WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama led a Kennedy Center crowd in a performance of “Happy Birthday” Sunday night, capping a star-studded musical birthday tribute to ailing Sen. Edward M. Kennedy.
The Massachusetts Democrat was honored at the Kennedy Center at an event hosted by comedian Bill Cosby. Actresses Lauren Bacall and Bernadette Peters, singer James Taylor and conductor John Williams were among those who performed.
Toward the end of the gala, Cosby introduced Obama to loud applause. The president strode to the center of the stage and then conducted the performers in the birthday tune. Kennedy stood and delivered a thumbs-up from his balcony, where he was accompanied by first lady Michelle Obama. The president later met Kennedy in his box as the performers sang “The Best Is Yet to Come.”
Caroline Kennedy presented her uncle with her family’s Profile in Courage Award, paying tribute to his efforts to reform the U.S. health care system.
Referring to her short-lived attempt to seek former New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s Senate seat, Caroline Kennedy joked, “I never thought I’d be in a room with so many senators.”
The audience included Massachusetts’ other senator, Democrat John Kerry, as well as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Joe Biden.
Kennedy, 77, was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor after he had a seizure last May.