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Northeastern’s Robert DeLeo to be honored with Roosevelt Award at annual Massachusetts Democratic Party event

Every year, the organization honors two people who are “major champions of democratic values and causes.”

Headshot of Bob DeLeo.
Former House speaker Robert DeLeo will be honored at the 25th annual Massachusetts Democratic Party Dinner as a recipient of a Roosevelt Award. Photo by Alyssa Stone/Northeastern University

Former House speaker Robert DeLeo, who is a Northeastern University Fellow for Public Life, will be honored at the 25th annual Massachusetts Democratic Party Dinner as one of two recipients of this year’s Roosevelt Awards.

The annual dinner will take place on Thursday, June 13. Every year, the organization typically honors two people who are “major champions of democratic values and causes.”  

A Roosevelt Award is the “highest honor” the Massachusetts Democratic Party bestows. Prior awardees include former Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey. 

DeLeo will be honored alongside longtime activist Linda Whitlock, former CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston, who now serves in the Biden administration on the President’s Commission on White House Fellows.

“The Roosevelt Award is given out annually to individuals in Massachusetts politics who embody the spirit and Democratic beliefs of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt,” Steve Kerrigan, chair of the Massachusetts Democratic Party, said in a statement. “Speaker DeLeo’s outstanding service, leadership and commitment to advancing democratic principles make him a well-deserving recipient and we look forward to celebrating him.”

“It is my honor to be the recipient of this award named for two of my political heroes,” said DeLeo, who was speaker from 2009 to 2020.

DeLeo touted his record “introducing and passing groundbreaking gun safety legislation, protections for transgender individuals and reproductive rights, historic support for early education care, and benefits of families with a member with autism.”

“As speaker, I strove to follow the legacy of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt in ensuring the safety and civil rights of our residents, providing for those most in need of help, and constructing a secure economic future,” DeLeo said.

Speaking to Northeastern Global News, DeLeo says he found out that he would be receiving the award in May.

“The Roosevelts were always sort of looked at as these social reformers,” DeLeo says. “The New Deal, Social Security, job creation — it was all about helping the everyday person at a particular moment of need.”

“That’s why, from my perspective, it is such an honor,” he says. 

DeLeo joined Northeastern in 2021 after nearly four decades of government service. He graduated from Northeastern in 1972, returning to teach and mentor undergraduate and graduate students on public policy matters, urban affairs and legislation. 

His ties to the university extend beyond the classroom. In tackling criminal justice reform and gun safety, he enlisted the help of two Northeastern faculty members: former Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Justice Roderick Ireland, distinguished professor of criminology and criminal justice; and Jack McDevitt, professor of the practice in criminology and criminal justice, and director of the Institute on Race and Justice.

Those partnerships, DeLeo says, led to a comprehensive gun reform package that he touts as one of his chief accomplishments during his tenure.  

“Professor McDevitt gave me 44 recommendations in all, and I took all of those recommendations and made them part of our new gun law,” DeLeo said previously.