VIDEO: MSNBC Host and Education Activist Lawrence O’Donnell at Commencement


Wheelock College’s May 15, 2015 Graduate Commencement speaker was Lawrence O’Donnell, MSNBC Host of “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell” and founder of the K.I.N.D. Campaign, which has provided thousands of desks to hundreds of schools in the Republic of Malawi.

O’Donnell told the graduates that when he worked with Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Moynihan had what he called “the 30-year rule” that dictated that nothing worthwhile can be accomplished without a commitment of under 30 years. “Lucy Wheelock knew that you can’t really do something important, something lasting, something to change the world in less than 30 years,” O’Donnell said.

He gave the example of Frances Perkins, Secretary of Labor under President Franklin Roosevelt and the first woman to serve in the Cabinet. Perkins was the chief architect of the federal Social Security program in the 1930s, creating a roadmap to Constitutionality using the federal taxing authority after a discreet chat with a Supreme Court justice at a tea party. Over the ensuing decades, the same concept behind Social Security was used as a Constitutional basis for Medicare and the nation’s new Affordable Care Act.

“The most important social programs in America are all based on what Frances Perkins discovered at a tea party,” O’Donnell said. “She understood that 30-year rule. She made improving the lives of people in poverty her life’s work….She built monuments that live after her, but none of them bear her name.”

Watch his full address above. See more highlights from Wheelock’s 2015 Commencement Ceremonies. Our Undergraduate Commencement Speaker was Her Excellency Dr. Joyce Banda, former president of the Republic of Malawi.

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