Declaring that the ''American Dream is at stake,'' Governor Deval Patrick today called on Massachusetts residents and their leaders to honor the difficult sacrifices of past generations by making their own.The governor, speaking forcefully to a packed House chamber at the State House, where he had just taken the oath of office for a second term, said leaders of both the public and private sectors must stop putting off tough decisions -- on overhauling the health care system, improving public education, and ending the scourge of youth violence in urban areas.
''We must demand more of ourselves than rhetoric that divides us and leadership that kicks every tough decision down the road," Patrick said. ''We must demand more not just of our public leaders but also of our private ones -- and of ourselves as individual citizens.''
''Generational responsibility belongs to all of us,'' he said. ''Every one of us owes a debt to the future payable only by making the kinds of choices today that build a better, stronger Commonwealth for tomorrow.''
The impassioned address from Patrick, a skilled speech-maker, mixed calls for unity and cooperation with fiery assertions about overcoming any political resistance to his goals.
"I will give everything I have to move this agenda forward," he said.
At another point, in a clear reference to the health care industry, he said "let me be clear" twice before saying, "The time for talk is over. The time for action has arrived."
But Patrick also said, "I challenge us all to turn to each other, not on each other ... Let us bring our passion not to scoring political points but to find real solutions.''
In making his pitch to this generation of leaders, Patrick pointed to some of the state's private and public universities, transportation systems, world-class hospitals, and cultural institutions that were put in place in the post-war era. He referred to an article he read that, he said, described '''my generation as the 'grasshopper generation,' because we have been feeding off of that all our lives.''
''What is at stake is the American dream,'' Patrick said. ''It is worth fighting for, worth serving and sacrificing for.'' Then, alluding to his own background as a young man brought up in Chicago's South Side, the 54-year old governor added, ''I say that not just as your governor, but also as someone who has lived it.''
Patrick set out several major themes he wanted tackle in his second term: closing the student achievement gap; tackling health care costs; getting more residents back to work; and reducing the amount of youth violence. As expected Patrick focused did not introduce specific proposals, though he did say his administration would file legislation in the coming weeks to change the way health care is paid for, a major initiative certain to spark a high-profile debate in the health care community.
Patrick, who made history in 2006 when he won election as the stateís first African-American governor, also made history today as the first governor in the stateís history to be sworn in by a woman. The president of the state Senate traditionally swears in a governor, and Therese Murray, a Democrat from Plymouth, is the first woman to hold that post.
Patrick took the oath on the Mendi Bible, which was presented to John Quincy Adams by the African captives he helped free in the Amistad 1841 Supreme Court case. He used the same Bible four years ago.
The governor was joined by his family, including his wife, Diane Patrick, who held the Bible during the oath-taking, and their youngest daughter, Katherine. The governorís oldest daughter, Sarah, is traveling abroad with her fiance.
Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray was joined by his family, including his parents, his wife, Tammy, and his two young daughters, Helen and Katerine.
On the beat
Columnist Shirley Leung says Boston mayor-elect Martin J. Walsh should focus on middle-class housing. Read more