Senator Patrick Leahy sounds off on Congress, St. Michael’s College and the Grateful Dead

Bobby Grady/ Editor/Photos by Bobby Grady.

This past January, Senator Patrick Leahy ‘61 retired from the U.S. Senate after nearly 50 years in office. 

The St. Michael’s College alum put together a distinguished resume during his time, which includes becoming the first democrat elected to the U.S. Senate from Vermont, working with Princess Diana, and becoming the president pro tempore of the Senate. 

After a long career in politics, there is not much Senator Leahy has not seen, but Rep. Kevin McCarthy being ousted as speaker of the house was unexpected.

“Pushing out the speaker of the house because he did not cave into a small group shows a very dysfunctional congress. It hurts the American people,” Sen. Leahy said. “The house wants to do their own agenda, they don’t want to do the agenda of the American people.” 

Sen. Leahy has been following the accusations brought against former President Donald Trump. 

“I’ve never seen anything like this in the country. The charges brought against Nixon were not as serious as these,” Sen. Leahy said. “For Donald Trump to use this as a campaign thing is disgraceful.”  

These situations have left Sen. Leahy concerned for the future. 

“I knew it was getting bad but I never believed anything would turn out as bad as this, and I worry that unless more people in both parties come in and speak about the values of our country and work on the things that are really needed in our country, then we could be hurt really badly as a nation,” Sen. Leahy said. “I’ve seen dysfunction in my years there before but never as bad as this.”  

On Sept. 23rd, the Center for the Environment was dedicated in honor of Sen. Leahy for his work to improve St. Michael’s College. 

Senator Leahy ‘61 speaks at the dedication of the Patrick and Marcelle Leahy Center for the Environment.
The Patrick ‘61 and Marcelle Leahy Center for the environment.

While reflecting on his career, Sen. Leahy recalls how his education at St. Michael’s College helped him prepare for law school at Georgetown University and beyond. 

“I found it very good because the classes were small. We had people like Dr. Fairbanks and Dr. Pifer who would push you all the time. You did not just get an okay but instead were asked why something was done and could it have been done differently. We had these debates in class and I found it extremely helpful,” said Sen. Leahy.  

Though it was an all male campus at the time, St. Michael’s College is where he met his wife, Marcelle. 

Interim President Thayne greets Senator Leahy and his wife Marcelle

“Student nurses from a local hospital took courses at St. Michael’s College, and I was dating one of those nurses and we eventually got married and have been married for over 60 years,” said Sen. Leahy. 

While St. Michael’s College and his role in the U.S. Senate were prominent parts of his life, there is more to Sen. Leahy.  

He is an avid fan of the Grateful Dead and recalls a time he attended one of their concerts. 

“I used to sit on stage four feet from Jerry Garcia, and one time the White House operator tracked me down and he said he had the Secretary of State Warren Christopher on the phone and he wanted to talk with me. 

“Warren Christopher was a very serious guy, and Sting was warming up the crowd and he was really rocking. The Secretary didn’t know I was there and he asked me if I could turn my radio down. I said ‘Chris, that’s Sting. I’m on stage at a Grateful Dead concert and Sting is warming up the crowd.’  

“The Secretary said ‘well, while you’re at your rock and roll concert, would you have a moment to speak with the president?’ Bill Clinton comes on and says, ‘Man where are you?’ ‘Well Mr. President,’ I said, ‘I’m at a Grateful Dead concert.’ ‘I wish I was there with you,’ said President Clinton.”