Dukakis Urges Americans to Be Optimistic; Says Individuals `Really Can Make a Difference'
With a talented and persistent new president in the White House, Americans should be optimistic for the future, former Massachusetts Gov. Michael S. Dukakis said at the Kennedy School of Government yesterday.
Speaking as part of the school's Democratic Caucus Fall Speaker Series, the 1988 Democratic presidential candidate encouraged his audience of about 50 to become involved in public service because individuals "really can make a difference."
The three-term governor was especially generous yesterday with his praise of President Clinton.
"It's that sense of really being able to do things that we have to put back in the public and private dialogue," Dukakis said, "and I think the guy from Arkansas can really do it."
Dukakis also echoed Clinton's own frequent campaign comparison of himself to former President John F. Kennedy '40.
"I was a great fan of Jack Kennedy," he said, "but if all goes well, in his first year, Bill Clinton will have done more than Kennedy did in his first three, congressionally."
Dukakis rejected a questioner's suggestion that Clinton's popularity would suffer from narrow margins of legislative victory, like this week's nail-biting passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement in the House.
"These are tough issues, and there's a lot of negotiation," Dukakis said. "The true measure of his ability isn't whether he wins by one vote, two votes, or 15 votes, but whether his agenda gets through."
Dukakis also praised the advances in governmental effectiveness and ethics since he entered public life in the early '60s.
"We've come light years," he said. "It doesn't mean those in public service back then didn't do a good job, but we have the capacity to do much better....There's no comparison between the standards of integrity 30 years ago and the standards expected today."
Dukakis said Americans are becoming increasingly disillusioned with government because of negative coverage by the media.
"Ever since Watergate, I think, there's been this sense in the press that if we don't beat someone up, there's something wrong," Dukakis said.
"I'm worried that a constant diet of negative stuff has had an adverse effect on public attitudes," he added.