Tip O’Neill Announces a Run for Congressional seated being vacated by John F. Kennedy

If you think that the Congress of today has always been this way, well just remember Massachusetts Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill - the way he served, his work ethic and the way he ran the House of Representatives when he was “Mr. Speaker.” A man of the 20th Century,  he believed that government works and should take an active role in fighting poverty and injustice.  A  man with a genius for getting things done, his colleagues elected him as Speaker in both the Massachusetts House and U. S. House of Representatives. At his death in 1994, O’Neill was eulogized as one of the twentieth century’s most gifted politicians but also as a man who never forgot where he came from. As his North Cambridge neighbors said, “His hat still fit.”

Tip O’Neill Announces Run for Congress

On This Day... 

      …in 1952, Thomas P. (“Tip”) O’Neill of Cambridge announced that he would run for the Congressional seat being vacated by John F. Kennedy as Kennedy began a campaign for the Senate. O’Neill had already served seven terms in the state legislature. He would serve in the U.S. Congress for the next 39 years, the last ten as Speaker of the House. An affable man who believed “all politics is local,” O’Neill played an important role in national affairs —supporting civil rights, opposing the Vietnam War, and leading the fight for liberal causes. Although one of the most powerful men in the nation, at his death in 1994, O’Neill was remembered as a man who “never forgot where he came from.”
Speaker O’Neill came to Lowell  to support 5th District Congressman Jim Shannon. He is pictured here at The Speare House circa 1980 with my parents Jim and Marie Kirwin (and me).

Marathon musing: who is a hero? by Marjorie Arons-Barron

The entry below is being cross posted from Marjorie Arons-Barron’s own blog.

Don’t read this if you’re tired of the non-stop coverage of the Marathon bombing.  Don’t read it if you’re not touched in some way by the tragedy that befell individual runners and bystanders or disturbed by the assault on our community.  Have there been efforts to capitalize on the grief and memorialization of the event?  The profit center that Boston Strong tee shirts and other memorabilia have become?  The media efforts to outdraw the competition? Yes, yes and yes. Obviously.

But count me among those townies who, since childhood, have gone to the running route, cheered on the travails and triumphs of the winners and the struggling also-rans, felt the communal experience of an event drawing people from around the world (back then, it was the Finnish and Japanese who came to best the American runners) and, without being able to put it into words, thrilled to the experience of a sharing and upbeat crowd. Last year it was: how could they do that to our town?

Randomness heightens the sense of horror.  Being in the right place at the wrong time. But are these victims heroes?  They don’t think so. Jeff Bowman had both his legs blown off a year ago.  He told WBUR he is not a hero, that he is an ordinary guy. Other victims have echoed his sentiments. They are overcoming adversity, clenching their teeth, battling their pain,  showing resilience, and moving forward. It’s what my father did when he lost his leg decades ago. The survivors will be in recovery for a long time, perhaps forever.

Are the police, firefighters and other responders heroes?  Or are they just doing what their jobs require?  They, too, are often dismissive of the term hero.  Even Lt. Ed Walsh and firefighter Michael Kennedy would probably have said they were just doing their jobs when they perished in the recent Beacon Street fire.  Perhaps their heroism shone when they decided to become firefighters in the first place.  Or police officers. Or soldiers, at least some of them.

Hero, to me, implies acting on behalf of others with disregard for one’s own well-being. Such were the people who ran toward the explosions last year, rather than trying to flee the scene (which is what I probably would have done.) Carlos Arredondo, the man in the cowboy hat, is such a hero.    He had tried to kill himself years before when his son Alexander, a Marine, was killed in Iraq.  His youngest son Brian did commit suicide three years ago.   The senior Arredondo lived and happened to be near the finish line. Disregarding his own safety, he helped to save Jeff Bowman’s life.  He reached beyond the burden of his own familial losses and has become a symbol of courage and resilience.

But what does “Boston Strong” symbolize?  Again, for some, it’s blatant commercialization.   Others deride it as a cover for increased security regulations that undermine the very peace and freedom that are other core traditions of Patriots Day. But, for me, it validates some of the good things about our community, including a commitment to pull together, to restore the sense of who we are or at least aspire to be. Resilience. Generosity. Courage. Determination. Are we all capable of those characteristics all of the time?  Of course not.  But it’s what we hope to pull out from deep within ourselves when circumstances call upon us to do so.  When tragedy befalls us, we hope we can measure up.  Events like the one-year anniversary or the evocation of Boston Strong give voice to the ideals that we hope to realize.

I welcome your comments in the section below.

Dismantle the South Common? Hands Off.

