Boston PR firm SolomonMcCown& hosted Gov. Deval Patrick for a post-election chat at the Boston Harbor Hotel Wednesday morning. I’ll have more to say about it in future posts perhaps but amidst the high policy and good humor from a relaxed governor there was this moving moment, which I quote from the SolomonMcCown& page on the event:
“(The governor) became emotional briefly in acknowledging that ‘it’s hard to engage on race in America,’ adding: ‘It’s all around us, but we haven’t figured out as a nation yet how to acknowledge both the extraordinary progress we have made … and how much remains to be done.'”
My own notes reflect that the governor remarked that as hard as it is for people in general to talk about race, it is very hard for him as governor and impossible for the president. The topic arose in the context of a blog post by Charles Pierce at Esquire titled The Greatness of Barack Obama Is Our Great Project. Here is a passage that the governor and audience found especially moving:
There is a story that they tell in Georgia politics about the first time that Barack Obama was inaugurated as this most improbable president of the United States. Shortly before the ceremony, they say, he met with John Lewis, the congressman and American hero who was nearly beaten to death on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Alabama as he marched to demand the right simply to vote. The two huddled in the corner and the president-elect wrote something on Lewis’s inaugural program. He walked away, and Lewis showed the program to the friends who had come with him.
“Because of you,” it said. “Barack Obama.”
Pierce writes with eloquence of the enormous historical significance of President Barack Obama, a significance accessible to us all but not something we consciously face each day. So here is Pierce again:
But the history that propels him is not the history that many of us learned in school. It is the underground history of the country, buried deep in the earth, over and over again, but stubbornly rising, over and over again, until it gathered all of its momentum behind him and made him the event that he was in 2008 and that he remains today. It was the history that was behind John Lewis as he walked over that bridge. It is the history that was behind him in his first campaign and then, rather late in the day, in his second campaign as well. And it is through him, maybe, that the underground history is fully integrated at last into the history of the country, that it is acknowledged at last as what it always has been — an important element to be used in the constant re-creation of our political commonwealth.
And with that I will leave off this post for today, other than to encourage all of us to read and reflect on Pierce’s post-election post, linked above.