Remembering Tom McGee: Former House Speaker Has Many Qualities That Are Needed Today

January 8, 2013
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We will leave to others the listing of the many achievements of the late Tom McGee, the legendary Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives for nine years from 1975-84, who arguably was the most powerful political figure in the state during his tenure.

But in our view, those who knew Speaker McGee always will remember him for three qualities which are in short supply today at all levels of government.

First and foremost, he understood that our democracy is based on the premise first espoused by Henry Clay: “Politics is the art of compromise.” While it certainly is true ¬†that Speaker McGee ¬†held strong views on many issues, he also understood that government had to get things done. Gridlock was not an option in the Tom McGee playbook. He played the game hard, but the sort of gridlock that we see today in government was not part of Tom McGee’s lexicon. He believed in the power of government to do good things for his constituents. Massachusetts became one of the most progressive states in the nation during the time he served as Speaker of the House.

Second, flowing from his core belief of the  need for government to make life better for all citizens, Tom McGee never forgot where he came from. Despite rising to the pinnacle of success and power in the Massachusetts political world, Tom McGee always put his constituents first. The outpouring of sympathy over his recent passing is a testament to the literally thousands of people who were helped by Speaker McGee on a personal level.  

Finally, when Tom McGee gave you his word, it was as good as gold. Some may say that he was a throwback to an era long gone in politics, but in our view, who can deny ¬†that some of the qualities Tom McGee stood for would not be welcome on today’s political scene.

When reflecting on the life and accomplishments of Tom McGee, who rose to the highest heights on the political stage, the words of the poet Wordsworth nonetheless  come to mind:

That best portion of a good man’s life,

His little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and love.

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