President Barack Obama

Profiles in courage

Breed Middle School student Ksena Gaskin (glasses, blue shirt, front row) served as a Project 351 youth organization honor guard during a Boston ceremony awarding President Barack Obama the John F. Kennedy Profile In Courage Award.


Middle school student by day — honor guard at night: It’s all just a normal week for Lynn’s Ksena Gaskin.

The Breed Middle School student was among Project 351 youth organization participants who provided an honor guard at the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston where President Barack Obama was honored last Sunday night.

Wearing blue and white Project 351 T-shirts, Gaskin and other students selected from around the state were on hand as black-tie gala attendees mingled and applauded as Obama accepted the Centennial John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award.

“President Kennedy built a vision of public service, based on a foundation of courage and inclusion,” said Carolyn Casey, executive director and founder of Project 351. “For seven years, Project 351 has been committed to lifting up young people as the best example of kindness, compassion, and generosity. We are honored to be included with other nonprofit organizations who carry forward President Kennedy’s legacy of service.”

A new approach to fighting opioids

Project 351 is a statewide, youth-driven service organization that convenes an eighth grader from every city and town in Massachusetts for a transformative year of development, enrichment, and impact through unique service opportunities

The John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award™ is presented annually to public servants who have made courageous decisions of conscience without regard for the personal or professional consequences.

The award is named for President Kennedy’s 1957 Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Profiles in Courage, which recounts the stories of eight U.S. senators who risked their careers, incurring the wrath of constituents or powerful interest groups, by taking principled stands for unpopular positions.

The opening lines state: “This is a book about that most admirable of human virtues – courage. ‘Grace under pressure,’ Ernest Hemingway defined it.”

Project 351 is supported by private sector and civic leaders including Carob Tree Foundation, John Hancock, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, Martin Richard Foundation, Converse, HYM Investment Group, the Carmen Family, and the O’Brien Family.

Moulton rips ‘terrible’ health care bill

U.S. Rep Seth Moulton is pictured in a file photo.


All nine Democratic Massachusetts congressmen voted against the GOP’s bill to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, but President Donald Trump muscled the health care bill through the House Thursday.

“It’s a terrible bill,” U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) told The Item. “It takes away health care from millions of Americans, gives a tax cut to the wealthy, shifts the tax burden onto middle class families and worsens the deficit.”

Trump’s victory comes six weeks after the Republicans failed to pass the measure amid disagreements with the White House that sank the measure.

The legislation passed the House by a 217-213 vote, as all voting Democrats and 20 mostly moderate Republican holdouts voted no. A defeat would have been politically devastating for Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan, (R-Wisconsin).

The bill now faces an uncertain fate in the Senate, where even GOP lawmakers say major changes are likely.

Republicans have promised to erase President Barack Obama’s law since its 2010 enactment. But this year, with a Republican in the White House and control of both houses in Congress, is their first real chance to deliver. But polls have shown a public distaste for the repeal effort, instilling fear among Republicans who could pay a price in next year’s congressional elections.

Deadline Friday for Lynn Youth Summer Jobs

The bill would eliminate tax penalties of the law which has charged people who don’t buy coverage and it erases tax increases in the Affordable Care Act on higher-earning people and the health industry. It cuts the Medicaid program for low-income people and allows states to impose work requirements on Medicaid recipients. It transforms Obama’s subsidies for millions buying insurance based on people’s incomes and premium costs into tax credits that rise with consumers’ ages.

It would retain Obama’s requirement that family policies cover grown children until age 26.

But states could get federal waivers freeing insurers from other Obama coverage requirements including charging people with pre-existing illnesses higher rates than healthy customers, boost prices for older consumers to whatever they wish and ignore the mandate that they cover specified services like pregnancy care.

The bill would block federal payments to Planned Parenthood for a year, considered a triumph by many anti-abortion Republicans.

U.S. Rep. Joseph Kennedy (D-Mass.) said he was disappointed in the vote.

“TrumpCare codifies a worldview that divides America by fate and fortune,” Kennedy said in a statement. “A worldview that scapegoats the struggling and suffering and that see illness as inadequacy. The ultimate test of our country’s character is not the power we give the strong, but the strength we give the weak.”

Material from Associated Press contributed to this report. Thomas Grillo can be reached at


GOP health care bill collapses day of vote

President Donald Trump is pictured March 24 in the Oval Office.


WASHINGTON — Speaker Paul Ryan says the collapse of the House Republican health care bill means former President Barack Obama’s health care law will be around for the foreseeable future.

The Wisconsin Republican addressed reporters minutes after GOP leaders abruptly shelved the legislation, averted likely defeat for the bill. But it still dealt a damaging setback to President Donald Trump, Ryan and an entire party that has long said it wants to annul Obama’s statute.

Ryan says pulling the bill was “a setback, no two ways about it.”

The speaker is chiding Republicans who refused to back the legislation for being too inflexible. He says lawmakers must be “willing to give a little to get something done.”

Many conservative and moderate Republicans opposed the legislation.

Warren: Trump is trying to bully mayors

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) tours the Lynn Community Health Center.


LYNN — As President Donald Trump signed a new version of his controversial travel ban Monday while Sen. Elizabeth Warren was in town, the CEO of the Lynn Community Health Center said she fears for her staff’s family and patients who have uncertain immigration status.

“I’ve never been so upset about anything in my life,” said Lori Abrams Berry. “There’s a level of tension that everyone in this health center and in Lynn is feeling about this.”

Berry made her remarks during a roundtable conversation with Warren, local officials and clinic executives. The liberal Democratic senator toured the facility to learn how doctors are integrating services among specialties as well as with other health care providers.

Warren used portions of her 90 minutes in Lynn to unleash on Trump’s promise to withhold funds to so-called sanctuary cities, communities including Boston and Somerville, whose police forces refuse to assist federal immigration agents or inquire about immigration status.

