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Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Massachusetts) received an honorary degree, Doctor of Laws, from the College of the Holy Cross and delivered the principal address during the College’s Commencement ceremonies on Friday, May 27, 1977 at 10:30 a.m. on the campus. During his speech, he encouraged the graduates to become involved in the issues of the day and to strive to make a difference: “Often all it takes to turn the tide is one individual, acting alone and against the odds. A single voice of courage and understanding can change the flow of events and improve the community in which we live. Sometimes it can alter the course of history.”

A Democrat, Sen. Kennedy served 46 years in Congress; at the time of his death, he was chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee which, last July, passed the Affordable Health Choices Act, setting off debate on Capitol Hill about the proposed reform of the country’s health care system. During his long tenure in Congress, Sen. Kennedy had promoted legislation supporting numerous issues, including civil rights, education, voting rights, labor and immigration reform. In favor of the abolition of the draft and the deregulation of the airline and trucking industries, he helped to establish the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and backed federal support for health initiatives, including the Meals on Wheels program, increased cancer research financing and the creation of community health care centers.

A 1956 graduate of Harvard University and a 1959 graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law, Sen. Kennedy first became involved in politics managing the senate re-election campaign of his brother John F. Kennedy and, later, assisting him in his bid for the presidency in 1960. Working as an assistant district attorney following the presidential campaign, he was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1962, filling the unexpired term of his brother John and launching his own congressional career. Sen. Kennedy made one unsuccessful try for the presidency in 1979.

In addition to his work in the Senate, he played an active role in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.

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Worcester, Massachusetts


College of the Holy Cross, graduation


Arts and Humanities | Higher Education

1977 Commencement Address:  Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Massachusetts)



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