Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts Karyn Polito, BC ’88, spoke at Boston College on Monday about the importance of civil discourse in politics today and how it has contributed to effective Republican leadership in the blue state of Massachusetts.
Polito was first elected lieutenant governor as part of Governor Charlie Baker’s administration in 2014 and was reelected in 2018. She has worked to strengthen partnerships within towns and cities across the Commonwealth, and her legislative priorities have been to prevent sexual assault and domestic violence, in addition to increasing access to STEM education.
“It is such an honor to be back,” Polito said. “I am very proud to be part of [the Class of 1988], and I can’t state enough how great this college is—and certainly was for me—in forming my thoughts about my future.”
She then brought up Walsh Hall—the building in which she was speaking—and said that it brought back a lot of memories for her, such as when she made her decision about whether to study abroad. She knew she really wanted to go, but was unsure about leaving BC, a place where she was very comfortable and involved in campus life. Going abroad also wasn’t a familiar thing to the family of Polito, who was a first-generation college student.
Polito, ultimately deciding not to go abroad, said she sometimes thinks about the decision as a regret—but, in reality, there was no wrong answer.
“At that time I wasn’t willing to just get beyond my comfort zone … and that was okay,” she said. “But when I think about my life today as I come back to this campus and have a conversation with you, I don’t have many regrets. If that’s the only one that I’m pointing out to you, that’s pretty darn good.”
Polito told the audience members not to live their lives with regret.
“It’s all about trying to figure out when you have that opportunity that it really is an opportunity … and then be willing to step out and take it,” she said.
Polito discussed how, after BC, she went back to her home of Shrewsbury, Mass. to start a life attached to the community that had been good to her while growing up. Polito started her law career there and eventually decided to run for positions in the town.
She served on Shrewsbury’s Board of Selectmen for three years and then ran for state senate in 1998, but she lost, bringing her to her second lesson.
“There’s never a loss in trying something and falling short,” she said. “The loss is [a] missed opportunity, that regret for not trying something.”
Polito said she never really had an interest in politics while she was at BC.
“While you’re studying in certain majors and concentrations, and you believe that all the work you’re doing here is going to take you to a likely place, it’s more likely that you will find yourself in unlikely places,” she said.
Polito talked about the campaign she ran with Baker in the 2010 election and how their loss made them do something unlikely the next time around: They surrounded themselves not with people who looked and thought the way they did, but with diverse people of different political affiliations.
Polito and Baker went out on the road and met with people in communities that were unlikely to support the duo to show potential constituents that she and Baker would be willing to work with everyone, regardless of the different political mindsets candidates exhibited during the campaign. They thought that being advised by people with diverse backgrounds, thoughts, and political ideas was the only way their team was going to get things done.
“This is what I call—and the Governor call—‘the Massachusetts way’ … the idea of putting partnerships before partisanship, the idea of investing in all places of the Commonwealth, and investing in people, people being our biggest asset,” Polito said.
She concluded her speech by praising BC students. Polito said she was encouraged to see that those in the audience had made the decision to come out and be a part of something constructive, especially at a time where they were witnessing a lack of productivity on the national level.
“Take your talent, what you learn, your passion, and your commitment to helping this state be even better than it is today,” she said. “And wherever you take it … lay your roots even deeper, begin your career—maybe [it will] lead to other careers—and then do what makes you happy in the course of your next stages and steps in life.”
Featured Image by Jonathon Ye / Heights Editor