“Tip” O’Neill, Jr.: Congressman and Eternal Eagle

With Thomas P. O'Neill, Jr.’s approaching 100th birthday, Boston College thought it an excellent time to celebrate the man for whom its biggest library is named. Hence, it initiated the Thomas “Tip” O’Neill, Jr. Centennial Commemoration Lecture Series.  Yesterday's lecture featured Thomas E. Mann, a W. Averell Harriman Chair and a senior fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution. Mann highlighted many of O’Neill’s accomplishments as both an eagle and a congressman as O'Neill's family and friends looked on.

An eagle with a lifelong attachment to Boston College, O’Neill developed a scholarship fund allowing for over 300 students to attend the university, delivered several political lectures here and attended football and hockey games. He even donated his political papers to the Boston College Library

O’Neill never forgot his alma mater and was a major contributor to its transformation from a small liberal arts college into one of the nation’s most prominent research and teaching universities. When he passed away on January 5, 1994, Boston College said it had lost one of its “favorite sons.”

As Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, O’Neill was a model for how a political leader can work effectively even with those whom he does not agree. Twice in their debate on Oct. 3, 2012, President Obama and Mitt Romney brought up the names of Ronald Reagan, Republican icon, and O’Neill, who was the Democratic Speaker of the House for most of Reagan’s presidency. The candidates did so to emphasize the way in which the two political leaders demonstrated a valuable capacity to work together for the good of the country despite their sometimes contrary beliefs.

This inspired Tip O’Neill’s son, Thomas P. O’Neill III, to write an article for The New York Times that described that the two men were far from friends. O’Neill said Reagan was a “cheerleader for selfishness” and Reagan said O’Neill was a “a round thing that gobbles up money.”

“There were tough words and important disagreements over everything from taxation to Medicare and military spending. But there was yet a stronger commitment to getting things done,” according to O'Neill III.

Book written in part by main lecture speaker, Thomas E. Mann, on why U.S. Congress is currently ineffectual.  

There will be another lecture in the Tip O’Neill series held on 11/2, in 521 McGuinn. An RSVP is required, so respond promptly if you want to learn more about the potential difference a dedicated eagle can make.