UMass president calls nation’s history of voter suppression a “stain on our American democracy”
Being an active voter and engaged citizen is the best way to honor the “heroes of our American democracy” who stood up for voting and civil rights, President Marty Meehan said today as he spoke to students enrolled in a political science class at the University of Massachusetts Boston
“I firmly believe that every time we vote, we shape the future – and also pay tribute to the men and women who risked their lives to deliver voting rights to millions of Americans,” Meehan said. “They truly are heroes of our American democracy.”
Building on the University’s UMass Votes campaign, Meehan urged all citizens – college students, in particular – to register and vote in the November 3 election. Meehan, a former member of Congress, spoke to students about the history of voter suppression in the United States, which he described as “a stain on our American democracy.”
Meehan was a guest lecturer this morning in Professor Maurice T. Cunningham’s Political Science 102 “Government and Politics of the United States” course, which is being taught online during the current semester.
“Emerging out of the Reconstruction era, our nation embraced voter-suppression practices that were inconsistent with our ideals and with the fundamental principles of democracy,” Meehan noted. Voter-suppression laws and practices were put in place to counter the effects of Reconstruction Era amendments to the U.S. Constitution, which initially resulted in many former slaves and other Black Americans making it onto the voting rolls and winning election to public office.
Professor Cunningham, a member of the UMass Boston Political Science Department widely known for his research on the impact “dark money” has on politics, said he and his students were “pleased to welcome President Marty Meehan to our class.”
He added: “Nothing could be timelier, as we are just now learning of voter suppression efforts in 2016 aimed at African Americans and at young people. President Meehan both served with the late Congressman John Lewis and is spearheading a nonpartisan effort to increase youth voting.”
Meehan met with UMB student on the day of the first 2020 presidential debate -- and close to the 20th anniversary of the October 3, 2000, Bush-Gore presidential debate that took place at UMass Boston.
“UMass Boston has a rich tradition of stimulating action and engagement at all levels – from the diverse neighborhoods of Boston to the top levels of politics and government. When it comes to advancing its public mission, UMass Boston has always stood tall and truly is a beacon – and we are looking to UMB students to set the standard when it comes to participation in the coming election,” Meehan said.
Before becoming chancellor of UMass Lowell in 2007, Meehan served in the U.S. House of Representatives for 14 years. On July 1, 2015, he became the university’s 27th president. A graduate of UMass Lowell, Meehan is the first undergraduate alumnus to serve as president of the UMass system.
The non-partisan UMass Votes campaign was launched this year to encourage students to vote and to provide a central source for election-related information. Outlining the campaign’s key goals Meehan said: “This is about the paramount importance of voting and establishing a commitment to lifelong democratic engagement.”