Gov. Deval Patrick gave a passionate inaugural address after his swearing-in ceremony held in the house chamber of the Statehouse. From (l to r) are House Speaker Robert DeLeo, Lt. Gov. Tim Murray and Senate President Therese Murray. (Don West photo)
|Lt. Gov. Tim Murray and wind developer Liz Weir. (Erint Images photo)
Gov. Deval Patrick summoned the spirit of unity and sacrifice during an inaugural address delivered at a time of looming fiscal and political challenges for the Commonwealth.
Appearing before a packed House chamber, the state’s first African American chief executive began his historic second term by placing his hand on the Mendi Bible, which was presented to John Quincy Adams by the African slaves he helped free in the 1841 Amistad court case, and taking the oath of office.
During his remarks, the 54-year-old governor struck a more subdued tone than in his inaugural speech four years ago, which took place before the Wall Street crash and the foreclosure crisis sent the economy into a tailspin.
Calling for more civil debate and cooperation on Beacon Hill, Patrick said elected officials and the public must work at joint rather than cross purposes to tackle the obstacles ahead.
“I challenge us all to turn to each other, not on each other,” said Patrick. “Let us bring our passion not to scoring political points but to finding real solutions. Let us bear our generational responsibility together.”
Patrick, a Chicago-born corporate lawyer who headed up the Civil Rights Division of the Attorney General’s office during the Clinton administration, defeated Republican Charlie Baker and independent Tim Cahill by a relatively comfortable margin in the November election. That victory was decisive but much closer than his win over former Lt. Gov. Kerry Healy and independent Christy Mihos in 2006.
On a day marked by both somber reflection and celebration, Patrick took direct aim at soaring health care costs that threaten to undermine the state’s fiscal stability and unravel the gains of the Bay State’s groundbreaking universal health care law.
“At my direction, MassHealth, the Health Care Connector and the Group Insurance Commission will implement pilot programs to demonstrate new, more cost-effective ways to buy health care,” he said.
Health care costs now consume more than 30 percent of the state budget and account for a large part of the estimated $1.5 billion structural deficit, which lawmakers are required to fill through either revenue increases or spending cuts.
Patrick also briefly addressed recent scandals in the parole and probation departments, which have been hit hard by the murder of a Woburn police officer by a parolee and the ongoing probe into patronage hires in the agency in charge of supervising defendants on probation.
The state “has a re-entry system, both in probation and parole, that needs to regain the public’s confidence,” said Patrick during his 20-minute address.
With his wife Diane and daughter Katherine present in the House chamber, Patrick said every citizen has a responsibility to step up to the plate and contribute to solutions to lift the Commonwealth. “We must demand more of ourselves than rhetoric that divides us and leadership that kicks every tough decision down the road,” said the Harvard College and Harvard Law School graduate. “We must demand more, not just of our public leaders, but also of our private ones — and of ourselves as individual citizens.”
While successful efforts at education, ethics and transportation reform marked his first term, Patrick faces not just continuing budgetary and economic challenges but also the thorny issue of bringing destination casinos to the Bay State, an issue that died in the closing days of the last session of the Legislature.
In keeping with the more subdued tone of this year’s swearing-in, Patrick’s campaign committee passed up on an inaugural ball in favor of a more diffused celebration at the Boston Public Library in Copley Square, where several thousand revelers seemed not to have read the memo about toning down the festivities.
As Patrick, wearing a tuxedo with a red vest, worked the rooms with his wife beside him in a black sequined ball gown, celebrants crowded in upon the First Couple, jostling their security detail in efforts to hug, kiss, shake hands with, and jawbone with the popular governor.
For a Bay State political event, the crowd was unusually diverse, in keeping with Patrick’s success in breaking down the racial barriers to the Corner Office.
Iona Black, a chemistry professor from North Shore Community College, praised the governor’s leadership during tough fiscal times. “Whatever tough decisions he has to make, they will be fair ones,” she said. “He operates with integrity and honor and for me that’s the most important.”
Chuck Cobb, an attorney and political activist from Newton, said Patrick grew into the governor’s office during his first term and predicted even stronger leadership in the second. “He needs to continue to re-establish the stature of the governor’s office that was weakened by so many years of ineffective Republican governors,” said Cobb.
Any memories of Patrick dust-ups over drapes or luxury rides — the nagging negative stories of his first months in office — seemed long forgotten by the hordes crowding tables in the Main Reading Room to grab handfuls of Nantucket oysters and Hampden County boutique cheeses.
An animated Liz Weir, a North Dakota native working as a wind developer in Boston, gave Patrick kudos for his work to advance green energy in the Commonwealth, especially his work on Cape Wind, a 130-turbine wind farm slated for construction in the waters off Cape Cod.
“I’ve never been to anything like this before. It’s so exciting,” she said after shaking hands with Patrick and posing for photos with the governor and Lt. Gov. Tim Murray. “The governor is a great proponent of renewable energy and I’m sure he’ll continue to make it a priority.”
Milton resident June Elam, 78, whose children attended Milton Academy with Patrick when he arrived in Massachusetts as a 14-year-old scholarship student from the South Side of Chicago, enfolded the governor in a tearful embrace as he passed by. Recalling that Patrick often stayed at her house during his school years, she proudly proclaimed herself to be the governor’s “Milton mom when he was away from home.”
Newbury Street salon owner Shellee Mendes, attending the celebration with several girlfriends and her husband Kyle Martin, said of the governor, “I am so happy he has a second chance to make a first impression. I know this term will be even better.”
Eric Turner of Newton, who serves as treasurer of the Massachusetts Democratic Party, paused on the library’s grand marble staircase and motioned at family members beside him. “This is what it’s all about,” he said. “Taking care of the kids and the grandkids the way our parents and grandparents took care of us. Like the governor said, we have to bear a generational responsibility.”
South End resident Rosalinda Midence, a member of Boston’s Ward 9 Democratic Committee, predicted the governor will accomplish his goals during the second term.
“Because,” she added with a wink before disappearing into the crowd, “it’s always better the second time around.”