A new attitude
Hours after Mitt Romney slinked out of the Statehouse in a pre-arranged campaign commercial shoot, Deval Patrick stood on the same steps and laid out a vision that was inclusive where Romney's was divisive, hopeful where Romney's was downbeat. These words say it all:
For a very long time now we have been told that government is bad, that it exists only to serve the powerful and well-connected, that its job is not important enough to be done by anyone competent, let alone committed, and that all of us are on our own. Today we join together in common cause to lay that fallacy to rest, and to extend a great movement based on shared responsibility from the corner office to the corner of your block and back again.Romney left a state in shambles: people leaving in droves because they could not find the jobs he promised to seek out and create or could not afford the housing if they did.
Patrick is under no delusions about the state he inherits:
The 70th governor will claim as his major victory a vote to enshrine prejudice and bigotry in the nation's oldest Constitution. The 71st governor made note of that pseudo-achievement in telling the tale of the Bible upon which he took the oath of office, a gift to a former Massachusetts governor from kidnapped Africans who battled the effort to enslave them.
... I am an optimist. But not a foolish one. I see clearly the challenges before us. I see the young talent and jobs leaving our state, driven away by the high cost of housing. I see the poor in terrible shape, and the middle class one month away from being poor. I see the heroin in the cities and the OxyContin in the suburbs, destroying families with cold indifference to class and status. I see the way the public schools too often fail poor kids and how the cost of public colleges is pushing young people out. I see the broken roads and bridges, the soaring health care costs, the high property taxes, the violence in our streets.
On this very day 165 years ago, a young man named Kinna, who had been part of that rebellion, sent a letter from prison to our own John Quincy Adams, who had retired from public life at home in Massachusetts. Kinna pleaded with Adams to help the 36 captives from his ship to earn their freedom. Adams took the case all the way to the United States Supreme Court and won.
As a gesture of thanks and respect, the Africans gave Adams a Bible, called the Mendi Bible, after their tribal homeland. I took the oath this morning with my hand resting on that same Bible -- and with my resolve strengthened by that same legacy.
Critics will harp that Patrick's speech was short on specifics, that like his campaign stump speeches he used soaring oratory rather than hard facts. While today was the day for inspiring rhetoric, there were clear hints of changes to come, particularly in the budget that he will present to the Legislature at the end of February.
We will need different tools and different approaches, ones for our times. As your governor, I have broad responsibility for what goes right and what goes wrong, but far less authority than I need to influence the course of either. For that reason, I will reorganize the executive branch, to simplify our systems, to make it more modern and accessible and accountable, to enable our public employees to concentrate on the public service at the core of their assignments, and to enable your governor to advance the agenda you elected me to do.
But today was a day for celebration -- a fact obvious to four former governors who attended the swearing-in on the Statehouse steps on a day when the weather gods smiled on Patrick.
The absence of Romney -- who rolled out his presidential campaign less than an hour later only a few blocks away -- was reflective of the way he presided over Massachusetts for four years.
Disdaining a tradition that even Jane Swift honored after being cast aside by Romney four years earlier showed the selfish, mean-spirited nature of the former governor. A view of life that seems to be the hallmark of Republican "leaders" such as George Bush, Dennis Hastert, Tom DeLay and the others who were repudiated in November.
Tough times lie ahead as do political battles. Legislative leaders have sent clear signals they will not easily give up the authority they have amassed during 16 years of GOP rule.But today should be remembered for the hope projected by Patrick and not the mean-spiritedness that marks Romney.