Cristo Rey Boston High School Academic Signing Day 2018

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CEO Tom, COO Shelly, VP of Operations Nairi, pictured with former O’Neill and Associates Cristo Rey corporate work study student Angela (second from right)

Academic Signing Day is one of the most anticipated highlights for the graduating class of Cristo Rey Boston High School. The day culminates with a celebration where the five top-performing seniors reveal their college decisions by donning a hat emblazoned with their selected college’s logo. Their chosen destinations: UMass Lowell, Bentley University, UMass Amherst, UMass Boston, and Boston College. The jubilant moment is filled with shouts of praise and tears of joy. And, while the event’s main attraction is the unveiling by these extraordinary seniors, the night celebrates the entire graduating class of Cristo Rey Boston High School, exceptional in that every graduating senior goes on to a four year college. Many of them are the first in their families to graduate high school.

The path from freshman year to graduation is not easy for Cristo Rey Boston students. Many first year students come to the school with skill levels that are below average for their grade and age. Over the course of four years of accelerated academics, nearly all the students graduate at the appropriate skill level. Along with classroom work, the school requires students to take on a work study at a local business to gain insight into what it is like to work in a professional setting.

Cristo Rey utilizes a unique educational model and multipronged approach for success: active participation by family, faculty, and corporate sponsors. The students, who often come from limited means, must first have a family who is willing to steer them to the private school and encourage them along the way. Balancing challenging academics and a work study is rigorous and support at home is essential. At school the faculty works with each individual student, giving them personal attention and instruction. There are no shortcuts to success, but the path to graduation is paved with such caring classroom teaching teams. Lastly, corporate sponsors play an integral role in the lives of the students. Beginning in their freshman year, companies takes on students and mentors them over the next four years by providing guidance and teaching valuable skills that will benefit them in all future endeavors.

In the end, the true success behind Cristo Rey Boston is the resolve and commitment of the students themselves. The students must want to succeed. Despite all the incredible support of family, faculty, and corporate sponsors, these students still need to make the most of the opportunities in front of them.

Cristo Rey Boston is special to everyone at O’Neill and Associates. CEO Tom O’Neill served as Board Chair of Cristo Rey Boston and its predecessor, North Cambridge Catholic for nearly three decades. In addition our office has employed work study students since the program’s inception in 2004. The staff here knows the work study students personally and we are invested in their success. It is a privilege to be a part of the Cristo Rey Boston story. Our sincere congratulations to the Class of 2018.

Intern Tengi on CEO Tom O’Neill Speaking to Students at Boston University

Tom O’Neill spoke at Boston University on Wednesday night to give advice to the next generation of hopeful diplomats and politicians. Mr. O’Neill spent the evening fielding questions from the members of Delta Phi Epsilon, one of the university’s  foreign service organization. He eloquently spoke on a range of topics including future political trends, the value of social media, and told stories of his career, including an anecdote from when he ran political campaigns at the age of 16 for his father, former Speaker of the House Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill, Jr. The students, who vary in major and class year, asked question after question in an attempt to learn as much information as possible about a man who has dedicated his life to politics.

As far as professional speaking events go, this one raised the bar for student expectations. The members sat engaged and excited as Mr. O’Neill spoke about his career and joked about his best angle for photographs. The students were captivated by his stories and insights,  leaving not a single moment to pass without a question or an answer. “Sorry I keep asking questions about social media,” one student said as she raised her hand yet again but Mr. O’Neill happily took her question as he did all the student’s questions.

Delta Phi Epsilon, which exists as a foreign service organization, holds professional lectures every semester, bringing in the best and brightest in a variety of fields. This semester’s speaker, Tom O’Neill is a man who transformed the public affairs industry. Once he began to speak, it became clear why he has managed to make such a tremendous impact on the industry. Mr. O’Neill captures your attention when he speaks. He is a thought-leader and a wealth of knowledge, experience, and guidance to all those he meets. As an intern at O’Neill and Associates, I have learned so much from him and the entire OA team. I look forward to continuing to grow and develop valuable skills working at O’Neill and Associates.

