Michael Dukakis, former Governor of Massachusetts and 1988 Democratic presidential nominee, offered his insider’s perspectives to a group of Clark students on Sept. 17 during a frank discussion about life in public office, his own and current election strategies – both winning and losing – some recent political history, and today’s political climate.
Dukakis discussed his political journey from winning the presidency of his third-grade class in Brookline to ringing doorbells from precinct to precinct to riding the T each day to the State House. He talked about the exhilaration of public life and the struggle to preserve a close-knit family life. With candor and humor, he recalled his presidential bid and the stunning post-convention lead that was quickly swallowed by a historic negative ad campaign that continues to influence election tactics today. He called his refusal to address the attacks “the dumbest mistake I ever made. I ran a lousy last part of my campaign. One of my dumbest decisions was to not respond to the Bush attack campaign.”
Mosakowski Institute for Public Enterprise Director James R. Gomes arranged for Dukakis to speak with students taking his course, “The American Presidency.” Other political science students also had the opportunity to attend the class, which was moved to the Grace Conference Room to accommodate the larger audience.
“Mike Dukakis is one of our most thoughtful practitioners and observers of American politics,” Gomes said. “The students in my Presidency class really enjoyed hearing from someone who had actually lived the intense experience of running for president.”
Dukakis spent the last part of his hour-long talk answering questions from the students.
Here are some of Dukakis’s comments:
“For better or worse – and I’m not sure it’s better – negative campaigns are commonplace.”
“The Electoral College should have been abolished 100 years ago.”
“Where in the Constitution does it say that money is free speech?”
“We’ve got a country that’s pretty badly divided.”
“Obama proved that grass-roots, precinct organizing in a presidential campaign works.”
“It’s a tight race. Anyone can win.”
“There is nothing inherently corruptible about public service. Public service is good. It offers a real opportunity for changing the world.”
“Believe me, folks. Good people working together can change things.”
The daily Worcester Telegram & Gazette published a report on the Dukakis talk at Clark.