In the nine years he served in Washington, Paul Tsongas established a reputation as a bright, hard-working, and well-respected lawmaker.
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.ce to teach school children swimming.
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 experience".
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.
Recipients of the Gold Medallion Award.