A Reflection on the Blizzard of 78

By: Tom O’Neill 

Blizzard of 78February 5, 2018 marked forty years since the infamous Blizzard of 78 struck the northeast. In 1978, I was Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts and very clearly remember the challenges former Governor Michael Dukakis and I faced in the wake of such a paralyzing storm.

Snow began to fall on a Sunday afternoon at over an inch an hour. I was at the Garden, where Boston College was playing in the first round of the Beanpot Tournament, losing 12 to 5 to Boston University, our longtime rival. As I watched the defeat of my alma mater, neither I nor the fans around me realized the disastrous conditions that awaited us outside. I was fortunate enough to be able to make it out of the Garden, but hundreds of Beanpot spectators ended up stranded there for days, unable to leave because of the debilitating weather and whiteout conditions. On the precarious trek back to Beacon Hill, I stopped frequently to help stranded drivers push their cars out of snowdrifts. The state soon implemented a travel ban to help protect any more individuals from becoming trapped in their cars away from shelter, as many were.

Early the following morning I boarded an Army helicopter with the Federal Disaster Assistance Administration (today known as FEMA) to spend the week crisscrossing the Commonwealth, checking in with towns and cities as they dug out, and seeing first responders and volunteers help stranded motorists. Despite advance warnings, most in Massachusetts could not fully anticipate the intensity and duration of the storm.  As I traveled the state, I had the privilege of witnessing firsthand the lengths that residents across the Commonwealth would go to in order to help friends, neighbors, and even strangers in times of need.

Over the past year we have seen similar selfless acts following devastating natural disasters. There was Darryl Hudeck, who rescued a mother and her 13-month-old son from flood waters in Houston following Hurricane Harvey. Then there was Massachusetts State Police Sergeant Christopher Sanchez, who deployed to Puerto Rico and helped a young, disabled girl find a new wheelchair after losing everything in Hurricane Maria. These simple acts of kindness that transcend generations from the Blizzard of 1978 to present day, reminding us that even in the snowiest of winters, or the most challenging of storms, we are one community.

CEO Thomas P. O’Neill III on the 2018 State of the Union address

Dear Friend,

Like many Americans, I watched President Trump give his State of the Union address on Tuesday evening. In his address, the President called for unity.  The words, when read from a Teleprompter, offered the impression of a changed man. But the call stood in stark contrast from the policies his administration has pursued. In his single year as president, we have witnessed passionate resistance provoked by the actions and tweets of the President. From the Women’s March and Black Lives Matter to those who protested against the violence in Charlottesville and voted to change a senate seat in Alabama, people in blue states and red states are organizing anew and taking a stand for American ideals. True to the old saying, the President’s divisive actions speak louder than his rehearsed words about unity. Calls to set aside differences mean nothing if not backed by action.

In contrast, while Representative Joe Kennedy III’s response to the State of the Union invoked a similar message of unity, his words were backed by a compassionate policy platform that seeks a better life for everyone in this country.  Kennedy’s call to leave no American behind was uplifting and inspiring. He rejected the impulse to pit groups against each other, the notion that policy outcomes are a zero-sum game in which some must lose if others are to succeed. His words carried meaning because his plans support them.

Elected leaders should commit that 2018 be a time to search for opportunities to set aside differences. Words are not enough. It’s time to do what’s right for all our people.

Sincerely,

Tom O’Neill

CEO’s Corner: Inaction On Gun Control Can No Longer Be An Option

220px-thomas_p_oneill_iiiIn the last 35 days our nation has seen two of the deadliest mass shootings in United States history. Political leaders offer their “thoughts and prayers” for the victims, their families and friends. I don’t doubt the sincerity of their condolences, but the killings at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs were committed in a house of worship. The victims were there to pray. While we mourn the victims, we’re compelled to point out that our prayers won’t return the dead, our prayers won’t erase the memories of the survivors, churchgoers who no doubt witnessed horror that will remain with them the rest of their lives. This small, close-knit town lost almost five percent of its residents at Sunday Mass.

Republican elected officials, in particular, reject immediate calls to action. The talking points have been distributed– it’s too soon to talk about gun control; we need to let these families mourn.

