Former Massachusetts governor urges Harvard grads to be 'uneasy' about social ills

Thu May 28, 2015 6:14pm EDT
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By Elizabeth Barber

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (Reuters) - Two-time Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick encouraged Harvard University graduates on Thursday to be "uneasy" enough about social ills that they are compelled to find solutions. 

Patrick, a Democrat who held the governorship from 2007 through 2015, told the Ivy League university's class of 2015 that he was proud to return to a campus where students were actively protesting injustice, including Wall Street excesses and racial bias in policing.

In the late 1970s, when Patrick was a Harvard undergraduate, students had scarcely advocated for anything besides their imperiled right to eggs and pancakes in their dormitories, he joked. 

"I am grateful that students are putting far more important issues on the table than hot breakfast," he said.

Patrick acknowledged imperfections in some social movements, including Occupy Wall Street, which has been criticized for failing to set a tangible agenda for change, and the Black Lives Matter protests against police killings of unarmed black men, which has seen bouts of violence in Baltimore and Ferguson, Missouri, amid months of largely peaceful protests across the United States.

Some graduating students wore the Black Lives Matter name prominently on their caps. 

Patrick, the state's first black governor and the former Assistant Attorney General in charge of the civil rights division, commended participants in those movements, and others, for their refusal to "make peace with large scale suffering."

"If enough of us are uneasy, we might begin to feel some urgency to find solutions for the things that make us so," he said.    Continued...

Former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick stands to receive an honorary Doctor of Laws degree during the 364th Commencement Exercises at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts May 28, 2015.    REUTERS/Brian Snyder