CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) – Sen. Edward Kennedy, battling brain cancer, has received an honorary degree from his alma mater during a rare special convocation at Harvard University.

The Massachusetts Democrat smiled broadly and flashed a thumbs up Monday after the degree was bestowed by Harvard President Drew Faust.

Kennedy – who graduated from the Ivy League school in 1954 – joins a select group to be honored at special convocations, including George Washington, Winston Churchill and Nelson Mandela.

Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, a former Kennedy staffer, spoke at the ceremony and Vice President-elect Joe Biden was among those in attendance.

In his remarks, Kennedy, said he has lived a “blessed time.” He called the election of Barack Obama as president a giant step forward in U.S. history, and one that marks a new beginning for the country.

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