What Martin O’Malley Learned Teaching at BC Law This Semester

Martin O’Malley decided to stay close to home for college, attending Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., but he thinks that if he’d wanted to leave the area, he might’ve come to Boston College.

O’Malley spent the semester at BC Law School teaching a course on performance management in the information age, specifically the way the internet has made leadership a more collaborative process. Leaders no longer know everything six months before their constituents.

“When everybody knows everything at the same time, leaders have to constantly put themselves at the center of that emerging truth,” the former Democratic presidential candidate said in a phone interview on Monday.

They looked at climate change, including a case study on water quality in the Chesapeake Bay and how, as governor of Maryland, O’Malley went about managing the situation. They also talked about health care and efforts to align profit motives with wellness rather than “paying hospitals as if they were hotels.”

“I came to Boston College thinking 10 percent of effective governance was policy and 90 percent is follow-up,” he said. “And I came to understand because of the students in my class and their insights that actually 10 percent of effective governance is policy, 40 percent is follow-up, and 50 percent is leadership.”

Without leadership, one of his students wrote in a reaction paper, performance management “doesn’t amount to a hill of beans.” O’Malley said his student had half the course: without performance management, leadership doesn’t amount to a hill of beans, either.

O’Malley thinks that in the Trump era, the Democratic Party has an opportunity to return to its first principles: to take actions that create a stronger middle class. He thinks Democrats will remake themselves from the ground up, and said it will potentially become more distributive and less focused on insider politics.

“I believe that darkness makes a great canvas,” he said.

O’Malley is back in Baltimore, where he plans to do an undergraduate version of the course he taught this semester at the University of Maryland, College Park in the fall. He’ll also continue traveling the country talking to Democrats. Beyond that, he said he hasn’t decided yet what to do.

One of his students said that because of O’Malley’s class, he refuses to view the current political landscape with despair. O’Malley thinks that actions by the Trump administration will make Democratic policies stand out in sharp relief.

“It seems like it’s been more than 100 days, but it’s only been 100 days, and in the fullness of time people will see that what Donald Trump is proposing for our country is not the set of actions and choices that are going to allow us all to be able to get ahead when we work hard,” he said.

He added that one of the things he saw teaching at BC was that not many young people deny climate change or are willing to deny rights to gay couples.

“All of that tells me that this is a detour, this is an aberration,” he said. “Where America’s headed is a much more compassionate, generous, connected, and prosperous place.”

Featured Image by Kate Mahoney / Heights Staff

May 3, 2017