It’s been really, really hot in Boston the past week. Thankfully, I had the chance to spend an afternoon at a Boston gem that offers civic education and air conditioning: the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate.
One of the best perks of having a Brookline library card is access to museum passes. I requested two passes for the Edward M. Kennedy Institute last week and it couldn’t have been easier. Just follow this link and you can choose among a plethora of Massachusetts museums:
- Boston Children’s Museum
- Boston Harbor Islands Cruises
- Edward M. Kennedy Institute
- Harvard Museums of Science & Culture
- Institute of Contemporary Art
- Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
- John F. Kennedy Library & Museum
- Larz Anderson Auto Museum
- Museum of Fine Arts
- Museum of Science
- New England Aquarium
- Peabody Essex Museum
- Puppet Playtime for Toddlers & Tiny Tots
- Puppet Showplace Theater
- The Sports Museum
- Zoo New England
Once you request them, you pick them up from the Main Library branch. Just make sure you check the branch’s hours. If you request tickets for a Saturday or Sunday, the last day the library will be open for you to pick them up will be Friday.
Boston Public Library has museum passes, too.
The U.S. Senate Chamber in Boston
My friend and I visited the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate this past Friday. Adjacent to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum in Boston’s Columbia Point neighborhood, the Institute honors the late Senator’s legacy in a unique way. It inspires interest in the U.S. Senate through an interactive experience.
Most notable of the exhibits, the Institute has a to-scale representation of the U.S. Senate Chamber. It’s incredible.
The exhibit highlights major debates in the Senate’s history. The day we visited, the exhibit featured the Senate’s 1919-1920 ratification debate over the Treaty of Versailles and League of Nations.
If you’re interested in learning more about the debate, I recommend you check out two resources. The first is a New York Times piece. The second is a summary of Senator Henry Cabot Lodge’s 1925 book, The Senate and the League of Nations. Senator Lodge, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee at the time, was a fierce opponent to ratifying the treaty.
Following the presentation, we walked into the orientation room.
As a visitor, you get to assume the role of a “Senator-in-Training” and immerse yourself in the biggest issues that the Senate is debating today. I don’t want to spoil anything, but you get to walk around with a tablet and pick up “pins” throughout the exhibit halls. Here’s the tablet I used (I was pretending to be a Senator from California):
Another interactive part of the Institute is the “Issue of the Day.” We had the chance to debate and vote on a bill currently under the Senate’s consideration, the Terrorist Firearms Prevention Act. We heard a few perspectives on the issue, shared our own thoughts, and voted!
You don’t need to be a political junkie to appreciate the stirring experience of voting on a real U.S. Senate bill in a to-scale Senate Chamber representation.
Lion of the Senate
In addition to pretending to be a Senator, I loved learning more about the late-Senator Kennedy’s legacy.
The Institute has a replica of Senator Kennedy’s Washington, DC office and Reception Room. The framed photographs of him in the Reception Room with Martin Luther King, Jr., Pope John Paul II, Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill, and other leaders are truly incredible and show the breadth of his impact in social justice. Over the course of his almost 47 years of public service as a Senator, he made an enormous impact in civil rights, health care, immigration, and education.
Now, his legacy lives on in the work of the Institute.
Before I left the Institute, I stopped by at a table to make a pledge to engage in the civic life of my community. After learning about Ted Kennedy’s almost 47 years of service to the Senate, I was eager to renew my commitment to civic engagement. Here’s my pledge:
Plan a visit to the Institute and consider making your own pledge, too.
To close with wisdom from the late-Senator Kennedy, “The work begins anew. The hope rises again. And the dream lives on.”