March 29, 2002

Dukakis Discusses Political Issues, Life in Public Service

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Touching on topics from September 11 to President Clinton, Michael Dukakis, former Massachusetts governor and Democratic presidential nominee, spoke last night to a receptive crowd at Myron Taylor Hall to kickoff the law school’s year-old American Constitution Society.

The lecture centered around what introducing speaker Mike Bonafede grad called Dukakis’ “passion for public service.”


“I’ve had the great good fortune of spending … half my life in public service,” Dukakis said, noting that his political career started “about as low as you can get” as an elected town meeting member in Brookline, Massachusetts. After graduating from Harvard Law school, Dukakis was elected Governor of Massachusetts in 1974, 1982, and 1986. In 1988, he won the Democratic nomination for the presidency, but was subsequently defeated by George Bush.

In his lecture, Dukakis spoke of progress in the United States due to the efforts of people in public service positions.

According to Dukakis, in 1952, “African-Americans could not be out after sundown without a pass from their employer in Miami Beach.”

“It isn’t that we haven’t a long way to go, especially when it comes to the issue of race … but I have seen so much progress,” he said.

Dukakis cited many such examples of advances made by “active” people, encouraging the student audience to “become deeply and actively involved in public life.”

During the question and answer period following his brief lecture, Dukakis was asked his opinion on the current war against terrorism.

“We have got to focus on what I call a criminal conspiracy,” said Dukakis.

Political Beliefs

Though he thought President Bush “did a good job” of responding to the World Trade Center attacks, Dukakis cited a “massive police and intelligence failure” as the initial cause of the attacks.

Regarding escalating references to nuclear defense, Dukakis said that, in his opinion, “Nuclear missile defense isn’t going to do diddly.”

Also during the question and answer period, an audience member asked Dukakis his opinion on former Vice-president Gore’s 2000 presidential campaign.

“If Bill Clinton had behaved himself, Gore would have won,” Dukakis said.

In defense of the former president, however, Dukakis stated Clinton was “probably the most talented person I have worked with in public life.”

“I’m a big fan of his,” said Christina Davilas, grad. “Even though I was pretty young, I was still involved … in his campaign,” said Davilas, recalling her attendance at many of Dukakis’ fundraising events with her parents.

“I thought his talk was great,” she said, adding that Dukakis showed his “love [for] and commitment” to public service.

Now teaching at both Northeastern University and UCLA, Dukakis continues his efforts in public service.

“The governor has spent so much time and effort helping many, many students interested in politics,” said Bonafede who considered Dukakis a mentor as an undergraduate at UCLA.

Archived article by Stacy Williams