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Monday, May 27, 2024
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Former Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis speaks to a crowd at the University Club Wednesday afternoon.

Michael Dukakis speaks at AU, calls Mitt Romney a 'fraud'

Michael Dukakis encouraged students to pursue a life of public service, as he did, during a speech Wednesday afternoon in the University Club.

An alumnus of AU’s Washington Semester Program, Dukakis noted that studying at AU and in D.C. had a profound effect on him as a politician.

“Don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t aspire for political office,” the former governor of Massachusetts said. “There’s nothing like it, and there’s nothing inherently corrupting about it. Set high integrity standards for yourself and those around you.”

Dukakis, a Democrat, was the governor of Massachusetts from 1975 to 1979. He was re-elected in 1982 and served until 1991. He later ran against then-Vice President George H. W. Bush in the 1988 presidential campaign, now known infamously for the disastrous tank ad and Willie Horton attacks, which upended his campaign.

He attributed much of his political élan to his short time here at AU. In the fall of 1954, he participated in one of the earliest Washington Semester Programs at AU from his school, Swarthmore College.

He described sitting up in the galley at the Capitol with his friends the day Joe McCarthy was censured during his time in the program.

“[The Washington Semester Program] really had to do with sparking my interest in public service,” Dukakis said.

Many of the friends he met at AU continued to appear at his rallies throughout his political career.

Dukakis ran for local office after college and canvassed door-to-door in his hometown of Brookline, Mass., during his campaign.

“I’m kind of obsessive on the subject of grassroots precinct organization,” he said.

Dukakis acknowledged that while his ’88 campaign failed in the national race, it did well in the primaries due to precinct organizing.

In an interview with The Eagle, Dukakis noted this formula worked very well for another political candidate — Barack Obama.

“It’s what got me elected governor,” Dukakis said. “I didn’t do it anywhere near as well as I should have in the ’88 campaign because I spent too much time listening to people in my campaign who said, ‘That’s ok for city council but not for president.’ Barack Obama took care of that argument.”

Because of low black voter turnout and record low youth votes in Democratic primaries this year, combined with a newly energized Republican party, Dukakis said Democrats should use grassroots strategies for the midterms. However, most Democratic candidates are turning to old strategies that utilize larger donations from smaller amounts of people, according to Dukakis.

“After [Obama’s] victory, where precinct-based organizing played such a hugely important role, I would have thought that every Democrat would take that playbook and go back to school with the Obama people,” Dukakis said.

Dukakis is concerned that Republicans will gain enough seats in Congress to threaten health care reform, which they stated they would like to do in the 2010 Republican platform, “A Pledge to America.”

“They’re gonna deny money, they’re not gonna vote the money to implement it,” Dukakis said. “It’s gonna be a battle.”

When asked during the question-and-answer portion of the event if former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney would be a likely candidate for the Republican ticket in 2012, Dukakis was candid.

“Mitt Romney is a fraud with a capital ‘F.’ I thought he was going to be a George Romney, Jr. [his father and former governor of Michigan],” Dukakis said. “He’s the most disappointing guy in American politics, he’ll do whatever the pollsters tell him.”

In closing, Dukakis continued to urge his audience down a path towards political office.

“Think seriously about public service as careers,” he said. “You’re not going to get wealthy ... Plan to live moderately, but get your kicks out of what you do.”

Dukakis mentioned in his speech, with a bit of wry humor, a warning that he gives to his political science students at Northeastern University.

“Have a good but conventional sex life, if you’re into the other stuff...don’t rock the boat. But all kidding aside, you can make an enormous difference.”

lgiangreco@theeagleonline.com


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