Madame President, members of this senate, friends and family,
No one, but perhaps those who serve here, can appreciate my feelings of deep affection, gratitude, and a real sense of melancholy at this parting. To this historic place, and the kindness of many many people, I owe so much. And I love this place more than you can imagine.
This place, this senate chamber, remains one of the most extraordinary institutions in the world and it has been such a tremendous honor and the thrill of a lifetime to have represented the Senate’s First Suffolk District for more than 11 years.
But there will come a time when each of you, in this body, stands here as I do and bids farewell. So, yes there is a good deal of sadness in leaving. But there is also great joy for me and my family as I enter the next phase, the next challenge in my life, accepting a partnership position at the distinguished and growing Boston law firm, Nelson Mullins Riley and Scarborough.
To President Murray, for the leader that you are for all of us, for giving me the chance to serve on your leadership team from the start, and for the extraordinary example you’ve set for women around the commonwealth, especially my four daughters who see in you the endless possibilities for themselves. Your strong and compassionate leadership has served us well.
As American author Leo C. Rosten wrote, “The purpose of life is to count, to matter, to stand for something, to have made some difference that you lived at all”. Madame president, because of your work to date and the things you will continue to accomplish , your purpose in life is complete, it is fulfilled because of what you’ve done, and what this body has accomplished that has made such a difference in the lives of others.
To my Senate staff, Jennifer Jackson, Tommy Butler, Mike Moynihan, Karen Crowley, Michelle Lavoie and others who are here today like Rosemary Powers and Nathan Pham, I am eternally grateful for your efforts on behalf of the people of our district and for representing me so well here at the statehouse. You have managed to accomplish great things in our office through your dedication and compassion for your work, and along the way, in the neighborhoods and in the halls here at the Statehouse, you have made me look good. But much of the credit belongs to you. Each of you has a bright future and wherever you land in your new endeavor, they’ll be lucky to have you.
I’ve always repeated the same theme to the people who worked in our office. When someone calls upon us from the neighborhoods in our district looking for help, whether it be an elderly woman who is being evicted from her apartment and needs housing, or somebody who has a family and was laid off from his/her job and is looking for work, a parent who needs substance abuse treatment for one of the kids , or a veteran who needs an understanding of the benefits and services available to him; if these people are calling our office it is likely because they have nowhere else to turn. So let’s treat them accordingly and with dignity, with each of those calls treated as if they were the most important call of the day that we were dealing with. And our staff did that, fielding countless calls every day, perhaps as well as any office here at the Statehouse. You will always be like family to me and I can’t thank you enough for everything.
As for family, my sisters, Teresa, Maureen, Susan and Ellen and I, hit the parents’ lottery. My parents, John and Ellie Hart were the best parents we could ever have imagined. They taught us all we needed to know about faith, hard work, kindness, and decency by the simple eloquence of their example. It was how they carried themselves and how respectfully they treated other people no matter who those people were or what situation in life they found themselves in.
My mother and father spent every waking moment of their married lives doing things that would make our lives better. It’s a debt to them we can never fully repay. It is said that “Having gratitude without expressing it, is like wrapping a present and never giving it”. So, today, on behalf of my four sisters and the thirteen grandchildren, I simply say thank you. You are the greatest!!!
We grew up in South Boston, and if you know South Boston, you know that politics was of paramount importance. Politics was in our blood and election day, my father would say, was the most exciting day of the year, even more exciting than Superbowl Sunday.
So when an opportunity arose in 1996 to run for an open House seat, after much discussion with family and friends, I decided to get in the race. I was newly married at the time. No children.
My family and friends literally gave up a large part of their own lives, and still do, for the sake of my political career and, I have to say, as many of you well know, it is an incredibly humbling experience, to have so many people giving of themselves to us in the political arena.
Each night after a long day of campaigning my family would meet at Youville Hospital in Cambridge to visit my father who was stricken with lung and heart disease to keep him apprised and to recount the day’s activities.