The South Common was created for the enjoyment of all the residents of the city. The South Common is not an empty lot waiting for a better use. The South Common is functioning well for its designated purpose, thank you. The South Common is scheduled for a major renovation, based on a thoughtful plan put together for the City of Lowell by a well respected landscape architecture firm—and with significant community input. We have been waiting for years for a major investment in this park. The South Common is part of the South Common Historic District, and the Lowell Historic Board has a say in the razing of existing structures and design of new structures in the district. The South Common is not a good location for a new high school. I live on Highland Street. No secret. The idea of injecting many hundreds of additional cars of teachers and students into already highly congested Thorndike, Gorham, and Highland streets is not a good idea. In addition to contributing to the quality of life of current neighbors and recreational users, as a marvelous and active green space the South Common can be an asset for Sal Lupoli’s planned innovation-commercial-residential development at the former Comfort Furniture/Hood Co. complex and for the future Judicial Center, not to mention the whole Hamilton Canal District. Who speaks for open space in the city? Who speaks for Nature? Who speaks for the current users of the South Common? Who speaks for this important part of Lowell’s heritage?


Massachusetts Passes First Education Law ~ April 14, 1642

Education has always been a high priority in Massachusetts even back to its ”Bay Colony” days. So it’s important to go back to the archives to remember this important day.

MassMoments remind us that on this day – April 14, 1642 – the Massachusetts Bay Colony passed the first law in the New World requiring that  children be taught to read and write. It was an incredible step for education. While not a universal mandate at the time, it did set the stage for universal, free, compulsory  public-school education in Massachusetts.  “When John Adams drafted the Massachusetts Constitution in 1780, he included provisions that guaranteed public education to all citizens.”

On This Day...

      …in 1642, Massachusetts Bay Colony passed the first law in the New World requiring that children be taught to read and write. The English Puritans who founded Massachusetts believed that the well-being of individuals, along with the success of the colony, depended on a people literate enough to read both the Bible and the laws of the land. Concerned that parents were ignoring the first law, in 1647 Massachusetts passed another one requiring that all towns establish and maintain public schools. It would be many years before these schools were open to all children. Only in the mid-nineteenth century was universal free public schooling guaranteed – in time, made compulsory — for Massachusetts children.
Read the full article at MassMoments.com here  for a fuller history of  how a free,  public school education  system evolved in Massachusetts and how it became a model for the nation.

Poetry at the Parker (4/12/14)

We had more than 50 people at the Whistler House Museum yesterday for the poetry reading with Joe Donahue and me offering work angled toward the Acre neighborhood and Aegean Sea in honor of our hosts, Lowell’s Hellenic Culture & Heritage Society. We ranged through tragedy and memory and mystical union, bringing into the room Aeschylus, JFK, Gorky, Tsongas, Warhol, Ellen Goodman, Larry King, Eros, Cavafy, Seferis, Sappho, Kerouac, Troy (not Troy Donahue, no relation), and elite Kenyan marathoners, among other figures and configurations and loaded locations. Joe sold out his pile of books and exited the painter’s birthplace through the Parker Gallery, past tables of baklava, koulourakia, and green grapes. In a review of Joe’s 2003 book “Incidental Eclipse,” John Ashbery wrote that Joe is “one of the major American poets of this time.” So, there you go—an assessment from an author with a roomful of prizes. The reading was taped by Lowell Telecommunications Corp. and will be broadcast soon on local cable TV. Catch it if you can.

Tewksbury & Tewkesbury

My association with the town of Tewksbury is long, and I like to think deep.  Many, many years ago I remember attending an event in which several dignitaries from the town of Tewkesbury, England were the featured guest. Honestly, I was there for political reasons, more than historical.

At that time I learned that Tewksbury, Massachusetts and Tewkesbury, England kept connected through a local committee called the twinning committee.  I remember being less than  impressed with the American and English association and I continued to think that way until last week.

Last week, I watched the BBC Series The White Queen, which centers around the English King Edward IV and several women who jockey for power around him. What does this have to do with our town of Tewksbury you are probably asking? Well the series The White Queen reveals the prominent role the town of Tewkesbury, England had in the War of the Roses.

tewk1It was in Tewkesbury that Edward IV finally defeated Richard Neville and regained the crown, a battle many consider to be the most important of the War of the Roses;  it is in Tewkesbury Abbey that Edward IV’s brother George is buried along with his wife Isabel; and Henry VI’s son Edward, Prince of Wales is also buried in Tewkesbury (Henry VI is the king Edward IV replaces “twice”…it’s a long story). 

tewks 3Now, thanks to The White Queen when I think of the twinning of Tewksbury, Massachusetts and Tewkesbury, England   I have a whole new appreciation.