“The Trump administration is trying to bully local mayors into changing policing so they’ll double down, so it’s no longer just the federal agents doing this,” she said. “That’s clearly unconstitutional. The Supreme Court has ruled that the federal government cannot condition grants in one area on compliance in other areas … I met with mayors last week who are prepared to go to court the minute federal dollars are withheld to sanctuary cities.”

Berry’s comments came after the television news crews exited the room.

“One of our board members’ brother-in-law got picked up and is in detention because he was stopped for a minor traffic violation and didn’t have a license,” she said. “All the agencies in Lynn are very concerned about this. We need a rapid response network so we can start to help families. We are starting to feel like we need to give people information on their rights.”

Hundreds of jobs coming to Medford

Trump’s latest executive order on immigration and refugees still restricts new visas for citizens from six Muslim-majority countries and shuts down the nation’s refugee program.

The revised travel order leaves Iraq off the list of banned countries but still affects visitors from Iran, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen and Libya.

Last month, in a speech to police chiefs, Trump asked for their help in identifying and deporting illegal immigrants.

“I want you to turn in the bad ones,” Trump said. “We’re going to stop those drugs from poisoning our youth, from poisoning our people. We’re going to be ruthless in that fight. We have no choice, and we’re going to take that fight to the drug cartels and work to liberate our communities from their terrible grip of violence.”

In a question and answer session with reporters following the tour, Warren said she recently met with Seema Verma, Trump’s pick to head the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid. Trump has said he favors restructuring funding for the Medicaid program, which provides health coverage to the poor and disabled, through block grants.

“I made it clear that I will try to work with her if she is confirmed and do everything possible to keep our community health centers in Massachusetts fully supported, and that means not doing block grants,” she said. “If people need healthcare, we need to find the most effective and economical ways to do it, but make sure we are able to deliver healthcare. We don’t say: ‘You’ve met some arbitrary cap with the state of Massachusetts, and now you’re done.’”

On Trump’s accusation that former President Barack Obama wiretapped his New York home, Warren dismissed the allegation.

“It’s becoming clearer every day that President Trump is failing and he knows it,” she said. “That’s what these wild accusations are about.”

Thomas Grillo can be reached at Material from Associated Press was used in this report.

Trump: ‘The time for small thinking is over’

President Donald Trump arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington.


WASHINGTON — Heralding a “new chapter of American greatness,” President Donald Trump stood before Congress for the first time Tuesday night and issued a broad call for overhauling the nation’s health care system, significantly boosting military spending and plunging $1 trillion into upgrading crumbling infrastructure.

Striking an optimistic tone, Trump declared: “The time for small thinking is over.”

Trump’s address came at a pivotal moment for a new president elected on pledges to swiftly shake up Washington and follow through on the failed promises of career politicians. His opening weeks in office have been consumed by distractions and self-inflicted wounds, including the bungled rollout of a sweeping immigration and refugee executive order that was blocked by the courts.

Trump, who typically relishes flouting political convention, embraced the pomp and tradition of a presidential address to Congress. He stuck largely to his script, made occasional overtures to Democrats and skipped the personal insults he so often hurls at his opponents.

The president was greeted by enthusiastic applause as he entered the House chamber, though it was filled with Democrats who vigorously oppose his policies and many Republicans who never expected him to be elected. Most Republican lawmakers have rallied around him since the election, hopeful that he will act on the domestic priorities they saw blocked during President Barack Obama’s eight years in office.

Topping that list is undoing Obama’s signature healthcare law and replacing the sweeping measure. Trump offered a basic blueprint of his priorities, including ensuring that those with pre-existing conditions have access to coverage, allowing people to buy insurance across state lines and offering tax credits and expanded health savings accounts to help Americans purchase coverage. He suggested he would get rid of the current law’s requirement that all Americans carry insurance coverage, saying that “mandating every American to buy government-approved health insurance was never the right solution for America.”

Making a direct appeal for bipartisanship, Trump turned to Democrats and said, “Why not join forces to finally get the job done and get it done right?”

Democrats, now firmly ensconced in the minority, sat silently while Republicans stood and cheered. Some wore blue, pro-health care buttons that read “Protect our care,” and dozens of Democratic women wore white in honor of the suffrage movement.

Trump was vague in his call for tax reform, another Republican priority. He promised “massive tax relief for the middle class” and a reduction in corporate tax rates, but glossed over how he would offset the cuts.

The president also urged Congress to pass a $1 trillion infrastructure package financed through both public and private capital.

“The time has come for a new program of national rebuilding,” he said.

Trump sent unexpectedly mixed messages on immigration, one of his signature campaign issues. He pledged to vigorously target people living in the U.S. illegally who “threaten our communities and prey on our citizens.” But he told news anchors before his speech that he was open to legislation that could provide a pathway to legal status, and he told Congress he believed “real and positive immigration reform is possible.”

The president’s words on immigration and “extreme vetting” of immigrants and refugees had to have been of special interest to recent Lynn Classical High School graduate and a refugee from Iraq, Tiba Faraj, who attended Trump’s speech as the guest of U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass).

Faraj, 22, came to Lynn in 2010, along with her parents and siblings. She became an American citizen last year.

Before the speech, Faraj said in a phone interview that she was excited to be attending.

The University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth junior now lives in Boston. She used the services of the New American Center, which serves the refugee and immigrant population in Lynn, during her school years for help with homework. She said Lynn is great for immigrants and people of different races and religions, calling it a place of diversity.

Warren’s decision to bring Faraj as a guest comes after Trump’s recent executive order, which temporarily banned entry to the United States by refugees and immigrants from seven Muslim-majority nations. The order has since been blocked by a federal judge. Trump is reportedly expected to release a new executive order on immigration this week, but didn’t specifically mention his plans in Tuesday night’s address.

Faraj said she sees the United States as the country to welcome everyone.

“I think, like refugees are the people who built the country,” she said. “I’m one of the refugees. I went to school like everyone else.”