My fondest memory was my first victory on September 17, 1996. We gathered after the polls closed to be with my father at a common room at the hospital and we took the polling numbers over the phone from my headquarters. We were tallying the numbers on the back of a pizza box which I still have framed in my office. It was a moment my family had together with my father, before heading off to our victory party, celebrating our first win, that we will always cherish as he passed away a few months later. Politically, it was a dream come true for me and even bigger dreams came true 5 years later with an opportunity here in the Senate.
It has been a great ride now for more than 11 years and I can’t begin to describe how wonderful it has been to meet people throughout my district, from South Boston, Dorchester, Mattapan and Hyde Park.
My approach in life is in line with my mother’s advice to us as we were growing up. She always drove home this message that “It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice”. That’s the way my sisters and I have tried to lead our lives over the years. And that’s the way I’ve dealt with people in politics, trying to build consensus in a reasonable and decent way in order to get things done and accomplish good things for people.
I am very proud of all that we’ve been able to achieve in this body and there are many accomplishments that I can point to that benefitted the people who I represent. When I first got elected, we had over one hundred community meetings in developing a master plan for the South Boston Waterfront. You remember there was an attempt to build a football stadium, baseball stadium and a convention center, all a part of what they called the megaplex, which, as leaders, we flatly fought against. We thought we could do better and we have.
Sixteen years later, with great thanks to our mayor, Tom Menino, it’s the hottest piece of real estate in the country, dubbed Boston’s Innovation District and home to thousands of new jobs and tens of thousands of additional jobs for the people around the region a few years down the road.
I am proud of my co authorship of the 2008 Life Sciences Bill, and of the nation’s most ethical stem cell research bill, of the millions in capital dollars that I was able to bring to Umass Boston. The Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, funding for Boston’s branch public libraries, four renovated red line stations in Dorchester, a new Mattapan T station and three or possibly four new stations on the Fairmount commuter line in Dorchester and Mattapan.
Thanks to the millions of dollars in state investment that I championed, we have, around metropolitan Boston, the cleanest beaches in urban America. And Charter schools are providing hope, especially in the inner city, for parents and their children for a better future.
Also, I am proud of the work we are doing in the city around substance abuse and addiction. While we have made significant progress, we still have work to do.
Finally my support for veterans benefits, the most generous of all fifty states here in Massachusetts, has been my greatest priority as it is one of the most important things we can do as a society.
To my incredible family who I am sure is relieved that they no longer have to call volunteers, to organize fundraisers, or work at the polls, what can I say but I love you and thank you. To Harry Uhlman, who has been, to me, like a second father, my eternal gratitude. To Michele, my extraordinary wife, who has been a real partner for me in this game of politics, it wasn’t always easy with me being out all the time and for, incredibly, surviving my four years of law school at night when our four daughters were little. I don’t know how you did it, but you have been remarkable and I love you more each day.
To my children, Kathleen, Maggie, Emily and Marykate, I am very proud of the work you do in school and the kind and decent girls that you have become.
Lastly, to my friends and supporters and to the residents throughout my district, thank you for believing in me and for allowing me to follow along this amazing journey. As General Grant said to Abraham Lincoln upon victory, “I was successful for one reason, because you believed in me”. I too was successful because all of you believed in me. We were able to accomplish together many things during the past 16 years and I have loved each and every minute of it. You have given me a remarkable gift – one that I will always remember. And as a result of your unwavering trust, confidence, and support, I remain humbled and eternally grateful.
Finally, back in the old country, in Ireland, there is an old saying, “If you are lucky enough to be Irish, you are lucky enough”. Let me re phrase that saying here today by stating, “If you’re lucky enough to have had the privilege of serving here in this body and to have family and friends as I have had to support you along the way, then you are lucky enough”. And I certainly am lucky enough.
Thank you for this wonderful and glorious time of my life. Godspeed and farewell.