Shame on Brandeis by Marjorie Arons-Barron

The entry below is being cross posted from Marjorie Arons-Barron’s own blog.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali is, indeed, a controversial figure, especially for the vehemence with which she has criticized Islamic fundamentalism. Just read her memoir Infidel, and you’ll understand why. Her childhood was spent in Somalia, Saudi Arabia and Kenya, where she survived genital mutilation, physical and emotional abuse, parental attempts at forced marriage and all the forms of degradation to which “good little girls” are subjected under rigid interpretation of Sharia law. Ultimately she moved to The Netherlands and was elected to Parliament. Her memoir tells of how she went from dutiful submission to a self-aware political activist fighting for freedom and women’s dignity. Because she speaks out, she lives under constant death threats.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali has formed a foundation to fight for women’s rights everywhere, and she certainly is a hero to those who approve of freeing women from oppression imposed on girls and women by extreme religion and cultural intolerance. It is understandable that Brandeis University would invite her to receive an honorary degree at its May commencement. Oh, wait a minute. Not so fast. This week, Brandeis rescinded its invitation based, it said, on extreme language used by Hirsi Ali in talking about Islam, in one way or another, as “a religion of death,” “a destructive, nihilistic cult of death.”

Nearly a quarter of the faculty lined up with Muslim students and others to protest the University’s decision to honor Hirsi Ali. They decried her as Islamaphobic and attacked her “hateful views.” But maybe they would have shared those views if they had been treated as she was. To me, she is a woman of great courage, standing up for all women against the strictures of a vicious and repressive fundamentalist community.

Brandeis asserts that there is a difference between inviting someone to a dialogue on campus and honoring that person for the body of his or her work. Maybe so. But they should have thought of that in advance. They claim they didn’t know about her anti-Islam language. They live maybe under a rock?

This about-face by Brandeis smacks of craven political correctness. A Washington Post columnist recalls how in 2006 the University honored famous playwright Tony Kushner, whose anti-Zionist attitude had been reflected in his statement that “The biggest supporters of Israel are the most repulsive members of the Jewish community.” At the time, Brandeis said it stood by its invitation, explaining that it doesn’t select honorary degree recipients based on their political beliefs. Apparently it does today.

I don’t usually agree with Wall St. Journal editorial positions. Today the paper reasonably asks if Hirsi Ali’s critics by implication support the abuses she has fought her whole life – forced marriage, female genital mutilation, honor killings, all part of Shariah law. And, noting that Brandeis was founded “to defend non-sectarian religious liberty,” the editorial wonders if the University now includes in its core values “intolerance and the illiberal suppression of ideas.” That’s the message underlying the University’s reversal on Hirsi Ali.

Hirsi herself responded by congratulating the Brandeis graduates on their commencement and hoping that they turn out to be better advocates for free expression and free thought than their alma mater. Amen to that!

I welcome your comments in the section below. p.s. Check out Hirsi’s “Here’s What I would Have Said at Brandeis” in Friday’s WSJ.

Donahue & Marion Reading Today (Older Than They Once Were)


donahue  younger

Joe Donahue, c. 2000

marion younger

Paul Marion, c. 1986 (photo by James Higgins)

At 2 p.m. today, there’s a poetry reading with these young guys pictured above at the Whistler House Museum of Art, Parker Gallery, 243 Worthen St., downtown Lowell. The program is called “The Cultural Lines of Poetry, IV.” Sponsored by the Hellenic Culture and Heritage Society, the event will feature readings of new and older poems plus commentary about the influence of Greek writers and Hellenic culture on the authors’ literary efforts. Free and open to the public. Special thanks to Marina Sampas Schell and Charles Nikitopoulos for organizing the program. The HCHS has been a great friend to poets and poetry for more than 20 years. And thanks to the Whistler House and Director Sara Bogosian for hosting the program—a longtime friendly location for poets.


Lowell Real Estate, week of April 7, 2014

Here are real estate sales in Lowell for the past week:

April 7, 2014 – Monday
no sales

April 8, 2014 – Tuesday
28 Burtt St for $263,000. Prior sale in 2004 for $230,000

April 9, 2014 – Wednesday
97 Hovey St for $220,000. Prior sale in 2005 for $230,000

April 10, 2014 – Thursday
52 Lawrence Dr Unit M504 for $158,000. Prior sale in 2007 for $166,000
113 School St Unit A12 for $113,000. Prior sale in 2008 for $121,000
88-90 Boisvert St for $270,000. Prior sale in 2009 for $161,000
3 Mapleview Ave for $74,250. Prior sale 2013 foreclosure
2 Branch Place for $153,000. Prior sale in 1981 for $36,000

April 11, 2014 – Friday
40 Crosby St for $150,000. Prior sale in 1975
80 Rogers St Unit 604 for $200,000. New condominium
80 Rogers St Unit 602 for $199,900. New condominium
79 Princeton Blvd for $270,000. Prior sale in 2002 for $289,900
21 Albert St for $283,000. Prior sale in 1953
58 Brunswick St for $270,000. Prior sale in 2006 for $369,000

Lowell Politics & History