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Three Mass. governors gather to honor Michael Dukakis at Northeastern

Former Massachusetts Governor, Democratic presidential nominee, and professor emeritus at Northeastern University Michael Dukakis speaks at an event held in his honor Thursday, April 11, 2024.
Northeastern University
Celebrating Governor Michael S. Dukakis stream
Former Massachusetts Governor, Democratic presidential nominee, and Northeastern University professor emeritus Michael Dukakis speaks at an event held in his honor Thursday, April 11, 2024.

Three Massachusetts governors, past and present, came together in Boston Thursday to pay tribute to former Governor Michael Dukakis, the 1988 Democratic presidential nominee.

Dignitaries praised the life and work of Michael Dukakis during a tribute at Northeastern University.

Current Governor Maura Healey, Deval Patrick and Bill Weld were at the event, celebrating the state’s longest-serving Democratic governor.

“I resisted this whole thing as strongly as I could,” Dukakis told the crowd. “But really, it really has been wonderful.”

The son of Greek immigrants, now 90, was governor from 1975 to ’79 and 1983 to 1991.

Much of the nation would come to know "the Duke" as the Democratic nominee for the – a contest he lost to then-Vice President George H.W. Bush.

Dukakis also served as governor during a period of significant economic growth, dubbed “the Massachusetts miracle,” with unemployment rates dropping and the tech industry emerging further in the Bay State.

Following his career in politics, Dukakis spent nearly 30 years in higher education, eventually becoming a distinguished professor of political science emeritus at Northeastern.

Back at Northeastern Thursday, one of his successors, Weld, recounted how he was still in law school when he first encountered Dukakis.

He touched on the respect he had for him, well-before their political careers were fully-underway.

“If I had to summarize, in one word, what is the legacy of Mike Dukakis in politics and to the United States - the one word is honesty,” he said.

The two men also worked for the same Boston law firm at one point - Hill and Barlow - a career stop shared with Gov. Patrick.

By the time Patrick took office in 2007, Dukakis had become a pit stop for many seeking or considering political office, with figures reaching out to the Brookline resident for advice, guidance and more.

Patrick credits Dukakis with cementing his understanding of building grassroots support.

“I had a view about - how I wanted that campaign to run, and it was he who taught me the word 'grassroots,'” Patrick said. “He said ‘You're talking about a grassroots campaign.’ And it is about the power, frankly, of showing up and talking to people and listening.”

Governor Healey also came into contact with Dukakis throughout her career.

During the panel, she recounted “field trips” he and his wife, Kitty Dukakis would take her on, including a stop at the New England Center for Children.

“He's devoted so much of his life's work to looking after those who are vulnerable and in particular, this New England Center for Children, children with autism - for me, wanting to be attorney general, he thought it was really important that I have a look at that home and what it does and the services it provides," she said.

Later, when she was running for governor, Healey says he continued to dispense good advice, while also putting emphasis on some of the issues he’s long advocated for, including transportation.

“Also, he said ‘pay attention to the T,’ which has proven to be, whether I want to pay attention to it or not - transit, transit, transit," Healey recounted. "He actually rode the T and understands the importance of meeting people where they are, and paying attention to the things that matter."

The event also included praise and honors from other leaders such as former Massachusetts House Speaker Robert DeLeo as well as the unveiling of a portrait of Dukakis.

Near the end of the event, Dukakis said he “owed a lot to Northeastern,” while reflecting on the experience of seeing generations of students pass through the university.

“So, I just want to say thanks - thanks to you, thanks to so many of the students that I’ve taught and had the pleasure of guiding into positions of leadership,” Dukakis said.

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