Warren said in a phone interview on Tuesday that she decided to bring Faraj because she wanted people all across Massachusetts to hear her family’s story and to know how hard she has worked. The senator also wanted people to remember how Faraj and other refugees and immigrants have added to the country and helped make it safer.

Classical graduate goes to Congress

First lady Melania Trump sat with special guests who were on hand to amplify the president’s agenda, including the family members of people killed by immigrants living in the U.S. illegally. The widow of former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia also sat alongside Mrs. Trump, a reminder of the president’s well-received nomination of federal appeals court Judge Neil Gorsuch to fill Scalia’s seat.

The majority of Trump’s address centered on the domestic, economic-focused issues that were at the center of his presidential campaign. His national security message centered largely on a call for significantly boosting military spending and taking strong but unspecified measures to protect the nation from “radical Islamic terrorism.”

Underscoring the human cost of those efforts, Trump honored Chief Special Warrant Officer William “Ryan” Owens, who was killed in a raid in Yemen during his first days in office. Owens’ widow sat in the guest box with tears streaming down her face as the crowd stood and applauded at length.

Owens’ death, as well as the killing of several civilians, have raised questions about the effectiveness of the raid. Pushing back, the president said Defense Secretary Jim Mattis had assured him that the operation generated “large amounts of vital intelligence that will lead to many more victories in the future against our enemies.”

Trump also voiced support for NATO but reiterated his call for partner countries to meet their financial obligations to the military alliance. Trump has previously called NATO “obsolete,” setting some allies on edge about his commitment to the partnership.

Gayla Cawley of the Item staff contributed to this report.

‘Trump, I think, is our salvation’

Donald Trump supporter Theodore Bakacs entered the Air Force 38 years ago Thursday.


SAUGUS More than 60 veterans and residents gathered for breakfast at the Saugus American Legion Post 210 Friday morning to celebrate the inauguration of Donald Trump as president.

“Trump, I think, is our salvation,” said Theodore Bakacs, who served in the U.S. Air Force for 22 years.

“I’m ecstatic,” he said. “I want to go back to when people love our country. I’m so sick of this country and I busted my ass for this country. I hope Trump can make a difference.”

Bakacs, who owns a T-shirt printing businesses, created T-shirts that read “Make America America Again.”

“I think it’s a great day,” said state Rep. Donald Wong (R-Saugus). “We should always honor the position of president, no matter who they are. We should look at what we call the United States and we should be united and change some of the negative energy into positive energy and work together to make America better.”

On an average Friday morning about 40 people gather for breakfast, said Debra Dion Faust, house and bar manager. A typical meal includes eggs, homefries, bacon, ham sausages and either pancakes or french toast. In honor of Friday’s ceremonies, the meal was enhanced by offering pastries, melon, prosciutto, waffles, french toast and pancakes.

“It’s a way of getting people out and having a good time and celebrating events in the world,” Dion said. “Hopefully we’re going to move on seamlessly from here.”

Corinne Riley began bringing her dad, a World War II veteran who died in November, to the breakfast three years ago when he was told he had only three months to live. He quickly formed bonds, felt appreciation and support for his service, and got involved with the military community in Saugus, she said.

Many veterans and their families expressed frustration in the way veterans have been treated in the past eight years and said they hoped the new leadership would bring change to the nation.

“They fought for our nation and they felt like there rights were threatened,” said Maureen Dever, a Saugus resident.  

“The vets are for Trump,” said  Winthrop. “(The administration) needs to do more for the veterans. Hopefully Trump will be the one to do it.”

Ed Koolian, a volunteer and military veteran, called President Barack Obama the “worst president we’ve had.”

“This man (Trump), if he comes through, we will be a lot better off,” Koolian said. “(Obama) didn’t do a lot for the vets. Hopefully Trump will do a lot more. People don’t realize, this is the best thing that has happened to our country.”

Facebook users sound off on Donald Trump

Bridget Turcotte can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @BridgetTurcotte

Locals set for Grand Old Trump party

Alexander “Sandy” Tennant and Sara Appiah prepare for Tennant’s trip to Donald Trump’s inauguration.


Several North Shore residents are eagerly anticipating attending President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration next week, while others will be protesting by participating in the Boston Women’s March.

Trump is scheduled to be sworn in on Friday, Jan. 20 as the 45th president of the United States. The afternoon ceremony will be followed by an inaugural parade and ball. Other inaugural events are scheduled during the week.

Alexander “Sandy” Tennant, a Swampscott resident and former executive director of the MassGOP, said next week will be his fourth or fifth inauguration. He said it’s great to go down, meet different people from around the country and see those new people heading up government.

Tennant said he wasn’t originally a Trump supporter, but as the field of Republican presidential candidates whittled down, he changed his mind. For his first few months in office, Tennant said he wants to see Trump focus on helping out veterans and improving education.

“I feel the way the majority of Americans do,” Tennant said. “We need a change of direction and Washington just hasn’t been working. Donald Trump certainly appears to be the man to go in and shake things up.”

Moulton faults Trump for delaying VA pick

The Boston Women’s March for America is expected to be an anti-Trump protest, held the day after the new president is sworn in. It’s a sister march for those unable to make the Women’s March on Washington, which is scheduled for the same day. Thousands of people are expected to march in solidarity with communities most affected by the hate, intolerance and acts of violence being perpetuated across the nation, according to a description of the event.

State Rep. Lori Ehrlich (D-Marblehead) said she’s planning on joining the march in Boston. She won’t be attending the inauguration, but did say she attended when President Barack Obama was sworn in eight years ago. At the time, she said, her daughters were in their early teens, and over the years, her girls have been able to take many things for granted that Obama promoted, such as women’s equality and fairness.

“We were all able to rest assured that the fate of the nation was in good, capable hands, in spite of all of the divisiveness and racism that he encountered,” Ehrlich said.

