During Governor Dukakis’s 90th Birthday Celebration on November 2, 2023, held at Harvard University Loeb House and organized by the Boston Global Forum, Ramu Damodaran, the First Chief of the United Nations Academic Impact, Co-Chair of the United Nations Centennial Initiative, spoke on Governor Dukakis’ achievements and legacy. Below are some notes from his speech:
“Governor Dukakis, you have been responsible for the miracle that is Massachusetts. But beyond that, you have created what the very ponderous words of our program have called a democratic, humanitarian, and optimized society: a society based on deep understanding, a society based upon kindness, a society based upon innovation. Today is also another 90th birthday by another distinguished citizen of Boston, my compatriot, Dr. Amartya Sen. Dr. Sen has spoken about human rights as the acknowledgment that we are part of something larger than ourselves, that deep understanding that Governor Dukakis brought to the table. We’ve spoken about the infrastructure of Boston, about its limitations, and its challenges. But let’s also remember what the Governor said at that time: “Let opportunity be our watchword.” We need a connection between the North and the South so that people can move freely. Think of that as a metaphor for a link between the historically affluent North and an emerging South, which, as Swami G and Krish pointed out in the context of the G20 and the Civil 20, and the benediction and guidance of Amma, we are now trying to create.
Let us think of the kindness of all that Governor Dukakis did to make life easier for every individual, whether in terms of health insurance, being able to go and get a marriage license in an afternoon, starting your morning as a bachelor, ending the day as a husband. And in terms of innovation, where are we now? We have new tech industries that have made the city the beacon of the United States, and the world. But also, new tech industries around the world have reached out to the citizens of this nation, making their lives easier, but also possibly much more complex, as the Governor has said. The promise as well as the perils of AI are offered before us. And we think of innovation at its most obvious and human levels.
I’d like to end with a quotation from the song ‘Ripple’ by Grateful Dead, in which Jerry Garcia sings, “Let it be known that there is a fountain that was not made by the hands of men. The hands of men are finite, sometimes infirmed, sometimes weak.” And Amma said, “Don’t expect governments to handle this. It will be for you, the us.” This forum is the “you,” this “us” is what this forum is, and “us” is what Governor Dukakis has made Massachusetts. There are no others, there is just one first-person invested in himself but in that investment, he invested in the many.”