The Constitution as savior: AG Healey speaks at Smith

  • Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey speaks Monday at Smith College. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Maddie Wettach, right, a Smith College sophomore, asks Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, in the photo below, a question after Healey's speech, Monday at Smith College. Thomas McGee, second from right, of Hadley, also asked a question. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS PHOTOS

  • Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey poses for a photo with Northampton Mayor David Narkewitz and Northampton High School students Cherilyn Strader, from left, Tadea Martin-Gonzalez, Liam McBride and Ben Moss- Horwitz after her speech, Monday at Smith College. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey speaks Monday at Smith College. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey talks with a group from Northampton High School who are members of High School Democrats of America, Monday at Smith College, after her speech. They are, from top, Ben Moss-Horwitz, Liam McBride, Tadea Martin-Gonzalez and Cherilyn Strader. Northampton Mayor David Narkewitz looks on. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Emma Fuchs, right, shares her views before a speech by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, Monday at Smith College. Grace Scott-Hiser is beside her. Both are freshmen at Smith College. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan chats with Merrilyn Lewis, who is an associate director in the events management office at Smith College, before a speech by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, Monday at Smith College. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Smith College President Kathleen McCartney introduces Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, Monday at Smith College. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

Published: 9/19/2017 12:51:05 AM

Northampton — Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey gave a speech at Smith College Monday night, where she weighed in on the power of the U.S. Constitution as a tool for social justice, and took more than a few red-meat shots at President Donald J. Trump.

“As long as this president or anyone else wants to threaten our interests or our residents, we’re going to keep using the Constitution to stand up to them,” Healey said.

Healey spoke to a packed Weinstein Auditorium, as part of the college’s Presidential Colloquium Series, the first such talk of this school year. She was introduced by Smith College President Kathleen McCartney.

“We certainly have a distinguished person today,” said McCartney, who took the time to praise Healey’s work on the commonwealth’s successful challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act, which drew a big round of applause from the crowd.

Healey worked praise of numerous Smith alumni into her speech, including journalist Molly Ivins, feminist crusader Gloria Steinem, poet Sylvia Plath, chef Julia Child and Congresswoman Barbara Jordan.

“You don’t have to look far to find good role models,” Healey said.

Healey’s speech was part of Smith’s observance of Constitution Day, and she repeatedly noted the power of “one of the greatest documents in world history.”

“It’s a document that lives and breathes,” said Healey, saying that what makes the document special were the values and the principles that each generation “breathes into it.”

“It’s animated by the acts of people,” she continued.

Additionally, Healey asserted that numerous rights that we enjoy as Americans stem from the Constitution, and noted Ivins’ contention that the history of the United States is the history of working to extend the rights guaranteed under the Constitution to all its people.

While acknowledging that the Constitution “is not perfect,” Healey explained how its equal protection clause had been successfully used to challenge DOMA and get it ruled unconstitutional.DOMA defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman under federal law, and made it so states without same-sex marriage did not have to recognize the legality of same-sex marriages performed in states where it was legal.

She also noted that the plaintiff in that case was a postal worker.

“One postal worker took on the entire federal government, and she won,” Healey said. “She won, because she had the Constitution on her side.”

Criticizing Trump

Much of the 26-minute speech was devoted to criticizing Trump and his policies, with Healey accusing him of bragging about assaulting women, taking issue with a number of his cabinet appointees and slamming him for his repeal of DACA, or Deferred Actions on Childhood Arrivals, which she characterized as an attack on Americans. DACA protects hundreds of thousands of young non-citizens who were brought to the United States when they were children from deportation.

She also noted her participation in this year’s Women’s March in Boston, and how she had announced there that she would be seeing Trump in court.

“Even I didn’t think it would be so soon or so often,” said Healey, which drew another round of applause.

Healey  pointed to her office’s efforts in fighting both iterations of executive orders restricting travel from a number of Muslim-majority countries, which she characterized as Muslim bans, and spoke about speaking to a professor, originally from Iran, who was detained as a result of  the first order in January.

“Once again the Constitution was there for us,” said Healey, noting  how the first executive order was struck down in the courts.

Healey also noted how two 12-year-old Somali-American twin girls had talked to her prior to the rolling out of the second executive order, and how one had asked her who would keep her family safe.

“I gave her a hug and said, ‘We will,’” Healey said.

Healey also talked about taking the Trump administration to court to defend the DACA program.

The attorney general urged folks to continue being politically active, and gave one of the rights guaranteed under the constiution as the right to “condemn and protest a president who refuses to condemn Nazis and white supremacists, misogny and racism.”

“More people are paying attention, and that’s a good thing,” Healey said. “Stay involved.”

“The Constitution, remember, is only as strong as those upholding it,” Healey continued.


Finally, Healey all but called for the removal of Trump from office at the conclusion of her speech, noting Jordan’s efforts in removing President Richard Nixon from power in 1974.

“She helped take down that president who thought he was above the law,” said Healey, referring to the Smith alumna and congresswoman from Texas. “Perhaps it’s time for history to repeat itself.”

Healey then took questions from the audience, with the first dealing with why Trump has yet to be brought up on articles of impeachment.

Noting that impeachment is a congressional matter, Healey said she believes that not enough people in Congress put country over party.

One of the questioners, Thomas McGee of Hadley, brought up state legislation in Massachusetts that would require all state jobs to be posted with the state unemployment office, an effort that has languished in the legislature for more than two decades. Healey said she wasn’t aware of the legislation, but expressed an interest in it.

“I think that her response was excellent,” said McGee, speaking after the event.

Another questioner, Smith sophomore Maddie Wettach, asked Healey what she would amend about the Constitution if she could. Healey said she would immediately repeal the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, which characterized corporate and union political expenditures as protected from government restriction under the First Amendment, a response that drew applause. 

Voting systems, political involvement, the Equifax credit hack and free speech as it applies to white supremacist protesters were also brought up by speakers.

Emma Fuchs, 18, a Smith freshman, attended the event because she was invited to it, and she gave Healey’s speech high marks.

“I think it was really well done,” she said, praising Healey’s use of personal moments to tackle a broad topic.

She also praised how well-spoken some of her fellow students were in the question period.

During her speech, Healey took the time to praise Northampton, noting that this was the city where she initially launched her successful campaign for attorney general.

“It’s a great place,” she said, speaking to the Gazette after the event.

She also expressed satisfaction with how the question-and-answer period went.

“I’m so happy that people are engaged,” Healey said. “The Constitution belongs to them.”

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