Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick to speak tonight

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick will deliver the fifth Governor Frank Licht Lecture tonight at 7 p.m. in Salomon 101. Patrick, a Democrat, is the second elected African-American governor in U.S. history and was sworn into office in January after a career of legal practice in the public and private sectors.

A graduate of both Harvard College and Harvard Law School, Patrick worked for the United Nations in Africa and as an attorney for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, where he took on a high-profile voting rights case involving then-Arkansas Gov. Arkansas Bill Clinton.

In 1994, after spending a few years with a private Boston law firm, Patrick was appointed Assistant U.S. Attorney General for Civil Rights by President Clinton and defended Clinton’s affirmative action policy while also handling cases on racism in the workplace and civil rights.

Patrick returned to the private sector in 1997, serving as general counsel to the Coca-Cola Company in Atlanta.

In 2005, Patrick set his sights on public office, joining a close race between former Massachusetts Attorney General Tom Reilly and businessman Chris Gabrielli for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. Patrick won the primary with just under half the votes and went on to secure 55 percent of the votes in the Nov. 7, 2006 general election, defeating Republican Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey and Independent Christy Mihos.

Patrick’s unconventional swearing-in speech, delivered at a memorial to an African-American Civil War regiment rather than in the Massachusetts State House, garnered positive media attention for its optimistic and passionate words urging citizens to “see our stake in each others’ dreams and struggles as well as our own, and act on that.”

Though Patrick has proposed popular bills supporting stem cell research and health care reform since his inauguration a year ago, the 51-year-old politician has sustained a few political blunders.

In February, the Boston Globe reported that Patrick had appropriated $27,387 to redecorate the governor’s state house suite, including $10,000 for a set of damask drapes, and had also upgraded the state car – from Romney’s Ford Crown Victoria to a Cadillac DTS. Patrick immediately apologized and said he would repay the state for the drapes and cover the difference in lease costs for the car upgrade.

That same month, Patrick placed a call to Robert Rubin, the Citigroup executive committee chair and former Clinton treasury secretary, on behalf of the financially troubled mortgage company Ameriquest, whose parent company employed Patrick as a board member before his election. Patrick said he regretted making the call, which appeared to exploit his newly gained power, and said he was calling as a private citizen and not as governor.

Patrick also attracted some unwanted media attention after a speech at a Sept. 11 memorial service, in which he said the attacks were, among other things, “about the failure of human beings to understand each other and to learn to love each other.”

The Taubman Center for Public Policy and American Institutions is hosting the event, titled “An Evening with Gov. Deval Patrick.”

Brett Clifton, the center’s associate director for administration and programs and the event’s organizer, said the University is excited to host Patrick, who is speaking less than a week after former Massachusetts Governor Jane Swift delivered the John Hazen White Lecture on campus last Wednesday. Swift’s 2001-2003 term directly preceded Romney’s tenure in the State House.

“We’re confident the event will go very well,” Clifton said. “We expect a high turnout.”

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