But, Ehrlich said the pendulum is about to shift the other way. She said someone’s been elected as the next president who has made fun of a disabled reporter, joked about grabbing a woman’s genitals, and ridiculed people for their sex, race and religion.

“There are really basically two reasons why I’m marching,” Ehrlich said. “First, is to stand united in opposition to the hatred and bigotry which has permeated the political sphere in the run-up to the election. The second reason is to feel the energy from the crowd from those who, like me, have chosen to stand up and object.

“His presidency so far, thankfully hasn’t started yet,” she continued. “Considering that it hasn’t started yet, I would say that our nation is in for a wild ride. He’s taken aim at the nation’s intelligence community and the media, both of which we need for a functioning democracy. I think his appointments, for the most part, they leave much to be desired.”

President Obama says goodbye in tearful speech

Lynn Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy and her guest will be attending the inauguration thanks to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass), who called and asked if the mayor wanted to attend.

“I am absolutely excited,” Kennedy said. “I have never been to a presidential inauguration before. I voted for Trump because the country needed an entirely new direction, that government was getting stale on the national level and somebody had to come in and blow it up.”

Amy Carnevale, a Marblehead resident who serves on the Republican State Committee, is also heading to the inauguration next week. She was a delegate for Trump at the Republican National Convention.

“I’m really excited,” Carnevale said. “I think the inauguration of a new president is a historic moment no matter who the president is. I’m really excited just to be there for it and to play a small part in it that day.”

Carnevale said she’s most excited about seeing the peaceful transfer of power to a new president, which she called a testament to the country’s democracy after a bitterly fought election

For Trump’s first few months, Carnevale said she wants to see Trump focus on how he can improve the economy for all Americans. She said working Americans have too often felt left behind during Obama’s presidency. She also thinks healthcare should be a focus, adding that the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, has been anything but affordable for most families.

U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass) said he’s chartered a train car, and so far, about 68 people from Massachusetts are joining him for the march in Washington. He said the energy and response to the Trump election from the people in the state has been extraordinary. A recent rally in Peabody, he said, drew more than 500 people, who wanted to do something and stand up for the values that were “under assault” from Trump.

Moulton said Trump is “assaulting” some of the fundamental tenets of the country’s democracy, with his “cronies” threatening a reporter for asking a question at the president-elect’s press conference on Wednesday, undermining the First Amendment of the Constitution.

Moulton said in politics, people are going to disagree with those on the other side. He said he disagreed with former President George W. Bush a lot, including on the Iraq War. But, he said he didn’t see Bush trying to undermine the country’s democracy like he views Trump is.

“That’s why this is so serious,” Moulton said. “We’ll show Trump that Americans are going to stand up for our democracy, for our Constitution, for the rule of law.”

Robert Tucker, a member of the Lynn Democratic City Committee and former president of the Lynn City Council, said he’s attending the march in Boston. He said it’s important for Americans to be heard and to watch the incoming administration closely, as what he’s seen so far with Trump has been troubling.

“I want this march to proclaim the rights of women, LGBTQIA and immigrants,” Tucker said. “We can’t let the positive gains we have achieved be destroyed over the next four years. Our nation is facing the prospect of reversing the rights of women and LGBTQIA that we have worked so hard to achieve.

“I want this march to proudly proclaim that America is a nation of immigrants and support the rights of immigrants to achieve their goal of becoming a citizen no matter where they come from or the color of their skin. We need to start on the local and state level to make sure our voices against discrimination are heard in Washington.”

Thomas Grillo contributed to this report. Gayla Cawley can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley.

President Obama says goodbye in tearful speech

President Barack Obama wipes away tears while speaking during his farewell address at McCormick Place in Chicago.


CHICAGO — President Barack Obama bid farewell to the nation Tuesday night in an emotional speech that sought to comfort and encourage a country on edge over economic changes, persistent security threats and the election of Donald Trump.

Obama’s valedictory speech in his hometown of Chicago was a public meditation on the trials and triumphs, promises kept and promises broken that made up his eight years in the White House. Arguing his faith in America had been confirmed, Obama said he ends his tenure inspired by America’s “boundless capacity” for reinvention, and he declared: “The future should be ours.”

His delivery was forceful for the most part, but by the end he was wiping away tears as the crowd embraced him one last time. He and wife Malia hugged former aides and other audience members long after the speech ended.

Reflecting on the corrosive recent political campaign, Obama said America’s great “potential will be realized only if our democracy works. Only if our politics reflects the decency of our people. Only if all of us, regardless of our party affiliation or particular interest, help restore the sense of common purpose that we so badly need right now.”

He made only passing reference to Republican Donald Trump, who will replace him in just 10 days. But when he noted the imminence of that change and the crowd began booing, he responded, “No, no, no, no, no.” One of the nation’s great strengths, he said, “is the peaceful transfer of power from one president to the next.”

Earlier, as the crowd of thousands chanted, “Four more years,” he simply smiled and said, “I can’t do that.”

‘Political payback’ in Swampscott?

Soon Obama and his family will exit the national stage, to be replaced by Trump, a man Obama had stridently argued poses a dire threat to the nation’s future. His near-apocalyptic warnings throughout the campaign have cast a continuing shadow over his post-election efforts to reassure Americans anxious about the future.

Indeed, much of what Obama accomplished over the past eight years — from health care overhaul and environmental regulations to his nuclear deal with Iran — could potentially be upended by Trump. So even as Obama seeks to define what his presidency meant for America, his legacy remains in question.

Even as Obama said farewell to the nation — in a televised speech of just under an hour — the anxiety felt by many Americans about the future was palpable, and not only in the Chicago convention center where he stood in front of a giant presidential seal. The political world was reeling from new revelations about an unsubstantiated report that Russia had compromising personal and financial information about Trump.

Steeped in nostalgia, Obama’s return to Chicago was less a triumphant homecoming and more a bittersweet reunion bringing together Obama loyalists and loyal staffers, many of whom have long since left Obama’s service, moved on to new careers and started families. They came from across the country — some on Air Force One, others on their own — to be present for the last major moment of Obama’s presidency.

