In the nine years he served in Washington, Paul Tsongas
established a reputation as a bright, hard-working, and well-respected
Tsongas' political career began in 1968 at the age of 27. Upon his
return home from service as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ethiopia, he challenged
the political establishment and won election to the Lowell City Council.
Four years later, he was elected Middlesex County Commissioner and fulfilled
his promise to rid county government of corruption.
In 1974, he became the first Democrat in this century to win election to serve
the Massachusetts Fifth District in Congress. As U.S. Senator from 1979
to 1985, Tsongas served on the Foreign Relations Committee, the Energy and
Natural Resources Committee and the Small Business Committee. Following
his two terms in Congress, Tsongas forged a record that established him as one
of America's most effective leaders.
Colleagues and supporters were shocked in 1984 when Tsongas announced he
would not seek re-election, but would return home with his family after being
diagnosed with cancer.
After receiving a bone marrow transplant in 1986 to battle his lymphoma, (a
proceedure he now compares with what must be done to the U.S. economy) he
returned to the swimming pool after a 27-year hiatus to repair lung damage
caused by his cancer treatment.
A former Dartmouth swimmer, class of'62, Tsongas swam the 200-7ard
breaststroke and scored in two meets during his collegiate career by placing
second in wins over Columbia and Springfield College. At this time, only
two swimmers could be entered in each event and, as the third best man in his
event, Tsongas often was on the reserve list. Tsongas joined the team as a
mediocre swimmer and by his senior year he had earned his varsity
letter. That year Dartmouth finished the season 5-5.
College roommates remember Tsongas as a somewhat introverted student who liked
to discuss intellectual subjects. A notable exception was
swimming. Under the tutelage of Coach Karl Michaels, Tsongas' swimming
experience--struggling freshman to varsity letterman--is a transition that
characterized him, especially in his political endeavors, for years to
come. Swimming provided Tsongas with the self-esteem he had been
lacking. "By the time he graduated, it was clear that he had a lot
of determination and ability," said his freshman roommate Stephen Quya.
Ron Keenhold, assistant coach, said of Tsongas, "He was a determined,
serious person. Academics definitely came first for him. He knew
he wasn't going to be a star in the pool, but he swam to round out his college
In announcing his presidential candidacy in March 1991, Tsongas renewed his
quest to not only change the country, but to change the Democratic
Party. Embracing pro-growth positions and a liberal social agenda, Paul
Tsongas outlined a detailed plan to rebuild America's economy. This
program which is outlined in his book, A Call To Economic Arms: Forging A
New American Mandate, emphasizes the need to make the hard choices today
so that America will continue to be a great country tomorrow.
Whereas most presidential candidates are often seen taking their early morning
jogs, Tsongas prefers a dip in the Pool. Better yet, Tsongas swam the
butterfly on a nationally broadcast campaign commercial in a sleek, black
Speedo racing suit to prove his health and fitness to the nation.
As part of his continued therapy and campaign statement, Tsongas joined the
Andover Masters YMCA swim team and competed in several competitions which
resulted in a world record for his 200-meter, co-ed freestyle relay.
Paul Tsongas is honored not only for his accomplishments in government, but
for serving as an example to all that the true meaning of sports is not
finishing first, but giving it your best shot.