As the eldest of five, Attorney General Maura Healey has decades of experience taking care of people. Raised by a school nurse, a military captain and civil engineer and an educator, Healey also knows the importance of honest work and of doing all you can to serve others. These lessons and skills have served her well throughout her legal career.
When asked about her earliest educational memory, Healey recalls her first day of school when she was six years old.
“I was dressed in a plaid jumper, red ribbon in my hair,” she says, revealing the profound impact this day had on her, “waiting outside my house for the school bus and I remember how excited I was to go to school.”
Growing up in the small town of Hampton Falls, NH, Healey attended a school that had only 120 students from first through eighth grade.
“I remember learning to write in cursive with penmanship books using big, fat red pencils,” she says. I remember sitting in reading circles and playing outside for recess. I remember teachers who were kind who taught us reading, writing, and math, but who also put Band-Aids on our scratched knees and comforted us when we were sad. I remember feeling safe and secure and excited about new friends I was making and new things I was learning.”
Healey’s appreciation for her teachers was so profound that Healey often found herself standing in front of her younger siblings, chalk table in hand, having them listen to her “teach”.
“I especially loved my fourth grade teacher – Ms. Finnegan,” Healey mentions. “We kept diaries in her class and she taught us that it’s good to have your own thoughts and to write them down…. Another favorite teacher was my science teacher and principal, Mr. Sanborn, who would take us to the marsh to wade and collect samples of nature…. He was a wonderful teacher who let us experiment.
Healey also fondly recalls a Spanish teacher named Mrs. Robinson who, she says, “was especially kind to students who may have been feeling marginalized and needed a friend or a boost.”
Though she benefitted greatly from the attention and support she received in school, Healey is aware that few students have such privileges today and realizes (as Mrs. Robinson did) that school can be especially challenging for students who do not see themselves as fitting in. That is why, as a civil rights attorney and now as the head of what she calls “the People’s Law Firm,” Healey has stood up especially for underprivileged and often ostracized students, including LGBTQ students. In the larger community she has also been a devoted champion of equal rights for women and the LGBTQ community, as evidenced by her tireless support for marriage equality and gender equity in the workplace and elsewhere.
Healey attended Harvard College, where she captained the women’s basketball team. Her talents on the court led her to a career in professional basketball in Europe, after which she returned home to study law at Northeastern University School of Law. In addition to being named to the New England Basketball Hall of Fame, Healey has also been awarded the American Constitution Society’s Award for Public Service, the Massachusetts LGBTQ Bar Association’s Kevin Larkin Memorial Award for Public Service, and the Equal Justice Coalition’s Award for Legal Aid.
When asked how she made the transition into politics, Healey responds that, as a student, she loved learning about history and civics.
“I learned about the importance of being involved in your own community,” she explains. “We were encouraged in school to think locally and take an interest in your community.”
Healey particularly recalls the opportunity she had in fourth grade to shadow a community lawyer.
“I knew right away I wanted to become one,” she says.
And while her political aspirations may have taken shape later, Healey notes that she was elected class president more than once.
“Looking back now on what I learned in school,” she muses, “I’m not surprised that I ended up in public service or in office because I was always taught to keep an open mind and be open to opportunities that might present themselves.”
In college, Healey majored in government and now makes every effort to engage other students and get them interested in the ways in which the “system” works so they can engage with it and make sure it works for them.
“Young people are our future,” she observes, “and helping them is a top priority of our office. I am concerned that students aren’t learning enough about government and civics. We need to support resources, so they can learn about the power of democracy and the importance of voting and civic engagement.”
Healey still has a large place in her heart for educators and those who work so hard to support students.
“My mother was a school nurse and my stepfather was a history and social studies teacher in high school,” she explains. “He was also president of our local teachers union. Around the kitchen table, we spent a lot of time talking about the challenges facing educators. And I grew up with a very strong belief that nothing was more important for our democracy than to support a vibrant public education system (and those who do the work).”
As life seems “more complicated” today than it was when she was growing up, Healey realizes that the challenges facing students and teachers have increased and that legislators need to do more to support them all.
“The best way to support our students and our future is by supporting our educators and our public schools,” she suggests. “I am committed to doing just that!”▪