By Ben Taylor
April 12, 2011
BOSTON — In his new memoir, A Reason To Belive, Gov. Patrick recounts his unlikely rise from a difficult youth on Chicago's South Side, to Pepsi executive, to Massachusetts governor.
But in an interview with WGBH's Emily Rooney, Patrick says his story is not -- and should not be -- all that rare.
“It was not an unusual aspiration in our neighborhood. It’s not an unusual aspiration in this country,” he said. “We were just trying to become the middle class.”
In the book, Patrick explores how that childhood, and the people and organizations who helped him along the way, developed his political convictions, showing in his personal life the roots of his policies and principles.
Patrick said community leaders in his youth and a scholarship he received to study at Milton Academy helped give him a practical idealism.
Patrick says his time at Milton was transformative, and advocates strongly for programs like A Better Chance, which gave him the scholarship that allowed him to go there, even as initiatives that are seen to carry an element of affirmative action have lost favor in recent years.
“There’s talent in every community, and sometimes you have to go find it. And it’s incumbent on us to go and find that talent, and bring it out, and bring it into the mainstream and let it flourish,” Patrick said.
But, Patrick explained, his time at Milton further strained an already-rocky relationship with his father, who was relatively absent during his childhood after he left Chicago to be a musician in New York. When Patrick lived in Milton, he and his father began to spend the occasional weekend together, but the elder Patrick voiced strong discomfort with how he felt his son was abandoning his racial identity.
“He was very disapproving of Milton,” Patrick said. “I think he felt very misunderstood. And I think I only came to appreciate how deeply misunderstood he felt as I got older and we found our way back to each other.”
The two would reconcile later, when Patrick was in law school and invited his parents to come and live at his crowded house in New York. “I write in the book about how important it is to save a place,” Patrick said.
Patrick and his wife, Dianne, say they have worked hard to build a supportive community around their own family. So they were not worried for their daughter, Katherine, when she told them she was gay. “That she feels supported enough by us to go be her whole self in the world is what we’ve been trying to offer these children of ours,” he said.
They feel that their core beliefs have also helped them put in perspective certain battles with the media that have sometimes seemed like distractions. “We didn’t want to spend all our energy fighting those battles. We weren’t there for those sideshows,” the governor said.
There was the controversy that ensued early in his administration when a chief of staff was hired for the First Lady, at the same time that the state’s budget and services were being cut and workers laid off.
The couple both felt that the situation was overblown in the media. Diane Patrick said she wrote a very long, therapeutic open letter to the media to explain herself, and showed it to her husband. “Deval said, ‘That’s good, now put it away,’” she said.
GOV. PATRICK ON GREATER BOSTON