President Deval Patrick?

November, 2018

One October morning in 1966 I walked out to Beacon Street in Brookline where I would wait for the streetcar I took every morning to my job in Boston’s Back Bay. I am grumpy in the morning and I was not happy to see a guy greeting everyone who came to the stop, giving them a handout. But when the guy introduced himself to me as a candidate for state rep. I instantly liked him. He seemed to be what my wife calls “authentic” and I talked to him for a few minutes about issues facing the state. He was pitching a plan created by two Harvard professors to reform what had become a ridiculously corrupt auto insurance system.

His name was Mike Dukakis and I have been his enthusiastic supporter ever since.

More than 30 years later, Kathy and I retired to the Cape. Not long after we moved in 1998, we attended the Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner sponsored by the CC Democratic Council. The speaker was someone we had never heard of, Deval Patrick. By the time he finished speaking I was on my feet, clapping. I almost never get up and clap. I instantly became his enthusiastic supporter.

Kathy says that Deval is also “authentic;” and his two-term career as governor of Mass. bore that out. Now he is thinking of running for president. Jeffrey Toobin does an excellent profile (see link below). But in case you have no time to read, I have excerpted a few graphs that reminded me of his speech on the Cape so many years ago.

“In the spring and summer of 2014, there was a [border] crisis [like today’s], when the number of unaccompanied children crossing the border surged. The Obama Administration responded by asking states to take in some of the young refugees, and Patrick agreed to settle up to a thousand children in Massachusetts, despite protests on the State House steps and criticism from officials and constituents. In a news conference, Patrick cited America’s history of giving sanctuary to endangered children.

“We have rescued Irish children from famine, Russian and Ukrainian children from religious persecution, Cambodian children from genocide, Haitian children from earthquakes, Sudanese children from civil war, and children from New Orleans from Hurricane Katrina,” he said. “Once, in 1939, we turned our back on Jewish children fleeing the Nazis, and it remains a blight on our national reputation. The point is that this good nation is great when we open our doors and our hearts to needy children, and diminished when we don’t.”

He also drew on his faith. “I believe that we will one day have to answer for our actions and our inactions,” he said, his voice shaking.

“My faith teaches that if a stranger dwells with you in your land, you shall not mistreat him but, rather, love him as yourself. For you were strangers in the land of Egypt. We are admonished to take in the stranger, for inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these, Christ tells us, you did it to me. Every major faith tradition on the planet charges its followers to treat others as we ourselves wish to be treated. I don’t know what good there is in faith, if we can’t and won’t turn to it in moments of human need.”

The speech was widely covered, although, in the end, the crisis eased, and Massachusetts was not required to take in the promised refugees. But the moment showed what Patrick has to offer — eloquence and idealism in the service of modest goals.

In a sermon at a black church, drawing from the text from Bible: “If you love me, feed my sheep.”

“Now, what I was taught in the Cosmopolitan Community Church on the South Side of Chicago is that feeding his sheep is a call to action,” he told the congregation. “It’s about engagement, it’s about caring, yes, but doing. I don’t know what feeding his sheep means if you don’t believe in trying to extend affordable, accessible health care to everybody. I don’t know what feeding his sheep means if you’re not trying to reduce gun violence and make schools safe for everybody.”

He went through his whole political agenda this way — improving education, raising wages, strengthening the economy — and soon the worshippers were on their feet.

From the Political Scene section of the New Yorker, read: Can an Obama acolyte be elected after Trump?

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