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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Former Rep. Barney Frank reflects on life, work and politics

    Kyle Hansen
    Kyle Hansen / The Daily Wildcat Former Congressman of Massachusetts Barney Frank answers questions from media members at Roger College of Law on Thursday, Oct. 16. Frank served as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for 32 years.

    Former Rep. Barney Frank visited the James E. Rogers College of Law on Thursday and gave a lecture titled “Why We Need More Government and How We Can Pay for It.” The liberal Democrat now resides in Maine after retiring from Congress in 2013 and is expected to release his first memoir soon. Frank made a milestone in the late 1980s when he became the first Congressman to come out openly with his homosexuality. Now married to his husband, Jim Ready, for two years, Frank teaches courses at Harvard and writes a weekly column to the Portland Press Herald. He sat down with the Daily Wildcat to chat about politics, racism and “House of Cards.”

    Daily Wildcat: What do you miss most about Congress, if anything?

    Frank: You know, for 32 years, I devoted my life to Congress. Many of my friends are in Congress; I enjoyed their company, and I don’t see them as much, so that’s the one thing I miss. I also miss being able to do something about the things I care about.

    What do you think will happen if the Republicans gain control of the Senate in November?

    Well, I think you’ll have further anger. For example, Sen. Mitch McConnell. He tried to undo things like the independent Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to try and undo the financial regulation so that they’ll be back to the Wild West days.

    What are you thoughts on how the Supreme Court recently choose not to accept the same-sex marriage cases?

    I think the Supreme Court justices, five of them, are ready to vote to make same-sex marriage a constitutional right when they have to, but they don’t want to do it too early. Justice [Ruth Bader] Ginsburg, who was a real pioneer in women’s rights, said that Roe v. Wade came too early; they should have waited a little longer. So, I was not surprised by what the Court did. … I think the Supreme Court is being very strategic. They know it should be under the Constitution, but it should not come with the Supreme Court forcing it on the country.

    This week, the UA is celebrating Coming Out Week. What advice do you have for college students struggling with revealing their sexual identities?

    If it means you’re in a family situation where you’re not going to be able to get a college education, well, get the education and then come out later; humor them for now. But I have found in most cases that when people have come out, it worked better than people thought. Personally, the feeling of self-liberation that you get is enormous.

    When you got out of college, you volunteered to be in the Freedom Riders movement. Were you afraid of going down into the Deep South during the civil rights movement?

    I’ve never been so frightened in six weeks of my life. You weren’t in America. The white people of Mississippi were just total thugs, and the ones who weren’t were afraid to stand up. I remember that when I flew from Jackson to Atlanta, I hadn’t realized how much I internalized the fear until I got off the plane at Atlanta, and there is this enormous sense of “I don’t have to be afraid of people.”

    If you were so scared, then what compelled you to do it?

    I believed I could help alleviate one of the worst immoral situations in America. There was no evil that I could help undo more effectively than being one of the people who went to Mississippi.

    What advice do you have for a young person interested in public service?

    Understand that being in elected office is kind of like being a movie star. There are many more people capable of doing it well than there are places. So, it is a mistake to build your whole life around winning an office, because the overwhelming odds are that you’ll never win office, not because you’re any good, but because it takes an accident. … I only got to be a member of Congress by accident.

    You’ve been critical of the show “House of Cards.” Do you think it has a negative impact on young people?

    It’s one of the reasons people don’t vote. If all you hear about is how terrible politics is and how its corrupt, then why would you vote? And it is totally unrealistic. It’s about as realistic as Superman, and it bothers me that people watch it. But, look, “The West Wing” was great; they really showed politics, but “House of Cards” is so distorted.


    Follow Kevin C. Reagan on Twitter.

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