-Barker announced he’s looking for a job. The host of state and federal politicians erupted in laughter and applause.

Boston union workers dug the first furrow for the foundation of the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate last Friday morning in preparation for nearly 90 minutes of fan fair and a brief eulogy, followed by a lengthy cycle of public servants tossing freshly turned dirt toward cameras.

Memories of Senator Kennedy sailed over the red carpets where the Kennedy Family, with their friends and political supporters, schmoozed with UMB students. “I’m excited to be a part of this historic event,” MacInnes-Barker said in passing before he shook hands then hugged Chancellor Keith Motley.

“Today is so exciting,” Chancellor Motley said in a brief interview. “People took time out. They were supposed to be in Washington, and they snuck up to be a part of this here today.”

Students, reporters, politicians and cameramen packed into a tent set up at the top of the hill between the Harbor Point apartments and the JFK library. Nancy Pelosi was in the crowd with Bill Delahunt, Robert DeLeo, Therese Murrey, and many other notable people. The ceremony drew both tears and laughter, and when it was done most weren’t ready to leave.

Mayor Menino’s words got more applause and laughter than anyone else’s that morning. He included a few keen jabs at the former senator’s “smarts,” glossing them with his trademark faltering droll. He called Kennedy an “optimist,” and said that this institute offers “our people” a chance to learn about government from “one of their own.”

Creating some political crossfire, Governor Duval Patrick made an extremely brief speech, criticizing the conservative movement for “sapping the optimism out of our country.”

Later, Senator Scott Brown made an unanticipated appearance to congratulate Vikki Kennedy. “I promised I would come,” he said.

Brown briefly eulogized Ted Kennedy’s “dedication to service,” saying he appreciates the “vision. . . for this institute of learning,” and he looks forward to the debates the institute will initiate.

After his speech, Brown left to catch a flight to Washington, saying “Governor. . . there are good people who do want to move things forward.”

At the end of the program in the tent, the Kennedy family gathered on stage around Vikki Kennedy. She told a story about when her husband went as a teenager to visit then Senator Jack Kennedy in Washington DC. “Teddy was mesmerized,” by the buildings in the capital, she said, “and it showed in his face, and his brother could see it. Then his big brother turned to him and said, ‘Teddy, it’s great that you enjoy looking at these buildings, but take an interest in what happens inside of them.’ . . . and that’s what we hope to do.”

The Kennedy Institute will have about 40,000 square feet of program space and a scale replica of the senate floor.

Turning his shovel over to a Kennedy Institute staffer, UMass Lowell Chancellor Marty Meehan praised Ted Kennedy’s location choice.

“He was all about the community,” Meehan said. “By putting his institute out here on Columbia Point, even in his death his life is still going on.”

About the Contributor
Caleb Nelson served as the following positions for The Mass Media the following years: Editor-in-Chief: Fall 2010; 2010-2011; Fall 2011 News Editor: Spring 2009; 2009-2010