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Governor Healey Offers St. John's Student Leaders an Inside Look

Governor Healey Offers St. John's Student Leaders an Inside Look

Urging a Prep delegation to ‘keep looking out for each other,’ Governor Maura Healey championed ‘respect for the dignity and worth of each person’ throughout her campus visit

Photos from Governor Healey's Visit

Though she has family roots on the North Shore, Governor Maura Healey had never set foot on the St. John’s Prep campus before arriving to meet with select student leaders on Tuesday, but it was quickly clear her personal values are closely aligned with those of the Xaverian Brothers. The Commonwealth’s chief executive commanded the A.E. Studzinski Library for 50 minutes, offering her views and vision in response to prompts from more than five student groups. The Governor opened her remarks by thanking Father Jim Ronan ’62, her Charlestown parish priest, friend, spiritual guide, and mentor, who helped facilitate her visit.

“We’re really excited to have the opportunity to engage with you and to learn from you,” said Head of School Ed Hardiman, Ph.D. P '19 '21 '26. “The students here today are all involved in different leadership programs and one of our big areas of focus this year is civil discourse, so we’re thankful that you’ve come to campus to share your time with us.”

While the words ‘authentic’ and ‘genuine’ have been overused to the point of losing their meaning in popular vernacular, the level of sincerity, honesty, and earnestness that punctuated Healey’s interaction with students was palpable. She was vulnerable, she was personal, she readily owned her flaws, and she assured her young audience that no one person can have all the answers. 

The theme of the morning’s conversation was ethical leadership, civil discourse, and working through divergent views in service of one’s own values. The 120 students in attendance included representatives from Student Council, Multicultural Affairs and Community Development, the Civic Debate Club, XBSS student leaders, and the School’s Community of Concern. Healey dived right into the leadership theme before even fielding her first question.

“I see on this library’s seal the words ‘In harmony, small things grow,’ and I’m reminded that everyone from everywhere can lead,” she said. “You can lead from right where you are. You can lead in your family, you can lead in the classroom, you can lead on your team, you can lead in your friend group. More than ever, I think it’s important to take into the world the values that are affirmed here (at St. John’s) about compassion, about trust, about looking after one another, and acting with empathy. You’re coming of age in a time of great challenge and a time of great opportunity. You are all going to be a part of that, and I think leaning into this concept of not just leadership, but also civic engagement is important, caring about community and being the change you want to see in the world.”

In the course of her dialogue with students, Healey continually hit on the significance of actively listening to differing points of view, even when she doesn’t share a particular outlook. She cited one example from her time as Massachusetts Attorney General when she attended a town hall meeting that included many folks protesting her position on gun safety. Healey chose to meet the issue head on, walking to the back of the hall to engage with them directly. 

“They weren’t necessarily expecting that and it was good to hear their perspective and to demonstrate that I was listening,” she recalled. “I proceeded to have a number of meetings with gun owners around the state, and those certainly informed my policy. I think you have to be willing to really engage, and sometimes that means putting yourself out there and being vulnerable and maybe hearing things that you’re not used to hearing or don’t necessarily think you want to hear. But you’re going to learn something in the process.”

The Governor shared her belief that interpersonal engagement can unravel assumptions and unearth commonalities. “We’re supposed to live in a judgment free zone, and yet every single one of us judges all the time, we profile all the time,” she said. “You have to develop an empathy, which you can only do by being open to others and by understanding where they are and what they’re thinking about. Very often, you find that your way is not the only way or maybe not even the right way. You have to try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. If you want me to be a good leader in this state, if you want me to have policies that are going to really deliver for people, that’s what you should be demanding of me and, frankly, anybody who serves.”

In answer to a question about how to promote civil discourse, the Governor gave a real-world example of a movement in some political circles “to disagree agreeably.” Healey referenced a campaign within the National Governors Association spearheaded by the Republican Governor of Utah, Spencer Cox, that’s designed to foster just such a culture, which she synopsizes as ‘how not to be a jerk.’ 

Healey did, however, urge students to embrace the notion that there is a time and a place to draw the line.

“While we must encourage and make room for everyone’s voice, there are some basic values that have kept our society intact,” she said. “Call out hate when you see it. There’s no room for racism, there’s no room for antisemitism, there’s no room for Islamophobia, there’s no room for homophobia. We can have differences of opinion on things, but to me, equality has got to abide. Respect for the dignity and worth of each person is something I call on people to really adhere to. Try to speak the truth. This is what you can do in healthy debate. You can check each other with (fact-based evidence) and bring up a different perspective. This is a representative government and a representative democracy. You can come in with strong ideas, but you’ve got to be able to respect the rule of law.”


Students asked the Governor to weigh in on a number of other topics including how to maintain work-life balance, how she would articulate her core values, and what she views as the most pressing and important challenges for today’s leaders. 

On the first topic, she conceded that she herself is a work in progress with regard to achieving such balance, but she did remind students that “being attentive to self-care doesn’t mean you’re selfish.” She also prescribed “finding ways to fill your cup—whatever it is that gives you joy—and make time in the day to do that thing.” Lastly, she advised, “No matter what else is going on in the world, take care of those around you. We all need to express gratitude to the loved ones around us who help get us where we need to be on the work front. Those relationships need nurturing.”

The Governor readily listed humility, kindness, and honesty as primary core values, but expanded on what that looks like in everyday life. “One of the things I’ve always been animated by is, I’ve never liked a bully. Since childhood, I’ve been pretty attuned to looking after those who are vulnerable, looking after people who were picked on. That drove me as attorney general and it drives me now as governor: What are we doing for marginalized groups in terms of the resources that they have?”

As for challenges, Healey said an unwavering defense of the Constitution and the preservation of democracy are the linchpin to securing our future. And she puts the onus on herself as much as anyone else.

“Basic faith and belief in government and public trust in government has been tested over the last few years, and we have to work on that every day right now,” she said. “As few as three in 10 Americans think that we have a democracy that’s functioning well. That’s a challenge of leadership. We need to protect the three branches of government, affording them all respect and making sure they function well. And we have to serve as good models in the way we conduct ourselves. What I’m going to do about it is continue to work toward showing people government successes and results. These things are all important to protecting our institutions.”

In closing, she implored students to consider working on the front lines. “I encourage you to serve. We need good people of goodwill in government.”
The Governor’s dialogue with students was moderated by Matt Spearing, the Prep’s Director of Environmental Sustainability within the School’s Center for Mission and Research. Student leaders who joined Healey on the dais were Will Guggenberger ’24 and Jimmy Driscoll ’24 (Student Council), Alejandro Baez Tejeda ’24 and Harrison Waldman ’25 (MACD), Cam Busa ’24 (Campus Ministry), JP Sullivan ’25 and Theo Karlin ’25 (Community of Concern), Harry Block ’24 (XBSS), and Anthony Smart ’24 and Andrew Ruocco ’24 (Civic Debate Club).