Mike Dukakis: From brink of the presidency to a quiet life of significance

bGlobeBy Thomas Farragher | Boston Globe

It happened a lifetime ago, in the days when few people knew who Michael Dukakis was, and still fewer could imagine the life that spread out before him — the governorships, the bid for the White House, the career today as an academic eminence grise.

But what he saw that day 50 years ago at the Walter E. Fernald State School in Waltham, where people with developmental disabilities were dismissed by their doctors and warehoused by a society content to keep them out of sight, has never left him.

Its tectonic impact is visible as he sits in the corner of a conference room here at the New England Center for Children.

His familiar strong-and-firm voice grows thin. He speaks haltingly. His eyes fill with tears. He’s clearly choked with emotion by the memory of it all.

“We were in a building with a concrete floor, kind of the size of a small basketball court,’’ he recalled. “There were 75 boys, half of them naked, sitting in their own excrement. The stench was overpowering. They were rocking back and forth for hours. With two attendants. In Massachusetts. Unbelievable.’’

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