President Obama, other leaders honor Sen. Edward Kennedy at Boston funeral Mass

President Obama led a majestic farewell to Sen. Ted Kennedy Saturday, saluting the last son of a storied clan as a peerless legislator who transcended tragedy in his own life to become "more alive to the plight and suffering of others."

"Ted Kennedy's life's work was not to champion those with wealth or power or special connections," an emotional Obama, the nation's first black President, told the packed Boston basilica where Kennedy was eulogized. "It was to give a voice to those who were not heard; to add a rung to the ladder of opportunity; to make real the dream of our founding."

"He was given the gift of time that his brothers were not," added Obama, referring to Kennedy's martyred older brothers, John F. Kennedy Jr. and Robert Kennedy. "And he used that gift to touch as many lives and right as many wrongs as the years would allow."

Obama's eulogy was the capstone of a funeral Mass that was classically Kennedy - one filled with epic pageantry and pain, but also dashes of bravado, hearty humor and good cheer.

There were images that will live on forever, right next to the saluting John F. Kennedy Jr. at the 1963 funeral of his father: the grief-stricken procession of Kennedy family members, the throngs of well-wishers who lined Boston's rain-soaked streets to say goodbye, the three living ex-Presidents who joined in the mourning.

But it was Obama, whose life and election was in many ways built upon a foundation laid by Kennedy and his brothers, who was tasked with summing up the remarkable life of a man known as the Lion of the Senate, "the soul of the Democratic Party" - or to his family, "The Grand Fromage," or "The Big Cheese," Obama joked.

Mixing personal recollections with some of Kennedy's own words, Obama remembered Kennedy as "the baby of the family who became its patriarch, the restless dreamer who became its rock."

"He was the sunny, joyful child, who bore the brunt of his brothers' teasing, but learned quickly how to brush it off," said Obama before recounting the litany of sorrow that would soon descend upon the youngest brother.

"He lost two siblings by the age of 16. He saw two more taken violently from the country that loved them. He said goodbye to his beloved sister, Eunice, in the final days of his own life. He narrowly survived a plane crash, watched two children struggle with cancer, buried three nephews, and experienced personal failings and setbacks in the most public way possible.

"It is a string of events that would have broken a lesser man," Obama added. "But that was not Ted Kennedy."


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