Former Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis speaks with his longtime friend, Saul Brighton, after the event.
By Robby McKittrick
Hometown Weekly Reporter
The Needham community came out in full force to listen to former Massachusetts Governor and presidential nominee, Michael Dukakis, speak on wide range of issues.
On Wednesday, Oct. 4 at 7:00 p.m., there was not an empty seat in the room at the Center of the Heights building in Needham. Everyone was excited to see their former governor and presidential candidate.
“I remember him running for president,” said Needham resident Stan Richmond. “He is quite a guy, he really is.”
“I am interested in what the former governor has to say about the current events,” said another Needham resident Nancy Johnson. “He has always had a level-headedness about him and I respect that.”
John Kirk of Progressive Needham hosted the event. Kirk began by introducing the governor and the governor’s wife, Kitty Dukakis, to the audience. Then, he described the purpose of the evening.
“This is a non-partisan event,” Kirk began. “[We want] to explore the ins and outs of how government operates … [and we are] hoping to take that knowledge and push it towards action.”
Once Kirk finished, Governor Dukakis took the stage. Immediately, the audience was enthralled and entertained.
Dukakis began his talk by describing the corruptness of local politics when he was a politician back in the 1960’s and how his group attempted to fix it.
“The 60’s was a decade of sweeping reform of the structure of state government,” he said. “We finally had a government that could be held accountable, because they had the tools to do the job.”
“Whether or not [a job is] done or done well is up to who you elect,” the governor added. “On the whole, [today] we are getting honest government who care about what they are doing.”
The governor then talked about the current issues with public transportation, which was a very important topic for the audience.
“I’m not happy with what is going on with the T these days,” Dukakis asserted. “We should have the best public transportation in the country.”
Dukakis then told one of his many charming and funny stories of the night. The governor discussed how he famously rode the T every day to work. He said that people were very nice to him in the beginning. However, in February, “the reception was cooling,” because the T was breaking down two to five days every week.
However, Dukakis fixed the issue by asking the right people the right questions.
“90 percent of the challenge is getting excellent people to do the job,” he said. “There is no lack of talent.”
Dukakis then ended his talk with a positive message about the status of state government.
“Your state government is in far better shape than it was 40 years ago,” he stated.
After Dukakis spoke, Kirk held a question-and-answer session involving the audience. During the session, the governor invited his wife on the stage.
Questions ranged from health care issues to immigration policy worries to public transportation problems. The last question for Dukakis asked him about what he is most proud of in his life.
“Finding this woman,” he said, pointing to his wife. “We’ve been lucky. Sorry I didn’t make it to the White House. It would have been fun.”
Overall, the audience reaction to Dukakis was extremely positive.
“People were very engaged,” said Kirk after the talk. “I haven’t heard that many laughs in a room [in a long time] … The people have such wonderful affection for him … At this particular political moment, people who have that character are especially appreciated.”