Governor Deval L. Patrick
Massachusetts Legislative Black Caucus' Black History Month Celebration
February 12, 2008
As Delivered



I'm glad you're all here because today is a great occasion to be reminded of the importance of perspective. And let me explain what I mean by perspective. There's a great story that a dean at Harvard tells about a Henry Moore sculpture that's on the grounds in front of the Lamont library. And he talks about the sculpture as an abstract sculpture, and he says looking at it, it's basically kind of lumpy. You know, some golden shapes, he says mostly good for taking photographs of small children in. But he said if you out onto Quincy Street and you walk down the street and you look back through the second set of set of railings at the 34 th gap, he says, and you look again at the sculpture, suddenly you see this romantic and voluptuous thing. And his point was that sometimes, to get a real look at something, you have to change your position. You have to realize that maybe you were standing in the wrong place. Perspective. It is important, I think, for us to think about perspective that you're invited to consider during Black History Month.

Most of us here have had opportunities to live and work and play in rarified settings that were unimaginable to our parents and grandparents. Illegal in some cases. Yes we do now have a black governor. Forty years ago, we wouldn't have imagined that. In fact 40 years ago, George Wallace running for president won the states of Louisiana, Alabama, and Georgia. Look who just won the states of Louisiana, Alabama, and Georgia. Perspective.

Sometimes I think maybe some of us who work in this building struggle in particular to retain our perspective and it's vitally important that we do. In the last year for example, we moved from 48 th to 18th, 15 th, excuse me, in the nation in job creation. We distributed more money in education and public safety, in housing, in transportation, in substance abuse, than in a very long time. We passed a balanced budget, the Buffer Zone Bill, the Film Tax Credit, we beat back in an effort to reinsert discrimination into the Constitution. We had a very productive year. And yet we still have people who want to focus on a couple of early gaffes as if that's all that happened last year. Perspective. Perspective.

And it is worth using the occasion of Black History Month to strike that vital balance between understanding how far we have come and how much work remains to be done. Dr. Johnson and other leaders in public education have helped us bring to our students here in Massachusetts, top scores on the National Report Cards. And yet we have an achievement gap that's growing, we have the drop out rate, as Dr. Johnson referred to and hardly anybody says a word about the massive resegregation of public education. 300,000 adults and children who were uninsured last year are insured today. But black babies die before their first birthday at 21/2 times the rate of white babies, Latino babies at 40% the rate. There is a lot to celebrate about the path we have come, but there is a lot of work to do, and so I hope we will use this occasion, and I thank you for it, Caucus, to reflect on that. To keep our work in perspective, to keep our success in perspective, and above all, to keep our goals in perspective because justice, justice is where we are headed. Thank you so much for having me.