Seeking inspiration, Obama’s speechwriters spent weeks poring over Obama’s other momentous speeches, including his 2004 keynote at the Democratic National Convention and his 2008 speech after losing the New Hampshire primary to Hillary Clinton. They also revisited his 2015 address in Selma, Alabama, that both honored America’s exceptionalism and acknowledged its painful history on civil rights.

After returning to Washington, Obama will have less than two weeks before he accompanies Trump in the presidential limousine to the Capitol for the new president’s swearing-in. After nearly a decade in the spotlight, Obama will become a private citizen, an elder statesman at 55. He plans to take some time off, write a book — and immerse himself in a Democratic redistricting campaign.

Krause: Separating athletes and their opinions

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, left, accompanied by LeBron James, right, takes the stage at a rally at the Cleveland Public Auditorium in Cleveland, Sunday, Nov. 6, 2016.


After the Boston Red Sox broke the so-called “Curse of the Bambino,” Curt Schilling, fresh from his bloody-sock stigmata, was seen in Ohio stumping for George W. Bush.

That took some people back. It also jolted people a little (but only a little) when Theo Epstein, general manager at the time, chose not to go to the White House the following spring when Bush honored the Red Sox.

Seven years later, Bruins goalie Tim Thomas quietly chose to boycott the White House gathering hosted by President Barack Obama that honored the 2011 Stanley Cup champions. Thomas may have been naive in thinking his one-man political protest would escape the media’s notice, because obviously, it didn’t.

Of course, Thomas didn’t help himself very much with his rantings and ravings about how, thanks to the president, democracy and civil liberties were gone forever. And Schilling, in ensuing years, has not helped himself by some of the extremist (in the eyes of some people, myself included) rantings and tweets with his name on them.

What is it about athletes expressing their opinions that causes such a stir? Who cares? Or, more to the point, why should anyone care?

LeBron James got up on a platform with Hillary Clinton. That’s his right. Bill Belichick wrote a letter to Donald Trump, which he said the candidate could share, that extolled all of his virtues. Trump got up Tuesday in New Hampshire and said Tom Brady voted for him (which Brady’s wife promptly disputed).

In the case of James and Belichick, any suggestion by anyone that either has to explain himself is absurd. Would I have to explain myself if I stood outside the Lynn Tech annex Tuesday with a “Vote No on Question 2” sign? Would you?

Athletes are citizens, just like you and I. They’re allowed to have opinions, just like you and I. We are free to disagree with them if we choose, and we are free to support them too.

We are even free to vote for a candidate because LeBron James and Bill Belichick tell me to, although I cannot see why anyone would.

As a fan, the only thing about Belichick I care about is the game plan he’s drawn up for Sunday night’s game against the Seattle Seahawks. My only concern with Brady is whether he’ll throw four touchdown passes and beat the Seahawks like a drum. If he did vote for Trump, I don’t care. If I must, I’ll deal with that on some other level, maybe. But it doesn’t change the fact that come Sunday I hope his mind’s on football and beating Seattle.

I rooted for the Cleveland Cavaliers over the Golden State Warriors last spring because I bought into the whole “Cleveland-is-a-cursed-city” dynamic, and wanted to see the folks who live in and around the “Mistake by the Lake” experience just a little of what we Bostonians have seen in the last 15 years. That makes LeBron James a basketball icon. It does not make him a political pundit anymore than Tim Thomas possessed a unique wisdom about the condition of the U.S. government back in 2011.

I used to be in awe, back in the 1980s, about what a great linebacker Lawrence Taylor was. Thanks in large part to him, the New York Giants — whom I normally detest — won two Super Bowls and they were almost palatable, because I liked the way Taylor played.

Then, of course, the other shoe dropped. Taylor had a drug problem. Taylor was illiterate. Taylor got into trouble for other reasons. He wasn’t exactly the model citizen.

But if Lawrence Taylor came out and endorsed Ronald Reagan, would that have made anyone vote for The Gipper? Did Curt Schilling change anyone’s minds about voting for Bush? Does someone in Alabama or Utah care what Bill Belichick thinks of Trump? Come to think of it, since everyone except people from around here hates Belichick and thinks he’s an arrogant SOB, that might not have turned into the big electoral bonanza The Donald anticipated.

Bottom line: Athletes have just as much of a right as you and I to express their political opinions without incurring the wrath of fanboys and girls, or without demands being put on them to explain themselves.

And, of course, we reserve the right to use our own common sense and take them, and their endorsements, with the proper grain of salt. Tom Brady is a great quarterback and LeBron James an extraordinary basketball player. But let’s end the sentence there.

Steve Krause can be reached at 

Final debate draws a crowd in Lynn

A crowd watches the third and final Presidential debate, hosted by U.S. Rep Seth Moulton, at Trio’s Mexican Grill on Wednesday (Photo by Paula Muller)

By Gayla Cawley

LYNN — Many of the people who headed to Trio’s Mexican Grill for the third presidential debate watch party, hosted by U.S. Rep Seth Moulton (D-MA) and local Democrats, are decided voters, but appreciated a stronger focus on the issues between the two candidates.

Before the debate, Moulton said it should not be forgotten that voters have the opportunity to elect the first female president of the United States, Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee.

“I don’t think I need to go through all the reasons why Donald Trump (the Republican nominee) is dangerous for this country, why he’s fundamentally un-American, why he doesn’t know anything about the Constitution of the United States or the values that make us who we are,” Moulton said. “He is exploiting our differences. He is scapegoating Muslims, he is attacking minorities and he lies every single day in what he says. That’s not someone we can look up to as a leader. That’s not someone our troops can trust as commander-in-chief and it’s certainly not someone who is going to make a stronger America.

