Governor Deval Patrick (‘74) Addresses Seniors
by Amanda Beaudoin on Friday, June 8th, 2012
Today, Milton Academy welcomed alumnus and Governor of Massachusetts Deval Patrick (‘74) to share his wisdom and advice with the senior class. Although Governor Patrick unfortunately could not speak during the graduation ceremony as planned, he addressed Class I before the beginning of this morning’s events.
The first African-American Governor of Massachusetts, Patrick was appointed Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights under President Bill Clinton after attending Harvard College and Harvard Law School. Patrick has clearly accomplished much over the 38 years since he left Milton and wishes to advise the Class of 2012 as they depart to begin new chapters of their lives. The Milton Measure had an opportunity to interview Governor Patrick over the phone on Wednesday.
After growing up on the south side of Chicago, Patrick came to Milton Academy at age fourteen after earning a scholarship through the Boston-based non-profit, “A Better Chance,” an organization dedicated to developing leaders among intellectually gifted minority students.
When Patrick’s father left him, his sister, and their mother to pursue a jazz career, the family lived off of welfare for several years. Patrick recalled his grandparents buying him a new jacket after learning that, at the time, Milton required boys to wear jackets and ties. On the south side of Chicago, however, a “jacket” refers to a windbreaker. Patrick arrived on campus sporting a navy-blue windbreaker, and found all of his classmates in blazers and tweed jackets. Patrick explained that he “…felt like [he] had landed on a different planet.” Nevertheless, Patrick soon earned respect from both teachers and students for his academic talent, his enthusiasm for learning, and his natural leadership ability. Patrick developed close relationships with many of Milton’s “marvelous teachers.” These teachers “…were extraordinarily kind to me outside the classroom,” said Governor Patrick, and “were profoundly important for a kid who felt out of place.”
Patrick lived in Hallowell House, now a girls’ dorm. A fellow classmate recalled in an interview that Patrick’s room was always filled with other students because he was such an attentive listener. His patience with the concerns of others has helped him achieve success in every aspect of his life, from his early career as a lawyer to his campaign for governor.
Upon finishing his successful career at Milton Academy, Patrick matriculated to Harvard, graduating Cum Laude in 1978 with a Bachelor’s degree in English and American literature. He credits Milton’s “well-developed…apparatus for applying to and preparing for college” as having a key influence in his success at Harvard.
Patrick worked for the United Nations in Africa for a year before attending Harvard Law School, where he served as president of the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, a prestigious student-run law firm. During his time with the organization, Patrick concentrated on defending poor families in Middlesex County.
After graduating Cum Laude from Harvard Law School in 1982 , Patrick started his career on a strong note, clerking for a federal judge and working for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund on death penalty and voting rights cases. Patrick explained that Milton, in addition to assuring his academic success, taught him “…the ease of being around people who are different from me…[and] being in the presence of wealth” while “remembering who you are and remaining true to yourself.” “All of those…bigger, broader values,” said Governor Patrick, “are embedded in the school motto. And it seems kind of corny to say it, but it turns out to be incredibly powerful for life.”
One of the most impressive achievements of Patrick’s law career was being named a partner at the Boston law firm Hill & Barlow at age 34. Four years later, Patrick became President Clinton’s Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. In this position, Patrick dealt with issues for which he felt passionate, such as racial profiling, police misconduct, human trafficking, hate crimes, abortion clinic violence, discrimination based on gender and disability, and the enforcement of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The wisdom that Patrick wishes to impart to the senior class reflects the principles that have framed his life. He told The Milton Measure that he “is looking to [our] generation to help recapture” the notion that “we are supposed to, in our time, do what we can to leave things better for those who come behind us .” He also stressed that one person cannot do this alone. “It’s going to take all of us,” he said.
Throughout his legal, business, and political career, Patrick has held steadfast to his beliefs, thoroughly embodying the Milton Academy motto, “dare to be true,” and fighting for the rights of the disadvantaged around the country, particularly in Massachusetts. In our interview, Governor Patrick said that “it’s…disappointing that I won’t be able to give the commencement address.” Nevertheless, he will no doubt leave a lasting impression on a new generation of Milton graduates as he encourages them to improve their world.
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