Kevin W. Concannon and Joelle Gamble were honored this afternoon at the 9th Annual Garden Party at the Frances Perkins Homestead in Newcastle. Commissioner Concannon, a Portland native, was awarded the Steadfast Award in recognition of and with thanks for his over 40 years of public service at both the federal and state levels.
Gamble was awarded the Open Door Award for her organizational work at the Roosevelt Institute and in support of her graduate studies at Woodrow Wilson School of Public Policy and International Affairs, Princeton University, this fall.
The annual celebration occurs on the anniversary of the signing of the social security act – 82 years old tomorrow, August 14th. Perkins was the first women to be a cabinet secretary and served as President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Secretary of Labor for his entire presidency.
It was Perkins, who in 1933, outlined for the President a list of radical changes to social welfare and the country’s labor laws that he supported. Social security was one of Perkins’ proposals and is part of her legacy today. “Her legacy lives on by helping Americans with many life-saving programs. She encouraged President Roosevelt to implement our social safety net, … ….amplified by President Lyndon B. Johnson,” said Deborah S. Gardner, PhD., of The Roosevelt House of Public Policy Institute at Hunter College. (See right photo.)
Professor William Leuchtenburg told the crowd of about 100 seated under a shade tent beside the Frances Perkins Homestead, Newcastle, that the occasional faults of a government can be forgiven but that is not so “of a government frozen in its own indifference,” a not so veiled description of the Trump administration. “New dealers knew that much remained to be done. The New Deal did not solve all problems. It gives us more time to reflect. We Americans of today are characters in the living book of history and we are also its authors. We are members of a relay team that has been handed a baton in this race by Frances Perkins and FDR.” He is the author of over a dozen books on 20th century American history and the dean of New Deal History. Leuchtenburg is professor emeritus of history at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
Concannon said that it was “enjoyable to be among so many people with shared values,” a comment that drew laughter from the partisan audience. “We do better things when we do it in a unified way.” Appointed as Under Secretary in the US Department of Agriculture during President Obama’s administration, he defended the work of career government employees often under fire in the Trump administration and told stories of his career with humor and grace. Mr. Concannon was also former Commissioner of Maine’s DHS.
Dr. Chris Breiseth had the good fortune to know Frances Perkins while he was a student at Cornell University: Chris lived in a unique dormitory called Telleuroid House. For the last ten years of her life, Perkins taught at Cornell. Breiseth invited the former Secretary of Labor to live at Telleuroid during the last five years of her life, an offer she accepted. It was free housing, Chris said. “We did not know at the time that free housing was important to her because of her financial situation,” he said. Her husband suffered from emotional problems and required special housing during his lifetime – an expense for which Perkins was solely responsible. Unknown to Breiseth, was her age. She was eighty years old. Breiseth worked with her often – setting up seminars with Henry Wallace and James Farley for example. He asked Perkins what was her greatest achievement?
“Social Security,” Perkins answered.
For more information on the Frances Perkins Homestead Campaign and Center, please contact Michael Chaney, at: email@example.com or call 207 – 563-3374.