He stifled a little yawn but otherwise the senior senator from Massachusetts was all ears. He sat there on the dais in the quick getaway chair, the one on the end, and after they introduced him he got away, of course.
Nobody seemed to mind much because as soon as Sen. Edward M. Kennedy left, Speaker Thomas "Tip" O'Neill Jr. arrived, the third and last -- House Majority Leader Jim Wright (D-Tex.) had been first -- in the evening's procession of congressional leadership making an appearance.
The occasion was the Congressional Black Caucus' reception last night for its five new members in the 96th Congress. It brought out hundreds of Hill types, civic activists, black business leaders and District officials including the mayor, to the Cannon Building caucus room.
After Kennedy, perhaps, the single most commanding figure in the room was Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, in town for the final meeting of the National Commission on Higher Education for Law Enforcement, a coincidence of timing he called "a happy one."
"I told Walter I drove my tractor in," Bradley said, not exactly a knee slapper but good enough to elicit laughs from those within earshot.
In the receiving line with D.C. Delegate Walter Fauntroy were others from the caucus as well as newcomers to the group: Reps. Julian C. Dixon (D-Calif.), William H. Gray III (D-Pa.), George Leland (D-Tex.), Bennett M. Stewart (D-Ill.) and Melvin H. Evans (R) of the Virgin Islands.
Off to one side and standing alone much of the time was Rep. Charles Diggs (D-Mich.), expressing "full confidence" when one inquired "that the appellate process will vindicate me" in his conviction of mail fraud and of diverting more than $60,000 in staff salaries to pay personal and congressional bills.
He appeared unruffled by the cold shoulder he seemed to be getting from some members of the caucus.
"There are two levels of operation around here," he said. "One is inside and one is outside. There's a political climate out here that results in public statements being made -- but on a personal basis I haven't lost a step."
Stepping over from a quick handshake and then disappearing into the mob was Frank Moore, President Carter's chief congressional liaison. Others from the administration spotted in the crowd were Labor Secretary Ray Marshall and Army Secretary Clifford Alexander.
Rep. Cardiss Collins (D-Ill.), who chairs the 17-member caucus, said her priorities still put Carter's budget at the top of her list for caucus attention. But voting rights for the District isn't far behind, nor is a national health policy, an emphasis on foreign policy (especially African affairs) and more black judges on federal benches.
The D.C. Chamber of Commerce picked up the tab for refreshments, a rather eclectic buffet that ranged from tacos and chili beans to open-faced sandwiches to cheese, crackers and assorted relishes.
The only Republican in the caucus, Evans of the Virgin Islands, was regarded by some of his colleagues as a way to reach within the GOP -- specifically to provide help in gaining voting rights for the District.
Evans, for his part, agreed that his being a Republican makes the caucus more effective. "Not only do I speak with a Republican point of view but I represent it in the caucus," he said. As for pushing voting rights, "all Americans should have all rights. No one who has not been disenfranchised does not understand what it means to be disenfranchised. I'm from an area, you know, that got its first delegate to Congress only six years ago."