“When Hillary Clinton talks about being stronger together, that’s not just a campaign slogan,” he continued. “That’s fundamentally who we are as Americans. And she understands that because she’s been in public service her entire life. In fact, some people say there hasn’t been a more qualified person to run for president since maybe Dwight Eisenhower and I agree with that.”

Rodney Raposa, a Swampscott resident, said he’s a liberal so he supports Clinton. He said she has more substance in her responses than Trump, when discussing policy.

“Sometimes I feel Donald Trump flails his responses around,” Raposa said. “I kind of get confused sometimes of what he actually stands for … I don’t think he has a lot of hardcore stances when it comes to a lot of things.”

The debate watch party was attended by mostly Democrats and Clinton supporters. Watching from other locations were Alexander “Sandy” Tennant, former executive director of the MassGOP, and Amy Carnevale, a Marblehead resident who serves on the Republican State Committee.

“I’ve been impressed in this debate by the focus on the issues, at least to start the debate,” said Carnevale. “I would say I think Donald Trump has come out better rehearsed on some of the issues than he has on past debates, sticking to his message a little bit better than he has in the past.”

Carnevale, who was a delegate for Trump at the Republican National Convention, where he was selected as the party’s nominee in July, said that she agreed with him on his stance on the kind of Supreme Court justice who should replace the vacancy left by Justice Antonin Scalia, a long-time conservative judge who died last February.

Trump said he has a list of 20 potential candidates, and said he would nominate a judge who strictly interprets the Constitution as the country’s founders wrote it.

Clinton said the Supreme Court should represent all of the United States and that the Senate has not done its job by confirming the nominee President Barack Obama set forward, Judge Merrick Garland.

“I think most conservatives agree that the Constitution should be strictly interpreted,” said Carnevale.

Carnevale said Trump’s discussion on the United States/Mexico border was strong.

“I thought it was really strong how Donald Trump pointed out that one of the issues that’s important to come out of border security is controlling the drug trade from Mexico,” she said.

Tennant, a Swampscott resident, said it was an outrage that Clinton seemed to suggest that she accepts abortion at all stages of pregnancy. He also said that while the country is $19 trillion in debt, the Clintons have vastly increased their personal wealth since President Bill Clinton was in office.

Elina Mihalakis, a Lynn resident, said Clinton is more knowledgeable.

“She has been in politics for so many years and she knows what she’s talking about,” she said.

Mihalakis said Trump only tries to appeal to certain segments of the population by focusing on issues like the second amendment, the right to bear arms.

Sally Palmer, a Topsfield resident and Lynn native, said while watching the debate that she was feeling that Clinton is the most sensible candidate and believes in all of her statements for what’s best for the country.

“I’m confident that she’ll steer us in the right direction,” Palmer said.

Palmer added that it appeared to her that Trump was trying very hard to keep restraint in what he wanted to say early on. She said it was his last shot in gaining the support of people who stand behind him, mentioning the “Access Hollywood” video that came out recently, where Trump bragged to then-host Billy Bush about sexually assaulting women, and the subsequent women who have come forward accusing him of inappropriately touching them.

Gene Record, a Marblehead resident, said the debate was much more reasoned, with no yelling and shouting like previous ones.

“They’re talking about issues, which is really good,” he said.
Record identifies as a centrist, or someone who has moderate political views, and said he decides which party to vote for based on who he agrees with more on policy. He wouldn’t say his mind is made up, but he is leaning away from one candidate.

“I don’t feel I could vote for someone as volatile and unrepresentative of the United States as Donald Trump,” he said.

Gayla Cawley can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley.

Mrs. Obama, meet the Pedros

Lynn Classical student Alex Pedro, along with his sisters Amelia and Olivia, was able to snap a selfie with First Lady Michelle Obama at the Martha’s Vineyard Airport two weeks ago. The Obamas are vacationing on Martha’s Vineyard. Courtesy Photo

By Dillon Durst

On a recent dreary day, Alex Pedro waited for the president and first lady to arrive at Martha’s Vineyard Airport.

President Barack Obama, Michelle Obama and their daughters were flying in via helicopter to begin their vacation on Martha’s Vineyard.

Pedro, a senior at Lynn Classical High School, said he and his family received clearance to be there that day through a friend of a friend who works in the Obama administration.

He and his parents, sisters and four dozen other guests, waited at the airport on the island for about two hours before the convoy of choppers appeared through the rain and clouds.

“There were about six or seven other helicopters that flew in with President Obama,” Pedro said. “He finally flew in on one of the last two.”

The Obamas happily greeted the crowd, Pedro said, which is when he snapped a selfie with the first lady and his two sisters, Amelia and Olivia.

“I tried to get a good one with Obama, but he was a little preoccupied with everybody else,” he said. “Michelle Obama came over and shook my mother’s hand. My mom wished her a good vacation and she said it right back. She was a lot more attentive with everybody, and was more than happy to come over and snap a picture with us.”

Pedro, 18, said he worked at Among the Flowers Cafe on Martha’s Vineyard this summer, and has worked at Vineyard Scoops, an ice cream shop on the island, for the past three. Obama’s daughter, Sasha, briefly worked at Nancy’s Restaurant on Martha’s Vineyard this summer.

Dillon Durst can be reached at

Gloucester chief honored in D.C.

Leonard Campanello has been named a “Champion of Change” by President Barack Obama.


The Gloucester police chief and former Saugus policeman who pioneered a program that allows addicts to trade jail time for treatment will be recognized at the White House next week.

Leonard Campanello, who launched the Angel Initiative last year to combat the opiate crisis facing Gloucester, has been named a “Champion of Change” by President Barack Obama. The honor recognizes efforts of individuals doing extraordinary things to empower or inspire their communities.

“It’s good to know that the efforts that Gloucester residents have made are being legitimized on a national level,” Campanello told the Item. “It’s a great recognition for the city and law enforcement to be part of the solution and to use our discretion to make good choices when it comes to addiction.”

