Barney Frank served as United States Congressman from Massachusetts for over three decades, starting in 1981, when he won the seat formerly occupied by Father Robert Drinan. An outspoken and deeply-respected legislator, noted for his keen sense of humor, Frank has played a key role in some of the most important legislation of our country’s recent history, including the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
As Chair of the House Financial Services Committee from 2007 to 2011, Frank helped craft the compromise bill to slow the tide of home mortgage foreclosures in the wake of the subprime mortgage crisis, as well as the subsequent $550 billion rescue plan, and the landmark Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act—the sweeping set of regulatory reforms named partly after Frank and signed into law in July 2010, to prevent the recurrence of the financial crisis.
Frank also led the passage of the Credit Cardholders’ Bill of Rights Act, a measure lauded by consumer advocates, and fought to preserve affordable rental housing, as well as to reduce military spending in favor of providing for important quality-of-life needs at home.
Born Barnett Frank on March 31, 1940, in Bayonne, New Jersey to Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe—Frank’s parents were a truck stop owner and a legal secretary—Barney Frank graduated from Harvard in 1962 and went on to pursue a Ph.D. He left before completing the degree to take a job as chief assistant to Boston Mayor Kevin White in 1968. Frank won a seat in the Massachusetts State Legislature in 1972, and though still closeted, went on to become a national leader of the LGBT rights movement, introducing the state’s first two gay rights bills in 1973.
In 1987, Frank became the first member of Congress to voluntarily come out as openly gay, and in 2012 he married his longtime partner Jim Ready, becoming the nation’s first congressman in a same-sex marriage while in office.
Frank’s sixteen terms in Congress have left a legacy of civil rights and financial reform, and his abilities will be sorely missed. As noted by The Wall Street Journal: “Mr. Frank’s combative liberalism and quick wit make him a standout in a Capitol filled with politicians dependent on talking points and polls, a trait alluded to by Mr. Obama who said in a written statement that, ‘The House of Representatives will not be the same without him.’”
Read a feature interview with Barney Frank in New York magazine
Read a feature interview with Barney Frank in Metro Weekly
Watch Barney Frank’s speech for Harvard Class Day 2012
Watch Barney Frank interviewed on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
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SPEECHESGridlock in Washington - How It Came About, and How It Can Be Ended After:
sixteen terms in Congress, few people know the inner workings of Washington better than Barney Frank. Though known as an ardent Democrat, Frank often reached across the aisle, helping to pass bipartisan legislation. In a survey of Members of Congress, Frank had the unique distinction of being voted one of the most partisan and one of the most bipartisan members. Hank Paulson, Jr. Secretary of the Treasury under the Bush Administration said, "When we're faced with a tough situation and a real need for immediate action, Barney approaches the discussion in a pragmatic way and doesn't let perfect be the enemy of the good. He is looking to get things done and make a difference. He focuses on areas of agreement and tries to build on those." In this talk, Frank offers a truly inside perspective of how Washington works and how it can work better in the public interest and what Congress can do to truly get things done.Financial Reform:
As chair of the House Financial Services Committee, Frank was instrumental in crafting some of the most sweeping financial reform laws in history, including the Mortgage Reform and Anti-Predatory Lending Act and the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, the regulatory overhaul signed into law in July 2010. With his trademark skill at getting quickly to the heart of complex issues, Frank offers unique insight into the financial crisis, the current path we're on, and what we can expect going forward.The Gay Rights Movement:
As the nation's first Congressman to voluntarily come out as openly gay and the first to be in a same sex marriage while in office, Barney Frank has been at the forefront of the gay rights movement. Frank has been a central figure in every gay rights battle that has taken place in the history of the U.S. Congress, and was instrumental in several important victories, including the abolition of the anti-gay provision of U.S. Immigration Law; the abolition of the rule that denied LGBT people security clearance; the enactment of a fully-inclusive hate crimes bill for LGBT people; and the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell.” Either by himself or with his husband, James Ready, Frank illuminates the arc of the gay rights movement and shares what's ahead for LGBT issues.Tackling the Deficit:
Barney Frank has consistently been one of the strongest voices in Congress for reducing America's excessive military spending to allow deficit reduction to proceed in a socially responsible way. In the past two years, in the arguments he has been making about the wisdom of a reduced worldwide American military presence, he has been one of the leaders in this debate. He will be continuing these efforts as a private citizen.America and Israel:
Barney Frank has been a staunch advocate of an American policy that fully supports Israel's right to remain a free, secure, Jewish democratic state. He has also made the point that criticism of the particular policies of the government in Israel at any one time is in no way inconsistent with that, and he has in fact been among the leaders of liberals who have articulated this position - of full support for Israel's right to exist, with an independent perspective on Israeli policies. He has been a critic of the settlement policy, and a strong supporter of the Israeli domestic policies on the rights of women, religious freedom, the rights of LGBT people and other policies that sharply differentiate Israel from all of its neighbors.
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"Everything went just great: his plane arrived on time, he met with the media, met with Pride Law (who really enjoyed his visit!), delivered a lively and delightful McCormick Lecture, and then was a gracious guest at the McCormick Dinner following the lecture. By all accounts, the Society was pleased with his visit."
Bernadette Wilkins, University of Arizona