Deval Patrick Starred in Role of Governor as Buddha, Only It Was No Act

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A few years back, a friend of mine left his office in downtown Boston one evening and walked to the Liberty Hotel, where he was to meet a client at Clink, the hotel’s restaurant.  (Clink refers to the original building on the site, the Charles Street Jail.)

The maĆ®tre d escorted my friend to a table where he would await the client’s arrival.  Once seated, he looked to his right to find Governor Deval Patrick and his wife, Diane, at the next table.  The first couple was enjoying a light meal.
“Governor! Good to see you,” my friend said.

“It’s good to see you, too,” said a beaming Patrick, although he clearly had no idea who my friend was.
My friend stood, approached their table, and shook the hands of the Governor and Mrs. Patrick.

“I hope you had a good day today,” my friend said.
“Every day you are Governor of Massachusetts is a good day,” Patrick said.

One could not closely observe Patrick these past eight years and not come to the conclusion that the man, while modest in height, is an exceptionally large person.  Therein lies the key to his enduring popularity, I believe. 
It’s why he was able to get elected governor in the first place when he’d never held an elective office before, not even selectman.  And it’s why his problems, which sometimes came coated with superglue -- Hello, Annie Dookhan! -- never stuck to him for long.

In private there may be a Small Deval, a guy who feels sorry for himself, loses his temper, remembers slights, and nurses grudges.  But I doubt it.  What you see, I believe, is what is really there: the Big Deval.
Big Deval always sees the good in unpromising people and situations.  He’s got his eyes fixed on the big picture, the long view.  He hasn’t much aptitude for following the advice of the great Florentine, Niccolo Machiavelli, who counseled the prince to punish his enemies without hesitation or remorse.

For Big Deval, it was not a question of taking on the good guy role and playing it to the hilt every day.  Rather, he was simply being himself: the Governor as Buddha. Patrick seemed never to be grinding through the myriad duties of his office as much as guiding our Commonwealth from an invisible seat in a Zen zone of impeccable inner balance.
The Buddha is said to have achieved enlightenment after years of journeying and of struggling to grasp the meaning of life.  One suspects that Patrick, similarly, had to overcome many obstacles, doubts and setbacks before reaching a point where his worldview came into perfect focus.  Once settled on that point, he was ready to launch a campaign for high elective office.  He was ready at last to present himself, compellingly so, as a man with answers -- a Leader.

On November 25, the Public Broadcasting System aired the first show of Year 2 of a program called “Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates.”  The show featured, among other subjects, Deval Patrick.
One of the stories Patrick told Professor Gates about his upbringing in Chicago concerned the day his late father, Laurdine “Pat” Patrick, left his mother for good.  The future governor was four years old at the time.

His mother and father had often argued before that day, Patrick said, but there was something different about this particular argument.  When his father stormed out of the house at the end of it, Patrick sensed his father would not ever be returning.
Upset and alarmed, Patrick followed his father out the door and down the street.  He called to his father; his father turned and told him to go home.  He kept calling.  His father kept telling him to go home.  When he would not relinquish his pursuit, Patrick said his father turned again in exasperation and struck him, knocking him to the ground.  “I still remember the scrapes on my hands where I hit the sidewalk,” he said.

I’ve heard it said that Deval Patrick is the “Teflon Governor.” It was not the Teflon on the outside, I say, that preserved his high standing with the electorate through nearly 3,000 days in office.  It was the gold inside.


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