Paul Marion with his wife Rosemary and son Joseph. Photo courtesy of Kevin Harkins of Harkins Photography.
Fellow blogger Paul Marion was presented the Tom Kelakos Community Spirit Award last evening by the Kiwanis Club of Greater Lowell. Here are the remarks Paul made in accepting the award:
. . . . Tonight, I am receiving an award that I accept not only for my efforts but also on behalf of the groups and organizations that I have had the good fortune to be part of in the past 35 years— from my brother Richard’s art gallery on Hurd Street, Gallery 21, to the Human Services Corporation founded by Patrick Mogan and friends … from the Lowell Historic Preservation Commission, US Department of the Interior to the Flowering City Committee and Lowell Heritage Partnership … from the Cultural Organization of Lowell, COOL, to today’s UMass Lowell, which is loaded with talent and now riding Chancellor Marty Meehan’s rocket to the stars …. In all these cases I was part of a team of people who worked together to make Lowell a better community. In some situations I had opportunities to introduce ideas and manage projects to the point of completion.
We’re standing in Dracut at this address. Everyone thinks this is Lowell, but it isn’t. Intervale Park is back there, where my brother David, who is five years older than me, hit a double in Dracut Little League and broke his bat. What I remember most vividly is that the coach let him take the broken bat home as a trophy. We nailed and taped it and used that bat until it split apart. So, Dracut. I would be remiss not to say that my experience in public service began here, when I ran for school committee as an 18 year old senior in high school. My parents encouraged this surprising and somewhat “self-involved” decision. I was younger than Robert Gignac of today’s Lowell School Committee. It’s great to see young office-holders.
At a candidates’ night I quoted the ancient Greek statesman Pericles, who is said to have said, “A man who takes no part in public affairs some call quiet; we Athenians call him useless.” I believed that, and believed President Kennedy when he said, “Ask what you can do for your country.” I was late in organizing, like Newt Gingrich in the Virginia Republican primary, so I missed being on the ballot in 1972 and had to run on stickers. My school friends stood at polling places with stacks of mimeographed slips of paper telling people how to stick the sticker on the ballot so they could vote for me. We lost to the incumbent Bernard Bettencourt, 4000 to 400, but the earnest attempt led two selectmen to call me and offer me an appointment to the town Recreation Committee, which I took happily. I figured the next step was to run for Congress.
The concept of community has engaged me intellectually and emotionally since my college days studying political science. I see it as the foundation of the democratic process. If a person does not recognize that his or her interests are connected to the interests of his or her neighbor (near and far), then the system breaks down. Actually, it never coheres. In that scenario, we all become independent contractors who are determined to cut in line in front of the next person. How to make the social glue that sticks us together is the challenge that I’ve grappled with all these years. I think you can do a lot of good through action in a cultural context: arts and humanities and interpretive sciences, as the Mass Cultural Council frames the expressive disciplines. It’s education in the broadest sense, education toward enlightened thought and action.
I want to make a final point about the Lowell Reclamation Project that has fed my curiosity and fulfilled me in many ways since the 1970s. The book I’m writing this year for the National Park Service has a subtitle: Reclaiming Lowell’s Place and Story. Count yourself fortunate if you find a cause larger than yourself that draws you in and fuels your passion. The idea of recycling a city instead of kicking it into a ditch seemed a task worth signing up for. Paul Tsongas talked about generational responsibility. Patrick Mogan talked about shaping a positive sense of the future. Both men turned ideas into action. Everything they did required the help of partners, funders, collaborators, planners, builders, and stewards. As US Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren says in her speech that has gone viral on the web: Nobody becomes a success alone, not really. We’re all in this thing together.
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