Monday, November 05, 2012

A Reason to Believe...

Hi everyone,

I'm back from my trip, just in time for Election Day. Get out and vote! (I'm talking to you, Swing States!) I trust you'll make the correct decision.

While waiting for this day, I found the perfect antidote to the media overload of speculation and negativity, poll results, and endless commercials surrounding the campaigns. If you're not already watching The Daily Show and The Colbert Report for laughs about it all, you should read  Governor Deval Patrick's fantastic book, A Reason to Believe: Lessons from an Improbable Life.

I stumbled upon the Governor last spring at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, where he was about to start a book signing event. I just finished touring an exhibit and recognized his name on the event sign on the way out. I had no idea who he was when I saw him promoting his book on The Daily Show a few days before, but I was impressed by how positive and normal he seemed during his 5-minute interview with Jon Stewart.

Well, in person, Governor Patrick is just as inspiring. Mid-speech, I walked over to the small display of books and bought one. At the end, as he signed my book, I told him he made me homesick for Massachusetts. (He responded that I was always welcome to come back.) I noticed many people in line said similar things to him: I'm from Revere! I'm from Danvers! We all want to be proudly related to this guy.

While you learn about Deval Patrick's upbringing, his family, and how he became the first black governor of Massachusetts in this book, it isn't so much a memoir as it is an education on how to be a good person. He talks most about his ideals and how he's kept to them, how and what he's learned from others on his path through life, how he accepts and learns from his failures, and how he's stuck to the high road in politics.

What surprised me most about this book is how much common sense is found within these pages: Why doesn't everyone accept everyone else equally and listen to them and try to do the right thing whenever possible? Why doesn't everyone think before they speak and act?

What I found most inspiring about this book is that Governor Patrick doesn't talk about his famous friends in high places. Sure, he got appointed by President Bill Clinton as the assistant attorney general to civil rights. Yes, he gave then Senator Barack Obama some tips for his 2008 acceptance speech for the Democratic presidential nomination. But it's the anonymous citizens of the world who get highlighted in this book, those who hardly ever get any credit. Aside from his own parents and family members, he recalls the bus driver who gave him a free ride when he realized he was out of change, the admirable old ladies he met at the weekly church sermons he was forced to attend as a kid with his grandmother, the teacher who got him to apply for enrollment in an elite boarding school in Massachusetts to avoid the dangerous trappings of Chicago's South Side, and his fellow travelers in Sudan who helped each other on their treacherous journey through the desert. All these individuals and more made their mark on his journey to becoming a better person.

Reading this book, you'll sleep better knowing there are still good thinkers in the world. I knew there were a few still out there, no matter what they say on TV.


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