Campanello served for 23 years on the Saugus Police Department including the narcotics division and was promoted to assistant chief in 2009. He became Gloucester chief in 2012.

The Gloucester Police Department implemented a new policing program aimed at getting addicts the help they need, instead of putting them in handcuffs, according to police.

Under the program, if an addict comes to the station seeking help, police will take them to the Addison Gilbert Hospital, where they will be paired with a volunteer “Angel” who will guide them through the treatment process. They will not face arrest or jail time.

The department has partnered with more than a dozen additional treatment centers to ensure that patients receive the care and treatment they deserve immediately.

In the 10 months since it began, the program has brought 425 people to treatment with no criminal penalty, has reduced crime and costs associated with addiction in Gloucester and rebuilt trust between the police and the community.

The chief said he found out about the honor when the White House called a few weeks ago.

“It was very surprising, he said. “I didn’t even know I was nominated.”

Thomas Grillo can be reached at

Nahant and Swampscott Dems drive food campaign

Emily Potts receives a donation from Ticona Suggs at the Reduce Hunger Food Drive at the Lynn Stop and Shop on March 5.


NAHANT — The Democratic Town Committee from Nahant and Swampscott finished an eight month-long drive to collect non-perishable items for local food pantries.

Meeting shoppers at the entrance to Stop and Shop in Lynn, the committee handed shoppers a list of non-perishable foods needed by pantries.  

John Moynihan, Swampscott food drive coordinator, said shoppers donated hundreds of pounds of food, including soup, cereal, pasta, canned goods and toiletries.

“The food drive started in 2009 in response to a challenge from then newly elected President Barack Obama for citizens to do something in response to community needs” Moynihan said. “It has been running uninterrupted since July of that year at stores in Lynn, Swampscott, Danvers and Peabody.”

Town Committee members said the monthly food drive helps to reduce food insecurity for many families in Lynn and other North Shore communities. The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines food insecurity as a consistent access to adequate food that is limited by a lack of money and other resources during the year.

Many Lynn families choose between buying food or paying the rent, utilities or other bills, said Emily Potts, Nahant’s food drive coordinator. She said committee members during the drive saw an increase in the number of families requesting food from local pantries.

Potts said shoppers, especially in Lynn, generously meet the need.  

“Many people donate more than one item,” she said. “It is not uncommon for someone to contribute and say, ‘It makes me feel good to be able to do this. I once needed the help of a food bank myself.’”

Drive participant Faith Peterson meets with store managers to schedule the food drives.

“I’ve seen individuals stop with a grocery cart with four bags of groceries,” she said. “They leave three with us and walk away with one bag.”

The drive is a collective effort of volunteers, the grocery store, food pantries, and people who donate. Interested in volunteering? Contact Potts at or Moynihan at

Thor Jourgensen can be reached at

Marblehead’s O’Toole joins First Lady at State of Union

Kathleen O’Toole, formerly of Marblehead, is the Seattle Police chief.


Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole, a Marblehead High graduate, has been invited to sit with First Lady Michelle Obama during President Barack Obama’s final State of the Union address Tuesday.

O’Toole started her career with the Boston Police Department and became its commissioner, the only woman to hold that position. She was superintendent of the MDC Police, lieutenant colonel of the Massachusetts State Police, and Massachusetts Secretary of Public Safety. She also served as chief general for Ireland’s national police force, and became the Seattle Police chief in 2014. She is a 1972 graduate of Marblehead High and 1976 graduate of Boston College, where she also served as director of the alumni association.

O’Toole will join 20 others who have been selected to sit with the First Lady during the speech, with one seat remaining empty to represent victims of gun violence, who no longer have a voice, according to a published report.

O’Toole said she received the call from Roy Austin Jr., deputy assistant to the President for the Office of Urban Affairs, Justice and Opportunity in the White House, at around 8:30 p.m. Pacific time last Sunday, Jan. 3. She said she wasn’t expecting a call from the White House at that point, especially considering it was 11:30 p.m. on the East Coast.

“I think I was fairly stunned at first,” O’Toole said about being selected to sit with Michelle Obama. “I was just trying to process it all. It’s certainly an honor.”

O’Toole said by nature, she prefers to keep a low profile, despite having ended up in high-profile positions throughout her career. She said the opportunity is “humbling” and feels that she’s not only representing her community, but police officers in general. She said she just happens to be the person who gets to sit in the seat Tuesday.

O’Toole said it is a difficult time in policing and that officers and others in the field need to “work hard to rebuild trust.” She said with she’s been trying to focus more on enhancing community trust with the police.

O’Toole said she believes she was selected because she has worked hard on police reform over the past few years. She said she was hired as the Seattle Police Chief to take on a reform project in the city, based on a consent decree the city entered into with the U.S. Justice Department, regarding excessive police force and discriminatory policing.

O’Toole said because of their compliance with the consent decree, the Seattle Police Department is now “well down the road to reform” and other police departments are now turning to them to learn from their experiences.

“I don’t want to claim we have all the answers,” O’Toole said. “If we can share some of the knowledge with others, that’s a great thing.”

O’Toole also did reform work in Northern Ireland during her time as chief inspector of the country’s national police force and recently through her consulting work on a project in East Haven, Conn.

For the latter, O’Toole said East Haven had entered into a consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice as well. She said officers had gone to jail for civil rights violations of members of the Latin community in East Haven. She said the city was looking for a compliance expert to be certain the town met the requirements of the consent decree.

“Fortunately, they were able to turn that around,” O’Toole said.

O’Toole said she is proud of her North Shore roots. She said she still has many close friends in the area. Coincidentally, on the night of her appointment as Seattle Police Chief, the Seattle Mariners were playing the Boston Red Sox. She said she still feels angst when the two teams play each other. She said the same goes for when the Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots play each other, as they did in the last Super Bowl.

“If not for their support, I wouldn’t be where I am today,” O’Toole said about those on the North Shore. “I feel like I’m representing a lot of people when I go to Washington this week.”

