Remarks by Congressman Richard E. Neal

Thank you, Madam President, and thanks to the Board of Trustees. And certainly a word of thanks to the graduates and their families today. Congratulations.

I just wanted to focus on a few minutes on a point that President Pasquerella made. And that was Frances Perkins.


I got to go to college because of Frances Perkins. And as noted in the introduction, my parents died at a young age and my immigrant aunts’ parents and my grandmother’s parents, they took us in. We lived as a family. My grandmother was one of 14 and she had seven. She’d done her part for humanity.

I call that to your attention today because Frances Perkins said that the New York [Triangle] Shirtwaist Factory fire was the beginning of the New Deal. She was the principal architect of the greatest anti-poverty program in the history of the world.

[cheers, applause]

Social Security. I remind you in your youth, in the great sense today that you have of accomplishment, that the genius of community is that in our youth, we all pull the wagon because in our aged years we might have to sit in the wagon.

And today, Frances Perkins looms large in my life. And if I walk past or drive past the Department of Labor and I see that name, boldly printed [outside] that building, Frances Perkins labor department, I’m reminded of the great sense of gratitude that I feel for her work of genius.

So today, thank you, Mount Holyoke, and thank you, Frances Perkins.