During his lifetime, Senator Edward M. Kennedy received many awards and honors.
In 1964, Kennedy gave the commencement address and received an honorary from Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts. The same year, he received an honorary degree from Stonehill College in North Easton, Massachusetts, and also received another honorary degree and gave the commencement address at Saint Dunstan's University, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada.
On December 1, 2008, Kennedy received a final honorary degree of Doctor of Laws from Harvard University, his own undergraduate alma mater. The University President Drew Gilpin Faust chose to honor Kennedy at a special ceremony, after the initial commencement awarding had to be postponed due to Kennedy's ongoing battle with a brain tumor. Kennedy became only the fourth person to receive such a special ceremony from Harvard, following George Washington, Winston Churchill, and Nelson Mandela.
In a speech to Congress on March 4, 2009, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Gordon Brown announced that Kennedy had been granted an honorary knighthood by Queen Elizabeth II for his work in the Northern Ireland peace process, and for his contribution to UK–US relations. To an American citizen, this dignity is purely honorary, and therefore Kennedy was not entitled to the title of "Sir Edward", although he was able to use the post-nominal KBE (Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire) outside the United States.
Kennedy released a statement saying he was "deeply grateful" for the "extraordinary honor". "I have always prized the opportunity to work with the British government and strengthen and deepen the role of our two countries as leading beacons of democracy in the world", Kennedy said. "So for me this honor is moving and personal—a reflection not only of my public life, but of things that profoundly matter to me as an individual".
In 1997, Kennedy was honored as the Irish American of the Year by Irish America magazine.
In 2003, Kennedy received the George Bush Award for Excellence in Public Service from former President George H. W. Bush. The Young Conservatives of Texas mounted a protest at the awards ceremony.
In 2006, Kennedy received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Association of Public Hospitals and Health Systems.
In 2007, Kennedy was awarded the Esperanza Leadership Award at the 2007 National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C. for his endeavors for comprehensive immigration reform.
Kennedy received the Order of the Aztec Eagle in July 2008 in recognition of his support for immigrants' rights. The order is the highest decoration that the Mexican government can bestow upon a foreigner.
On September 23, 2008, Kennedy was presented with the Order of the Merit of Chile by the Chilean President Michelle Bachelet for his dedication to human rights and his support of the Chilean people during the country's years under a military regime. The Order is the Republic of Chile's highest civilian award.
On March 10, 2009, it was announced that Kennedy would receive the National Association of State Boards of Education’s Lifetime Achievement Award, for his contributions to public education during his time as a senator.
On June 26, 2009, Kennedy received the Henry Clay Medallion for Distinguished Service from the Henry Clay Memorial Foundation, in recognition of his record of bipartisan collaboration in the Senate.
Kennedy was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom on July 30, 2009. The statement from the Obama administration said that Kennedy "has been one of the greatest lawmakers – and leaders – of our time."
On September 15, 2009, it was announced by the UN refugee agency that Kennedy had been given its annual Nansen Refugee Award for "his achievements as an unparalleled champion of refugee protection and assistance for more than 45 years." The statement also reads; "UNHCR is grateful it was able to inform Senator Kennedy of the Nansen Committee's decision in June, and deeply saddened by his passing."
Coat of arms
In 1961, President John F. Kennedy was presented with a grant of arms for all the descendants of Patrick Kennedy from the Chief Herald of Ireland. The arms of the Kennedy family are black with three gold helmets depicted upon it, within a border that is divided into red and ermine segments, and strongly alludes to the symbols in the coats of arms of the O'Kennedys of Ormonde and the Fitzgeralds of Desmond from whom the family is believed to be descended. The crest is an armored hand holding four arrows between two olive branches, elements taken from the coat of arms of the United States of America and also symbolic of Kennedy and his brothers. The coat of arms is described in heraldic terms as, Sable three helmets in profile Or within a bordure per saltire gules and ermine, and the crest is, Between two olive branches a cubit sinister arm in armor erect the hand holding a sheaf of four arrows points upward all proper on a torse Or and sable, while the mantling is gules doubled argent.
- "Degree for E.M. Kennedy". The New York Times. Associated Press. September 28, 1967.
- "'69 honorary degree recipients were quite an accomplished group".
- Kiel, Lauren D. (December 2, 2008). "Harvard Awards Kennedy Honorary Degree". The Harvard Crimson.
- Brown, Gordon (March 4, 2009). "In full: Brown's speech to Congress". BBC News. Retrieved 4 March 2009. "Northern Ireland is today at peace and happiness, more Americans have health care, more children around the world are going to school, and for all those things we owe a great debt to the life and courage of Senator Edward Kennedy. And so today, having talked to him last night, I want to announce that Her Majesty The Queen has awarded an honorary Knighthood for Sir Edward Kennedy."
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- "Global Consumption Top of Mind as 'Gen Y' Statesmen Convene". Henry Clay Center for Statesmanship. PR Newswire. June 22, 2009.
- "President Obama Names Medal of Freedom Recipients", White House Office of the Press Secretary, July 30, 2009
- "John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 35th President of the United States". American Heraldry Society. Retrieved 27 October 2009.