The New York Times November 6, 2017 editorial “It’s Not Too Soon to Debate Gun Control” offers a forceful, graphical rebuttal to this claim. While we are within days of the killings in Texas, we are 36 days removed from the Las Vegas shooting, 513 days removed the Orlando Nightclub Shooting, and 1,789 days removed from the slaughter of children at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. If new horrors await us regularly, “it’s too soon” can always apply. The claim is hollow. The memory of the victims should demand that we act.

This Fall, Republicans in Congress are attempting to fast-track a tax plan that rearranges the entire economy and skews cuts to corporations and the wealthy. President Trump, Leader Mitch McConnell and Speaker Paul Ryan declared that Congress must act before the end of the year, tax cuts are so important. But 40 days after more than 500 were wounded or killed in Las Vegas, and only days after more than two dozen were killed in Sutherland Springs, Texas, there is no urgency—in fact there is no effort at all by President Trump, the Senate Leader, or the House Speaker to address the prevalence of military-grade assault weapons in the United States and the horror for which those tools of death are responsible. Let’s be clear, the time isn’t “right” for gun legislation, it is tragically overdue. To think that partisanship, and fear of the NRA, would be more important than the obligation of elected officials to ensure the basic safety of our citizens is simply unforgivable to me as a former public official.

According to a 2016 study, states with stricter gun laws see fewer gun-related deaths. I am proud to say that Massachusetts is leading the way in gun control—the first state to introduce and pass a law banning the sale of bump stocks, the accessory used by the Las Vegas shooter that allowed him to shoot more than 500 people in a matter of minutes. The effort was introduced by the overwhelmingly Democratic legislature in the wake of the Las Vegas massacre but was met with bi-partisan support and ultimately signed into law by the Baker administration on November 3rd. Fully automatic assault weapons have been banned in the United States since 1935. Many semi-automatic assault rifles, including the the AR-15, were banned from 1994-2004, but in 2004 Congress allowed that law to expire. The AR-15 is manufactured by Colt’s Manufacturing Company in Hartford, Connecticut. Since 2004, an AR-15 was used by mass murderers in Sutherland Springs, in Las Vegas, in Orlando at the Pulse Nightclub, in San Bernadino, in Sandy Hook, and at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. When is it not “too soon”?

Congress should take its lead from the bipartisan approach of effective and thoughtful leadership on gun control in MA. Inaction can no longer be an option.

A few years back I gave a speech in Denver, Colorado where I was asked about my stance on gun control. As a Democrat I feared what reaction the crowd would have to my response. The goal of gun control laws is not to strip individuals of their 2nd Amendment Rights. Individuals are welcome to own and house guns as well as use them for appropriate uses, hunting, skeet and target shooting. No, the goal of gun control is centered on the safety and protection of all. As I finished my statement I braced myself but was pleasantly surprised when I was met with applause. While the 2nd Amendment is a right given to individuals, no one can argue that we also have a right to safety and a feeling of security. By failing to act, Congress leaves the citizens of the United States vulnerable to future attacks. Legislative action is necessary and it must begin today.

 

The Sixth Annual Tip O’Neill Irish Diaspora Awards

By: Tom O’Neill

Shelly and I recently traveled to Northern Ireland for the sixth annual Tip O’Neill Irish Diaspora Award. Every year we look forward to this event and award which celebrates the life of my father and honors his dedication to peace in both the United States and Northern Ireland. The award recognizes the significance of the Diaspora and celebrates the heritage and culture that has promoted such a strong, impressive presence of County Donegal natives abroad. While it has many functions, ultimately, the Tip O’Neill Irish Diaspora Award recognizes the achievements of influential members of the Irish Diaspora community who have found tremendous success in their field of choice while never forgetting their Irish roots.

This year I had the honor of presenting the Tip O’Neill Irish Diaspora Award to four impressive individuals:  President Marty Meehan, University of Massachusetts system; food entrepreneur Frazer Doherty, Founder of SuperJam and member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE); Barbara Koster, Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer Prudential Financial; Packie Bonner, Former goalkeeper for Celtic and the Republic of Ireland national team.

Each recipient has done much to promote the progression of Northern Ireland locally and on a global scale. The Tip O’Neill Irish Diaspora Awards recognizes this commitment to the betterment of the community and its’ recipients are a true testament to the incredible influence of Donegal and the importance of the Irish Diaspora.

