Is All Politics Still Local?

This article is more than 12 years old.

This week we're exhuming the career of Thomas P. "Tip" O'Neill as a new one man play, According to Tip, opens in Boston.

Nobody ever had to remind Tip O'Neill to remember where he came from. Even when he was the Speaker of the House, the most powerful Democrat in the country, it was as if he'd never left.

What Walden was to Thoreau, North Cambridge was to Tip O'Neill. His sense of place embraced Barry's Corner, the brickyards, the Catholic Church, and the blue collar two and three stories down Rindge Avenue where he'd shared his boyhood among Irish, French and Italian immigrants, including my grandparents...

Credited with the maxim that "All politics is local", the Speaker once said he'd rather be a lampost at Barry's Corner than with the most powerful people in the world.

Whenever he came home from the House on Capitol Hill, he'd visit John the Cobbler, Frank the Barber (and get his hair trimmed, seen above), Red the Butcher, and the restaurant run my aunt Mary and uncle Billie. They were both his friends and the faces of those whose interests he fought for.

Few public officials have ever been so beloved, respected, grounded, and unapologetic about their positions.

Today, in a political culture world that seems short on tall men, According To Tip puts the late Speaker of the House on the stage, a a fitting place for the bluff, oversized, sentimental Irish-American who celebrated politics as show business, and called the Sermon on the Mount the greatest speech he ever heard.

This week, on Radio Boston, we're tracking the life and times of the giant who came from a small world.

We'd love to hear your fondest and fiercest memories of the late Speaker, and what you think the Gentleman from North Cambridge would think about the political culture of Washington today.

Photos by Andrew Brilliant/Brilliant Pictures
Photos by Andrew Brilliant/Brilliant Pictures

Plus, some tips on Tip:

According to Tip, starring Ken Howard, at the New Repertory Theater

Mario Cuomo's take on Tip O'Neill and the Democratic Century, by John Farrell

The Tip O'Neill Exhibit, at the Speaker's alma mater, Boston College

John A. Farrell, author of Tip O'Neill and the Democratic Century

Those who knew him best...

Scan through a photo gallery of people David Boeri spoke to for his profile of the Speaker... everyone from his executive assistant, to his son, Tom O'Neill (pictured at left).

This program aired on June 27, 2008. The audio for this program is not available.