Massachusetts’ first black governor debuts with a candid memoir that emphasizes how caring mentors, teachers and other adults helped shape his life and values.
Now in his second term, Patrick grew up poor on Chicago’s South Side in the 1950s and ’60s, attended Harvard and Harvard Law, and worked as a civil-rights advocate and corporate executive before entering politics. His father, a jazz musician and black militant, deserted the family when the author was four. Patrick, his mother and his sister moved in with his grandparents, who got by on his grandfather’s wages as a bank janitor and tried to shield their grandson from racism. His grandmother always said they weren’t poor—they were “broke,” which allowed for the possibility of a better life, he writes. It was an early lesson in how he could shape his own destiny. A bright, ambitious loner, he learned other lessons in possibility from kind teachers, first in gang-ridden Chicago public schools and then as a scholarship student at Milton Academy in Massachusetts, where he was “saved by the love of adults.” His prep-school mentors—an Old Yankee English teacher and an upper-middle-class African-American woman whose children also attended Milton—treated Patrick with affection as he struggled to bridge the worlds of poverty and privilege. Like the selfless church ladies of his childhood, they taught him “to love openly, generously, and conspicuously.” In recounting his life in politics, the author explains how the qualities he admires in others, such as compassion and generosity of spirit, have sustained him amid personal attacks. By his own admission sometimes ill-tempered as a politician, Patrick gives powerful voice to the reflective inner man who has a keen eye for things that really matter. A portion of the proceeds from the book will go to the charity A Better Chance.
A welcome celebration of idealism in a cynical time.