by Ray Bendici
Oct 22, 2012
09:02 AM
Unsteady Habits

Remembering Ella


As the election season comes down to the wire, and shameless candidates start saying and doing anything to get elected, I find myself longing for candidates who seemed to be more interested in what they could do for our country as opposed to what our country could do for their bottom line.

It's no accident that close to $1 billion will be spent on the presidential election, and that $27 million will be spent by a single candidate in our senate contest—you need to spend money to make money, and it's no secret that a stint in political office can be quite lucrative, epecially after being in office, as Bill Clinton can attest to. Even former governor Lowell Weicker told me during a recent interview that "When I was governor of the state of Connecticut, I got what? $70,000. [But] when I left and became the head of a large nonprofit enterprise in the medical research field, you could just about quadruple that amount of money."

Speaking of elected officials (and former governors) who were more interested in serving than cashing in, I recently received Ella Grasso: Connecticut's Pioneering Governor, a wonderfully detailed biography about the remarkable state leader, the first woman elected governor of any state in her own right and a posthumous recipient of the Medal of Freedom. The book is the work of Jon E. Purmont, professor emeritus of history at Southern Connecticut State University and former executive assistant to Gov. Grasso.

According to a press release:



Purmont used interviews with family members, friends and political associates, as well as his own diary from ther period in which he worked for Grasso, to complete this definitive biography. He tells of her victories and struggles, her balancing act of political and family life, and her heroic battle with the cancer that eventually ended her life.

The book provides great insight to Grasso's career and mindset, and clearly was a labor of love from Purmont to his departed friend. Unlike other biographies that sometimes needlessly look to create drama to liven up the narrative, Purmont essentially sticks to the actual events, which he augments well with stories and comments from those who were there with the governor throughout her career.

I was only an adolescent when Grasso was in office, but I do remember that Governor Graso was incredibly popular, mainly for being someone who wasn't beholden to doing and saying popular things, but for doing the right—and often, difficult—things for the state. She didn't change who she was in order to curry favor; instead, she steadfastly remained herself, which gave her true power. It also helped that she was dedicated, hard-working and determined, and put the office of governor before herself.

In these times when it seems most politicians govern "with a finger to the wind" (to paraphrase a comment from Mr. Weicker), it'd be nice to be able to have more candidates like Ella Grasso, who valued the opportunity to serve for the right reasons, not financial ones.

The book is available from, among other retailers.

Remembering Ella

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About This Blog

Connecticut may be one of the smallest states, but it's also one of the most diverse. No one knows this better than content manager Ray Bendici, who is always ready to learn more about our eclectic home, be it by exploring a roadside oddity, discovering a new book or uncovering a bit of little-known state history.

For comments or feedback, email Ray.

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