Speaking at the Harvard Kennedy School as part of the University’s Public Service Week, Massachusetts Governor Deval L. Patrick ’78 said yesterday that it is precisely the personal commitment to public service that has mattered most in his administration.
While acknowledging the bureaucratic nature of his job, Patrick stressed the importance of service especially in a time of crisis. “Even in the bleakest of times, people are full of hope,” he said, challenging the audience to serve the public in whatever way they could.
Speaking of his time as a first-term governor, Patrick said he was proud of many achievements, including three balanced budgets and an expansion of low-income public housing. But he did add that his state and country were still in economic crisis, despite quick action from the federal government. “We don’t seem to appreciate how close we were to a depression,” said the governor.
The speech came amidst a week of service-geared events launched by the University, including public sector career fairs and seminars, service days, and food drives. The University has also agreed to provide resources for a year of weekly volunteer support at the Greater Boston Food Bank—the first University-wide commitment of its kind. The aim of this week, wrote President Drew G. Faust in a letter to the Harvard community on Monday, is “to reinforce Harvard’s commitment to serve the common good.”
Patrick cited a similar commitment, looking back to his undergraduate experience with the Phillips Brooks House Association and his post-graduation work in Darfur. “In order to serve effectively, our work was very personal,” he said of his experiences. “You had to understand the policy framework, but you had to get out of that framework to see where policy touches people.”
Before the event, Kennedy School Dean David T. Ellwood ’75 praised Patrick’s “compelling personal story” of rising from difficult economic circumstances in Chicago to a long and prosperous career in both the public and private sectors. Ellwood said that Patrick’s speech complemented the Kennedy School’s mission of training public leaders to solve problems. “We think the governor will do an excellent job of inspiring people to run for public office as one form of public service,” Ellwood said.
Jordan E. Sessler ’13 said Patrick’s message had “great wisdom and energy,” adding that “it was especially valuable to know there are many ways for people to serve their communities.” Patrick encouraged the audience to have the courage to transcend their own interests by taking action in the realm of public service.
“Now more than ever, we need you and your sense of responsibility for one another to lead us into the future,” he said. “We need you to articulate what the world should look like, and then work with us—all of us together—to make it so.”