Rotary Log for January 30, 2020
Rotary Log for January 30, 2020
A festive beginning
On this crisp late-January day we arrived to find a distinctive blue and white Deval Patrick campaign bus in the circular drive. Standing at erect attention was Past-President and Greeter James.  He lacked only an ear bud and a pair of dark sunglasses to be mistaken for a bodyguard.
Governor Patrick was escorted into the assembly and proceeded, as all visiting politicians do, to work the room. Some commented that in person he appeared smaller in stature than expected. It was a noticeably electric atmosphere this day.
Standing in for Leo, an always droll Jon Flagg introduced himself as president elect, a title to which our guest speaker aspires.  He noted that Leo was on a Rotary District mission to Columbia to check out potential hands-on projects. Jon quipped that the only place the District has hosted him is LA.  That’s Lewiston/Auburn to be precise.
Following that introduction, the day’s business commenced with the customary tune and prayer.  Voices from the Heart member, Yvonne, led the song.  The invocation was a well-done and brief Portsmouth Rotary classic.  Aspiring Reverend Mark would be happy to repeat it for you if you have a few seconds to spare.
Among the many guests were two that stood out. We welcomed Cindy, Bob Lewis’s wife. They just celebrated 49 years of wedded bliss. And James’ mother-in-law, Judith Salisbury, a regular visitor of late.  At one point James claimed that he is her favorite son-in-law.  The next week he amended that to third favorite.  On this day he ended her introduction by saying she had refused to sit with him.  What was Governor Patrick making of all this levity?
The Historical Moment
Jon was clearly enjoying his turn at the podium and quickly segued into history.  Our Club has had five District Governors, two in attendance today, Mort Schmidt and Dave Underhill.  Added to that distinguished pair are Curtis Matthews Jr, Ralph Margeson and well-known and loved by the assemblage, Jim Labrie. But who is the only District Governor to have also served as District Secretary? The esteemed Past-President and recently retired veterinarian Mort.  His achievement was enthusiastically recognized with the customary Arfs, Yips, and Meows.  What do you think of us now, Governor Patrick?
“A home movie”
Clearly, the long-past Christmas Tree sale is one of the highlights of VP Justin Finn’s 2019, if not life!  We were treated to a photo and film collage of the sale, with exclamations by Justin, many to point out…himself.  “That’s me!” “That’s me!”  It was pretty darned amusing.  Truth is Justin’s constant presence at the sale was a major contributor to its success. More than $42,000 was raised for worthy causes.  Great work Justin and Jon, fellow Rotarians and family members, as well as our enthusiastic Interact partners.
The Program
PP James, our program maven, introduced Deval Patrick, looooong shot candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination. He began, however, with a very humorous reminder of the Q&A rules.  One example: “If you begin with the words ‘I think,’ you are probably on the wrong track.” 
On to the prepared introduction... Governor Patrick started from humble roots. He was the first member of his family to graduate college, matriculating at Harvard and Harvard Law School.  He had an illustrious career working against racial injustice beginning with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.  He led the Civil Right Division of the US DOJ.  President Clinton appointed the Governor an Assistant Attorney General where he investigated arson at black churches in the South.
Against the all apparent odds, Patrick was elected the first black governor of Massachusetts by a landslide, serving from 2007 to 2015.  His tenure, as detailed in the introduction, was marked by significant achievements. Among these were firsts in the nation in energy efficiency, health care coverage and student achievement. Employment reached a 25-year high at the end of his second term.
Rounding out his resume was a stint at Bain Capital. There he worked on socially and environmentally responsible investing.
Governor Patrick introduced his wife of 35 years, Diane.  He began his remarks by thanking James for reading the lengthy introduction exactly as the campaign had written it. This, with a disarming twinkle in his eye. The observation that he had never attended a Rotary quite like ours was met by appreciative laughter.  Everyone is a comedian was his implication.
“Who does home movies?” he asked rhetorically. 
And to Justin, “Apparently all I have to do to get my stuff up here is to have you in the picture.”  He truly seemed to be enjoying his own comic turn at the Rotary Club of Portsmouth.
The candidate began his serious remarks with caustic commentary on the present resident of 1600Avenue (or is it Mar-a-Lago?)
“I don’t root for the failure of any President,” Patrick offered, “but our President is not fit for the office.”  
He mentioned a sign carried by a protester- “ANY FUNCTIONING ADULT IN 2020.”  Tough words, but nobody left the room.
By contrast, the Governor posited a “Vision for America that works for everyone, everywhere,” a dream borne of his life and career experiences. At present he sees an American Dream that is not working for the middle class, and others left behind, by virtue of race or country of origin.
 “What is needed is a leader with vision and humility,” the governor explained, “one who brings in others to make changes that last.”
Another theme was cautionary.  The country needs to avoid “false choices”- taking polarizing sides on every issue.  As an example, he said that there was no inherent conflict in supporting both law enforcement and social justice. 
“Cops Lives Matter and Black Lives Matter,” he proclaimed.
The brief and respectfully received speech ended with Governor Patrick asking for our votes.  He pledged to “show up even between elections.”
 Questions and Answers
Several sincerely posited questions ensued.  They certainly indicated that our speaker had the attention, if not necessarily the support, of members.
  • To Peter’s query about balancing the budget and cutting the deficit:
The candidate is not in favor of a wealth tax.  “Wealth is not a problem; greed is.”  He favors a 55% estate tax.  Growth through investment in innovation, education, and infrastructure was also part of the reply.
  • Larry asked an intelligent, somewhat wonky question about health care, 
Patrick noted that 95% of people in Massachusetts had health care coverage because a broad group of stakeholders worked on it during his administration.  He favors a public option as part of an overall plan he prefers to call PatrickCare.
  • Nancy followed her consistent pattern of advocating on behalf of students receiving special education. “Under federal special education law 40 % of the funding is earmarked for public schools, yet Portsmouth gets only 12%.  Will you ensure that Portsmouth gets 40%?”
A quick and expected one-word answer- “Yes,” was met by good-natured laughter. They call that a softball question in political circles, Nancy.
  • Justin B was curious about Patrick’s stance on the H2B visa program that helps many industries fill employment gaps.
The response was that our country needs to modernize our immigration system.  We cannot focus just on illegal immigration.  Our legal immigration and Visa rules are complicated.  According to Patrick we need to begin by setting a different tone.  It is another example of the error of forced choice.  We need talent and workers, many of whom do not want or need to stay permanently. We also need to protect our borders
  • Haverhill, Mass., visiting Rotarian Rabbi Ira asked how Patrick proposes to work for peace between Jews and Palestinians.
The glib response, “I see our time is up here,” was met with understanding laughter.  Patrick followed up by acknowledging the complexity of the situation.  He favors a two-nation solution with borders restored to the period before Israeli settlements.  He pointed to his own work as Chair of Our Generation Speaks, an organization bringing together equal numbers of Jewish and Palestinian entrepreneurs. The greatest success, he remarked, was not of their companies, but of their relationships.
The meeting ended with appreciative applause. One wag was overheard commenting that Governor Patrick’s appearance was the best received of any Democratic candidate at our club.
A side note
In a bit of irony, the 50/50 drawing for $53 was collected by an unabashed supporter of President Trump, Barbara Miller. She did not donate it to the Patrick campaign.
Respectfully submitted, Neal Ouellett
Photos by Don Chick
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