EXCLUSIVE: Victoria Kennedy Opens up to Claire Shipman


"It's been hard for all of us. We all miss him. He had those big shoulders that all of us leaned on. It's been a huge adjustment, in all honesty, for all of us. Those are shoes that nobody can fill. And so we're all finding our own—our own ways. I mean we're all very close and we rely on each other. But we miss him," Vicki told ABC News.

She also told us the Kennedy Family is excited about the upcoming wedding of former Rhode Island Senator Patrick Kennedy, the youngest of Ted's three children. "Everybody's got their own way [of dealing with his death]… We have our great joy coming up of Patrick's wedding. Everybody is very excited about that… everybody's looking forward to coming together."

Personally, the pain has not gone away for the senator's widow, who told us "you know, the usual [times are the hardest] I think that anybody who's gone through the loss of a loved one. You know, the big occasions and -- sometimes even the quiet ones."

But when it comes to attempting to continue his legacy in the Senate, Vicki unequivocally denied any intention of running for office. "I want to do work that Teddy did. I want to advance those causes. I don't want his job. It's tough."

A Dream Realized

A dream of late Sen. Kennedy's, the new institute has been in the planning phase for years.

"Working on this institute is fantastic because it is something that was so important to him, but it was also important to me," said Vicki. "It's something he and I did together going back to 2002. It's something we worked on together, talked about together, met with others on together. And to be able to move this forward and to be a part of this team moving it forward has been enormously gratifying to me"

Until his final days, the late Senator Kennedy was highly involved in the project, spending hours planning for its opening.

"He loved looking at the plans. He looked at the models of the building. We discussed in more detail where the institute was going," Vicki said. "He loved planning for it. He knew that we needed it for our democracy to work and he wanted people to love the Senate as much as he did."

The Institute will incorporate cutting edge technology in order to help engage students and adults alike. "We're going to have desks that will have essentially computers on the surface of the desk where you know every Senator who ever sat in that desk. And at the touch of a finger you'll know everything about the senator who sat at that desk," said Vicki.

The Legacy Lives on

This legacy was the late senator's way of attacking the increasing public disengagement and cynicism towards government. Vicki told us "his approach was, 'Okay, what can we do about it? How do we solve this? How do we make it easier for people to understand how they can be a part of the solution?' And one of the ways is through the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate. Let people in a hands on, interactive way understand our system of government."

So a part of the man known as the Lion of the Senate lives on, and the dream endures.

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