Edward M. Kennedy delivered his maiden Senate floor speech in support of the Civil Rights Act on April 9, 1964.
Forty-seven years later - almost exactly to the day - a UMass Boston student reenacted this historic moment on the future site of an institute that will honor and continue the senator's legacy of public service for decades to come.
"As a young man I want to see an America where everyone can make his contribution, where a man will be measured not by the color of his skin but by the content of his character," senior Neil MacInnes-Barker recited to a captivated audience.
The student reenactment was just a preview of what people can expect of the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate, which broke ground on UMass Boston's campus, adjacent to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, on April 8.
UMass Boston will serve as an educational partner to the institute.
Hundreds of Kennedy family members, former aides, legislators, and UMass Boston staff gathered at the institute's groundbreaking ceremony. Guests included House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senator Scott Brown, former Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd, Congressman Edward Markey, Governor Deval Patrick, and UMass President Jack Wilson.
"It was unbelievable to walk up here this morning and feel the buzz, the excitement," UMass Boston Chancellor J. Keith Motley told the crowd.
Former EMK Institute President and CEO Peter Meade served as master of ceremonies. Meade spoke of how Kennedy was adamant about the institute being built at UMass Boston.
"He was clear about that. He understood how important it would be for himself and for the people at UMass Boston," he said.
Watch video of the ceremony on the UMass Boston YouTube Channel.
View photos at UMass Boston's Flickr site.
Construction on the institute is expected to begin in the fall.
The 90-minute ceremony featured several speakers, a video produced by the senator's daughter, Kara Kennedy; gospel music from the Boston Community Choir, and a ceremonial shoveling of dirt by the Kennedys and city and state officials.
"Ted Kennedy was an optimist," Governor Patrick said. "He not only understood but embodied the uniquely American blend of optimism and effort, hope and hard work. ... This institute will help us not only honor that legacy but remind ourselves to live it, knowing that if we live it, our greatest days are ahead."
Watch Kara Kennedy's video introducing the institute.
The institute will be a nonpartisan center dedicated to educating the public about government and inspiring future generations to engage in public service.
The institute will include roughly 4,000 square feet of program space comprised of classrooms, interactive educational exhibits, and a near-to-scale representation of the Senate Chamber with interactive display screens built into the top of each of the 100 Senators' desks. A rich multi-media archive will eventually include every action taken by the Senate. The institute plans for as many as 150,000 visitors annually.
Architect Raphael Viñoly, well-known for his design of civic and cultural institutions like the Tokyo International Forum, attended the ceremony. Models and drawings of the institute were set up at the site.
"We want to show how throughout history men and women of goodwill in both parties came together and addressed the greatest challenges facing our nation: civil rights, human rights, equal rights, workers' rights, war and peace, healthcare, economic opportunities, and, yes, the budget," Kennedy's widow, Victoria Reggie Kennedy, said.
"It's the chance to know it and see it and live it so that people can be inspired to do it again," she added.