A host of dignitaries including President

BarackObama will gather in Boston to open the new Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate. The building, reportedly costing nearly $8 million dollars, immerses visitors in the process of actually being a US Senator. 

Late in Senator Ted Kennedy’s life, he began envisioning a center to celebrate the Senate — it’s history, role in government, and -- to some degree -- his own legacy.  That building, the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate, opens with not only the President, but also Vice-President Joseph Biden in expected attendance.

Kennedy died in 2009, just as plans for the institute were coming together, but it’s very much his vision says the center’s President, Jean MacCormack, “He loved the Senate and he believed if people really understood what really goes on in the Senate, a deliberative body that has shaped the laws of our nation over centuries, they would have a better understanding of how you reach common ground or maybe higher ground and come to agreement on issues.”

Located on Dorchester’s Columbia Point, the low-slung, minimalist white building stands in deference to its next-door neighbor, the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library.  The institute bears Senator Kennedy’s name and a recreation of his Washington D.C. office right down to the tennis balls he kept for his Portuguese water dogs. But the focus is on the institution itself with an awe-inspiring, full-scale reproduction of the US Senate Chamber. And here visitors can have an interactive experience—every patron is handed a trivia-laden tablet and they can even assume the identity of a US senator to engage in the day’s floor debate.

The Institute, McCormack says, could not open at a more opportune time, “We’re at a place in our nation where we all need to be renewed in our commitment to participation in our government.”