Obama: Kennedy was “Soul” of Dem Party, Lion of Senate

Hundreds gather to salute the late Senator

Sen. Ted Kennedy was eulogized as the "soul of the democratic party" and "the lion of the Senate" by President Obama in a somber funeral mass Saturday morning, where his family and colleagues honored Kennedy's impact on the American political system -- and his personal contribution to the lives of his loved ones.

"Ted Kennedy's life's work was not to champion those with wealth or power or special connections," Obama said. "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."

The president said that "though it is Ted Kennedy's historic body of achievements we will remember, it is his giving heart that we will miss."

Obama, who met with Kennedy's widow early Saturday morning, joined former Presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter and 58 current U.S. senators at the Roman Catholic mass held at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Basilica in Boston. Kennedy's life was celebrated in song during the ceremony by tenor Placido Domingo and award-winning cellist Yo-Yo Ma.

Outside, hundreds braved a driving rain and unseasonably chilly temperatures for the opportunity to glimpse the flag-drapped coffin carried by eight servicemen from several branches of the military.

Kennedy's son and namesake, Ted Kennedy Jr., began the tributes with a speech full of anecdotes that moved the gathered to tears and laughter.

He remembered his father as "an idealist and a pragmatist," and noted that he was respected by Democrats and Republicans alike. "I love you, Dad. I always will. I miss you already," he said tearfully.

Kennedy was honored Friday night by a slew of political A-listers including Sen. John McCain and Vice President Joe Biden as well as an emotional Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg, who said her uncle had cemented a place in "history" thanks to his storied 47-year career in the U.S. Senate. Some 50,000 people visited Kennedy's coffin during the two days of public viewing that preceded Friday night's televised memorial.

Kennedy was buried near his slain brothers on Saturday evening at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia following the mass, where seven priests, 11 pallbearers and 29 honorary pallbearers were on hand to send the senator off. He died Tuesday from brain cancer at the age of 77.

Get more: Associated Press, MSNBC

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