From HKS to Elected Office: The Hows and Whys of People Who Serve

By: Tom O’Neill 

Last week, in the Massachusetts room of the Harvard Club of Boston, surrounded by the names and faces of great politicians and fellow alum, I had the pleasure of participating in a panel discussion inspired by President John F. Kennedy’s famous quote, “ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.” The panel consisted of New Hampshire State Representative Marilinda Garcia (R), Massachusetts State Representative and Chair of the Ways & Means Committee Jeffrey Sanchez (D), Massachusetts State Representative Marjorie Decker (D), New Hampshire State Representative David Hess (R) and myself with moderator Harvard Professor David King.

The conversation began with each panelist describing their path to running for office. I could not help but notice a recurring theme in our journeys: we never intended to run.  Many of us got involved in an attempt to help our local communities through the support of a candidate we believed in or the promotion of an issue we found important. The desire to give back that is so deeply rooted in all of us led to discussion around a need for humanity in politics. On a national level this is a concept that seems to be lost under the current administration and today we have too many individuals seeking office for all the wrong reasons. We need to step out from behind the screens and away from the social media platforms that shield those who currently perpetuate hatred and division. Representative Decker backed this idea claiming, “right now, the most important thing we can do is connect [on a personal level].” Twitter, Facebook and other social media provide a means of communication but there is not substitution for a face to face conversation.

As the night came to a close, moderator David King, in true professor form, left us all with some homework, “talk to your neighbors.”  It is not enough to simply be friends on Facebook. When you know your neighbors on a deeper, more personal level, it makes for a safer, happier community. With so much division in our country, it is more important now than ever to get involved by backing the candidates looking to better the community and not just themselves, to get out and vote, and to ask what you can do for your country.

The Premiere of In the Name of Peace: John Hume in America

By: Tom O’Neill 

Last night was truly an honor. I had the privilege of sitting beside friends and family and watching the story of my dear friend John Hume play out on the big screen in the U.S. premiere of In the Name of Peace: John Hume in America. The feature documentary was the opening night selection for the Boston Film Festival.

This film is the most succinct narrative on the history of Northern Ireland spanning from Bloody Sunday to the Good Friday Agreement I have seen. It depicts the involvement of each individual in the peace process clearly and precisely. The director, Maurice Fitzpatrick, paints an incredibly accurate picture of Hume, my father, the roles of other key political leaders and the struggles of the North of Ireland.

Following the screening, there was a panel discussion with MSNBC Hardball host Chris Matthews, The Boston Globe’s Kevin Cullen, director Maurice Fitzpatrick and myself. We were all actively involved in politics or journalism during John Hume’s peace efforts. As such, we were well versed and passionate about John Hume as a person and peace for the North of Ireland.

We discussed Hume’s politics. Chris Matthews describing Hume as being a “down-to-earth” politician who explained his views in a way that anyone could understand. He used an example of John discussing the economic needs of Northern Ireland. He believed that if peace could replace the bombings and violence then tourism would grow, more jobs would be create, and all households would benefit.

We discussed Hume’s party, the Social Democratic and Labor Party (SDLP). “The SDLP was John Hume” Kevin Cullen said before going on to talk about how John’s actions essentially signed a “death warrant” for the party.

We discussed the future of Ireland. With the Brexit decision taking effect, Ireland’s peace will be put to the test. Given this, Maurice Fitzpatrick believes there is still a need for U.S. involvement in Ireland politically and economically.

I believe the atmosphere of the room last night can be summed up in a single moment. During the audience Q and A, one attendee declared to Maurice, “[Hume’s story] has got to be on the screen and you put it there.” I could not agree more. It was also special that John’s son Aidan joined us with his own son for this premiere. The story of John Hume’s fight for peace in Ireland is one everyone should know. My father used to say he had three role models in life: President Abraham Lincoln, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and John Hume. Hume is a symbol of peace, civil rights and the effectiveness of international relations. He is truly an inspiration to all.