Saugus mom: Gun plan will save lives

Lynnette Alameddine holds a photo of her son who was killed in the Virginia Tech shootings.


SAUGUS — A local mother who lost her son in the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting said she was glued to the television during President Barack Obama’s speech Tuesday, when he unveiled his plan to reduce gun violence in the country.

Lynnette Alameddine, of Saugus, lost her son, Ross Alameddine, 20, in the mass shooting that occurred on April 16, 2007. On that day, Seung-Hui Cho shot and killed 32 people and critically injured 17 people on Virginia Tech’s campus before turning the gun and shooting himself in the head.

Alameddine said she was pleased with Obama’s executive action, which included a plan to expand background checks on those people looking to purchase a firearm. Under current law, only federally-licensed gun dealers must conduct background checks on buyers. The president said that at gun shows, websites and flea markets, sellers often decline to register as licensed dealers.

“I am very pleased with President Obama’s executive action,” Alameddine said. “It will save countless lives. It will prevent families from having their world turned upside down by a needless death from someone with a firearm, who never should have had one in the first place.”

Alameddine said there are 88 people killed by firearms in our nation every day. In 2007, when she first started doing advocacy work after losing her son, she said that number was at 32 deaths per day.

“This action is not going to stop everyone, but it will certainly prevent someone from losing their life,” Alameddine said. “Life is precious.”

Obama also plans to hire 200 more Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents and investigators to conduct background checks. He plans to do more to help those suffering from mental illness to get the help that they need and ensure that federal mental health records are submitted to the background check process.

Alameddine said Virginia Tech was the worst mass school shooting in U.S. history. She said Cho, a Virginia Tech student, should have been prohibited from buying a gun after a Virginia court adjudicated him to be a danger to himself in 2005 and sent him for psychiatric treatment.

Despite this court decision, Alameddine said Cho was able to go online and purchase two guns — a Glock and a Walther P22. She said his case “slipped through the cracks” as Cho went to pick up those weapons in a licensed gun store and was put through a background check by the owner, which came back clean. She said both of those guns were used in the massacre.

“My son and all the innocent victims would be alive today if Cho had been entered into the National Instant (Criminal) Background Check System as required by federal law,” Alameddine said.

Alameddine said the pain of losing her son, Ross, doesn’t go away and she thinks of him every day. However, she said her advocacy work to prevent future gun violence through working with groups like Everytown for Gun Safety helps with that pain. For that group, she and other survivors and families of shooting victims just collaborated with NBA stars, and Spike Lee, for a commercial called “End Gun Violence,” which ran during all NBA games on Christmas Day.

“It helps to know that I’m helping others,” Alameddine said.

Gun plan triggers reaction

Saugus Police Chief Domenic DiMella with papers that must be filled out for a gun permit.


Reaction was mixed locally to President Barack Obama speech Tuesday unveiling his plan to reduce gun violence in the country.

Former Lynn Mayor J. Warren Cassidy, who was also the executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, dismissed Obama’s plan as a political move. However, Saugus Police Chief Domenic DiMella said he agrees that expanding background checks, which Obama is seeking, will help keep guns out of the hands of the wrong people.

In his nation-wide address, Obama called for expanding background checks on those people looking to purchase a firearm. Under current law, only federally licensed gun dealers must conduct background checks on buyers. The president said that at gun shows, websites and flea markets, sellers often decline to register as licensed dealers.

“The problem is some gun sellers have been operating under a different set of rules,” Obama said. “A violent felon can purchase the exact same weapon (as at gun stores) over the Internet with no background check, no questions asked. A recent study found that about one in 30 people looking to buy guns on one website had criminal records.”

The president’s other plans include hiring 200 more Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents and investigators to conduct background checks. He plans to do more to help those suffering from mental illness to get the help that they need and ensure that federal mental health records are submitted to the background check process.

Obama also plans to boost gun safety technology, as he said many gun injuries and deaths are the result of legal guns that were stolen, misused or discharged accidentally.

Cassidy said he doesn’t see Obama’s proposed regulations as gun safety measures.

“He’s talking about closing loopholes on how guns can be transferred or sold and keeping them out of the hands of criminals,” Cassidy said.

Cassidy retired from the NRA in 1991. In addition to his title as executive vice-president of the organization at the time of his retirement, he was also the CEO.
Cassidy said no matter what the rules are, criminals will find a way to steal guns.

“I don’t think it will cut down on any crimes,” Cassidy said of the proposed regulations. “It’s more of a political move than anything, frankly.”

Cassidy said he hasn’t seen anything that would deter any serious criminal who might buy a firearm on the black market or break into a store and steal a gun.
Cassidy said what those new regulations would do is make it harder for a father to hand down a gun to his son, or for a neighbor to sell a firearm to another neighbor.

When listening to the radio Tuesday morning, Cassidy said he heard that where there is stricter gun laws, there is less crime. He said it’s actually the “exact opposite,” as the areas that have the strictest gun control laws also have the most murder. He said the areas with more lenient gun laws have fewer gun crimes, which is “what’s frustrating on my part.”

Saugus Police Chief Domenic DiMella said he does agree with limiting access to guns.

“I do believe that criminals always seem to find ways to get guns,” DiMella said. “I believe that it won’t solve the problem but I do agree with background checks.”
DiMella said background checks make sure that guns are given to responsible citizens. He said he’s also in favor of putting money into mental health services, as “a lot of things that have happened are from people with some mental health issues.”

DiMella said he has seen an increase requests for gun permits in the last year or so, which he believes could be a response to “matters that are happening in the world and around the country that people see and are nervous with.”

“They’re looking for some form of protection,” DiMella said.

Peabody Police Detective Michael Crane said gun licensing has increased considerably throughout the past year in his department, but wouldn’t comment specifically on Obama’s speech as he hadn’t reviewed all of the data presented.