Mayor Thomas Menino spoke on campus 77 days before his 20-year career leading Boston comes to an end. Instead of policy discussion and political posturing, Menino’s candid look back on his service highlighted the often forgotten human element of politics.
“I just believe you should stand and say what’s right, and that’s how you get along in this business,” Menino said. The mayor spoke with Brian Mooney, special assistant for strategic communications, about politicians’ responsibility to their constituents, career highlights and future plans.
While Menino didn’t endorse a mayoral candidate, he said that the public’s attention should be more on the new administration’s staff than its leader. He worries about who will be in charge of the public school system in which he takes pride. Will they, too, see the city’s businesses and higher education institutions as partners? How will they cope with the polarized federal government’s dwindling support for local municipalities?
But Menino was clear that the election should not be about one issue, even pressing examples of education and security. Instead, voters, himself included, should choose the candidate with a strong vision for the future of Boston. He said the next mayor needs to have the ideas and determination to build upon the city’s strengths during their time at the helm, whether it’s a few years or a few decades. Reaching for a strong future led Menino through some tough times and had results he hopes to be most remembered for, such as improving race relations in the city.
“Boston was a real racist city at one time. Everybody understands our diversity now and one of the strengths of our city is that diversity,” Menino said. “We’ve been able to deal with some of those issues, to give opportunities to a lot of the people in our city who didn’t have opportunities in the past.”
Menino’s emphasis on improving the lives of others has struck people outside of his city’s limits over the years, like Linda Hair-Sullivan, a Lowell State alum who attended the event.
“He cares about people,” said Hair-Sullivan, who said she often watched him on the nightly news and feels that he’s been a mayor to more than Boston. “He really is everybody’s mayor and offers many different groups support.”
As for Menino’s future, he’s taking a vacation right after handing the keys to the city off to the new mayor. But he’ll gladly offer advice — if asked, and only in private — on keeping Boston moving forward. Menino has had several job offers from organizations and universities, but wants his next career to involve helping young people. He’s also interested in benchmarking how donations to schools reach students in order to increase the benefits of each contribution. Regardless of his next position, Menino isn’t looking to cash in on his experiences.
“I’ve never made a lot of money and I’ve been happy,” said Menino when discussing his options. “The things I do for kids and the things I do for the city of Boston, that’s what makes a difference.”
See the full conversation as part of the University’s Campus Voices program.