In the Name of Peace: John Hume in America

By: Tom O’Neill 

My father, Speaker of the House Thomas “Tip” O’Neill Jr., is famously quoted as saying “All politics is local.” He believed politicians must always be privy to the needs and plight of the people and to immerse themselves in the community they represent. Having been born in an area in North Cambridge, Massachusetts commonly referred to at that time as “Old Dublin,” the community my father grew up in and later represented in Congress was predominantly Irish.  His roots defined him. During the conflict in Ireland my father felt a responsibility to aide in the peace process because “all politics is local” and those struggling in the North of Ireland were his people. This obligation and desire to assist the people of Northern Ireland during The Troubles was only furthered after meeting John Hume. My father had the utmost respect for John and often followed his lead when it came to developing a political strategy for peace in the North. In the late 60s, on his way to Boston and Washington DC to meet with influential Irish leaders at the invitation of my father, I had the privilege of meeting John. Since then, I have supported John and the Social Democratic and Labor Party (SDLP) by acting as a foreign agent and supporting their cause in the United States. To this day, John remains a dear friend of mine. My wife, Shelly, and I have formed a strong relationship with his wife, Pat and their wonderful children. Hume is an incredible man with an incredible story that I am proud to be part of telling.

This Thursday night, In the Name of Peace: John Hume in America, a documentary directed by Maurice Fitzpatrick, premieres in the U.S. as the feature film of the Boston Film Festival. The film chronicles John Hume’s approach to politics in Northern Ireland and includes a wide-range of interviews with pivotal figures in Ireland’s fight for a peaceful resolution, such as President Bill Clinton, President Jimmy Carter, American legislators, and Prime Ministers John Major and Tony Blair who helped to wrest peace from war in Northern Ireland.

Tonight, Maurice and I will be guests on Nightside with Dan Rea on WBZ Radio to discuss the premiere. In the Name of Peace: John Hume in America premieres Thursday at 7pm followed by a panel discussion with MSNBC Hardball’s Chris Matthews, The Boston Globe’s Kevin Cullen and myself. I am very much looking forward to celebrating my friend John Hume and all he has done for Northern Ireland. I hope you will join me. Tickets to the Boston Film Festival can be purchased here.

DeHate the Debate: Seeking a Common Ground to Disagree Without Disrespect

By: Tom O’Neill 

Few would disagree that there’s a lack of civility today in politics, on many social media platforms and in the public square, especially when it comes to hot button issues. Last night, I had the pleasure of participating in a panel discussion hosted by Regis College called DeHate the Debate: Seeking a Common Ground to Disagree Without Disrespect to look deeper at this subject. WCVB political reporter Janet Wu moderated the discussion with panelists Newton Mayor Setti Warren, Waltham Mayor Jeannette McCarthy, former CNN White House correspondent and owner of Little Park Media Dan Lothian, Gatehouse Media West Regional Director of News Operations Anne Brennan and myself.

While we spoke of the need for new ground rules to help prevent conflict, the media effect of poor political role models, and the challenges that come with the right to free speech, ultimately the discussion came down to social media. From social platforms like Twitter and Facebook to tailored Google results, the way in which people receive news and information has heightened existing frictions among individuals and groups with conflicting beliefs. Social media sites are incredibly good for sharing content, including human interest stories and gossip from non-reputable sources with questionable accuracy. Too often social media users take these stories as fact, especially they play into their political beliefs or agenda.

Our panel was unanimous; the best way to ease tensions and achieve a calmer discussion is to speak with facts – do your research, look at the issue from all sides, and have the conversation face to face or as panelist Mayor Warren put it, “human to human.” Mayor McCarthy in answering a question about whether the rules for public debate have changed, said it best, “There aren’t any rules. That is the problem” because of the lack of face-to-face contact “people say anything they want without repercussions.” It takes little courage to post a controversial statement online, but that’s not the case when one is called out in person. We need more in-person contact with each other.

Thank you to Regis College for giving us the opportunity to have this open, honest discussion about remaining level-headed in the face of disagreement. As I said last night, acceptance of others and their beliefs begins at home, but it is essential that the conversation is continued by educators. As a graduate of a Jesuit institution, I strongly believe in educating the whole person, in learning about an issue from all sides and in being able to discuss those opinions in a civilized manner.  It is the job of all leaders to talk about the importance of civility as a societal standard by which we live. If we can embody that standard through our words and actions, then disagreements would no longer have to be synonymous with disrespect.