On October 6, 2011 former Massachusetts Governor and Democratic presidential nominee, Michael Dukakis, visited Professor Maurice Cunningham’s Massachusetts Politics class. He spoke and answered questions about both his terms as governor, his presidential run, his life, and current issues.
Dukakis was very comfortable, naturally, speaking in front of the class. He was honest about some of the mistakes he made, like promising no tax hikes before his first term as governor or losing to Ed King between his first and second terms. An avid T rider, Dukakis mentioned how a gas tax could add much needed revenue to the struggling Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.
Governor Dukakis riding the T to the State House during the Blizzard of 1978
When asked about the sacrifices he had to make during his elected career Dukakis gave a surprising answer: none. His explanation was even better. Dukakis said that before being elected governor he sat down with his wife, Kitty, and they made two rules. The first was that he would be home for dinner every night at 6:00 p.m. He would still attend meetings and events after dinner, and for a time Kitty was working at night too, but he would be home for dinner every night. The second rule was that he would devote one day a week, Sunday, to the kids and family. No politics whatsoever. There were only a few exceptions to the rule, such as the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade, in which case a different day was devoted to the family. He said that by keeping those two rules he was able to effectively hold office without missing out on or sacrificing family time. He noted that the dinner rule had to change when he ran for president, but by that time his children were already in or out of college, saying that he would not have run for president if they were still in middle or high school.
I found his response to be very touching and honest, not what I had expected at all. At first I thought he must be lying, he had to have made some sacrifices, but his response removed any doubt. There were many questions for the former governor and the students were very engaged, which doesn’t always happen with guest speakers. Many of the students liked that he has decided to teach about something he is both knowledgeable and passionate about, as a professor at Northeastern University, instead of moving on to the private sector which is always an easy and profitable option for those once elected to high office. His visit was well received. On his way out, one student commented, “Government these days needs more people like him.”