By Liam Dacko
The audience in the Shields Science Center erupted in laughter Oct. 6 when Boston Mayor Marty Walsh opened his speech to the school community with a tale of youthful rebellion.
Walsh said he last visited Stonehill College in 1986 during a weekend trip to see friends who were students at the school. He was asked to leave campus three times in one night for partying too hard. Each time he was escorted off the property, he kept sneaking back on to campus so he could keep partying.
Those in attendance at the Petit Atrium got quite a kick out of this story, but things quickly took a more serious turn as Walsh used it to segue into a discussion about his alcoholism.
“I have tons of funny stories,” he said. “But they started to turn. They weren’t so funny anymore.”
Throughout the hour-long event, Walsh was quite candid about his past. He spoke in great detail about his time working for the Laborer’s Union, during which his alcoholic tendencies were at their peak.
At this time in his life, it was not uncommon for Walsh to wake up in the morning after blacking out the night before. On these occasions, he often had no idea how he got home, he said.
Additionally, there were several times he was thrown out of different venues for exhibiting drunken behavior. One time, he was thrown out of a Bruins game, something he “doesn’t remember,” he said.
“I knew my life was out of control,” Walsh said.
Despite his realization that something needed to change, Walsh was unable to bring himself to take action.
It was not until his boss at the Laborer’s Union gave him a phone number for the Gosnold Treatment Center in Falmouth, Mass., that Walsh’s life started to turn around.
Walsh said he only went to the treatment center to “get the heat off [him].” In fact, he was quite doubtful that going there would do him any good.
“I thought my life was over to some degree,” he said. “But it was just beginning.” Eventually, Walsh managed to get sober and started to realize he had the potential to do big things.
“When I got sober, things got clearer for me,” he said.
Coming out of rehabilitation, Walsh made the decision to follow his lifelong dream to go into politics.
“I wanted to see my name on a bumper sticker,” he said.
Walsh was eventually elected to serve in the Massachusetts House of Representatives. He held that position from 1997 to 2013, after which he successfully ran for Mayor of Boston.
While serving as a legislator, Walsh went back to school after previously leaving Quincy College and Suffolk University without completing his studies. Walsh received a degree in political science from Boston College in 2009.
In an interview with The Summit prior to his speech, Walsh elaborated on his decision to go back to College.
“It’s something I am grateful that I did. My mother and father were from Ireland and they didn’t have a college degree. I felt it was important I pursue that,” he said.
Walsh said the road to his degree was bumpy, but he managed everything well.
“It was difficult because I went to school at night. It was really difficult because as a legislator I was in a very busy district, so there was always something going on. It took me a long time to get it, but I put my mind to it. I wanted to accomplish something. I didn’t want to drop out. I felt it was important to have a college degree,” he said.
Concluding his speech, Walsh tried to leave students with some words of wisdom about pursuing dreams.
Walsh said it is important for students to be persistent and to “keep moving forward,” as one never knows where life will take them.
“Last time I drove off campus, if you told me I’d be back as Mayor,” he said. “You never know life’s twists and turns.”
Walsh further discussed this idea during his interview with The Summit.
“You have to pursue your dreams,” he said. “Whatever your dream is, you have to pursue it. The worst thing that is going to happen if you don’t achieve it, at least you tried it. I tell people that all the time.” Walsh said students need to remember that anything is possible.
“There’s no such thing as a pipe dream,” he said. “You can pursue anything if you’re determined enough to try and accomplish something. Half the battle is trying to accomplish it.”
Following his address, Walsh opened the floor to questions from the audience. At first, attendees seemed hesitant to stand up and ask questions, but people became more comfortable as the event proceeded.
A male student asked Walsh to respond to a statement made by Donald Trump at a political event in August after the Mayor nominated the presidential candidate to do the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.
“He’s a clown, Marty Walsh,” Trump said at the time.“This guy Marty Walsh. He spends all this time and effort and money on an Olympic bid, and then he goes out and he’s talking about ice bucket challenges. Get a real mayor.”
Answering the student’s question about Trump, Walsh said he had “no reason to respond to that,” to which he received a rousing round of applause from the audience.
“I don’t think [Trump] understood the question clearly,” Walsh said.
Later during the question and answer session, Trisha Brown, head coach of Stonehill women’s basketball, told Walsh one of her players was looking for work in his office.
“We can talk later,” Brown said, earning many laughs from the crowd.
Brown then asked Walsh two questions. First, she wanted to know whether or not late Mayor of Boston Thomas Menino ever gave Walsh any advice. He said that Menino taught him to always put the people first.
For her second question, Brown asked Walsh to share his proudest moment since being elected as Mayor of Boston. At first, Walsh had trouble thinking of an answer. “Maybe the Patriots parade,” he said to the amusement of the audience.
After thinking about his answer for a while, Walsh said his proudest moment happened when he got to open a state of the art homeless shelter during his first year as mayor.
Later in the night, Walsh, a Democrat, responded to a student who asked about the relationship he has with Governor Charlie Baker, a Republican.
Walsh said he and Baker have been in contact lately about issues related to transportation and snow removal. Although the two do disagree from time to time, it is not nearly as dramatic as the press makes it out to be.
“We’re going to disagree,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be played out in the press all the time.”
Walsh said he feels “the party system needs to have a wakeup call,” as fewer young people are registering to vote or enrolling in political parties, possibly due in part to the contention between Democrats and Republicans.
“We need to take a page out of the book of Tip O’Neill and Ronald Reagan,” he said. Toward the end of the event, the Rev. Jim Lies, C.S.C., asked Walsh about his experience going to Boston College, a Catholic institution. The Mayor said his religious faith is a “guiding point” in his life.
“I have a strong faith,” Walsh said. “I pray every day.” Before leaving the stage, Walsh decided to impart one final message to the students in attendance.
He told students to look out for friends having trouble with drugs or alcohol. Walsh told students to find them help, as they may end up saving a friend’s life in doing so.
For those in this situation, Walsh said they can call the Mayor’s office anytime and that his employees would do what they could to assist with the issue.