Kennedy 'made Massachusetts larger than it is'

During the past 47 years, Sen. Edward Kennedy kept Massachusetts at the forefront of progressive debate and helped the state set a precedent for the nation on several issues, including civil rights, education and, of course, health care.

"Massachusetts is a little state," Boston City Council President Michael Ross said, "but … (Kennedy's) politics and persona have made Massachusetts larger than it is."

The state's residents proved grateful for this. "I think we know just how blessed we are to have someone of his stature and effectiveness," Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick said.

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino said, without question, Kennedy was "the most beloved elected official in Massachusetts."

His constituents showed their gratitude by making Kennedy the third-longest-serving senator in U.S. history. "I've known a lot of people in politics and I've met with four or five presidents," said Jack Wilson, the president of the University of Massachusetts. "I was impressed, but when it comes to work ethic, I don't think anybody can beat Teddy Kennedy."

Patrick said Kennedy's work ethic showed through his constant availability and accessibility. "There have been more than a few phone calls in the car with him shouting over the sound of the dogs in the back," Patrick said, also noting that Kennedy had even called from his car on his way to the hospital for treatment. "He's just always working."

Kennedy also gained a reputation in the state for his comprehension of and dedication to local issues, such as improving the quality of Massachusetts' higher education institutions.

"Whenever he called, he had done his homework," Wilson said. "I really think that he helped (higher education institutions) survive and thrive. … That is our natural resource. We don't have oil, coal or good weather, but we do have great universities."

Kennedy became important on nearly every issue, not just education. "In Massachusetts, if you're interested in the economy, or jobs, he is our go-to guy," said Peter Meade, the recently named president of the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate. "If you're interested in social justice, he is our go-to guy. If you're interested in access to or the quality of health care, he is our go-to guy. If you're interested in making sure everybody is included in the American dream and has access to it, he is our guy."

The Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the U.S. Senate will be located on the UMass-Boston campus, next to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library. The Institute, which will showcase the history of the Senate and draw on Kennedy's work, was named after Kennedy in tribute to the length and impact of his career, Meade said.

In October 2006, the Greater Boston Food Bank gave the senator the Founder's Award in recognition of his "tireless and relentless fight for those who have no voice," said Catherine D'Amato, the Greater Boston Food Bank president and CEO. Kennedy provided support to the Food Bank in securing funding for statewide food banks and a new distribution center.

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