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Bush's father honors Kennedy

COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- In a recognition by the patriarch of the nation's most prominent Republican family to his Democratic counterpart, former President George H.W. Bush yesterday was slated to present an award named after him to Senator Edward M. Kennedy.

The Massachusetts liberal, one of the harshest critics of the policies of Bush's son, President George W. Bush, was to be honored at a banquet and lecture at Texas A & M University.

The university is considered one of the more conservative schools in the country and is home to the George Bush Presidential Museum and Library. The award ceremony was set for the rotunda at the museum last night.

Kennedy joins former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and former chancellor Helmut Kohl of Germany as recipients of the George Bush Award for Excellence in Public Service.

An ad hoc committee of acquaintances of the former president and members of the Bush Presidential Library Foundation suggested to Bush earlier this year that Kennedy would be an appropriate nominee for the award, which includes $20,000 and a custom crystal sculpture designed by Eric Hilton for Steuben of New York.

"He was immediately supportive," Bush spokesman Jim McGrath said of the former president's response. "At first blush, when I heard, I was surprised. But the point of this is public service and not political ideology."

Kennedy first was elected to the Senate in 1962, filling the seat vacated by his brother, President John F. Kennedy. Since then, he has been reelected seven times and is the second most senior member of the Senate.

"During his remarkable career spanning over four decades, Senator Kennedy has consistently and courageously fought for his principles and has rightly earned the respect of his Senate colleagues on both sides of the aisle," said Roman Popadiuk, executive director of the Bush Foundation. "His commitment to excellence in public policy and his devotion to public service serve as an inspiration to all Americans."

The award recognizes an individual or group's dedication to public service.

Kennedy has labeled the current President Bush's Iraq policy as "a fraud" that was "made up in Texas" to benefit Republicans. He has blocked from Senate ratification a number of Bush's judicial nominees. He also unsuccessfully opposed former President Bush's nomination of Clarence Thomas to the US Supreme Court.

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