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Deval: Let’s fight for the American Dream

9/12/2012, 10:58 a.m.

Gov. Patrick fires up Democratic National Convention last week in Charlotte, N.C. Here is an excerpt of his remarks: 

Good evening, Democrats! Are you fired up? Are you ready to go?

I hope so. This is the election of a lifetime. Because more than any one candidate or policy, what’s at stake is the American Dream.

Whether that dream endures for another generation depends on you and me. It depends on who leads us, too.

In Massachusetts, we know Mitt Romney. By the time he left office, Massachusetts was 47th in the nation in job creation, during better economic times, and household income in our state was declining. He cut education deeper than anywhere else in America. Roads and bridges were crumbling. Business taxes were up and business confidence was down. Our clean energy potential was stalled. And we had a structural budget deficit.

Mitt Romney talks a lot about all the things he’s fixed. I can tell you that Massachusetts wasn’t one of them. He’s a fine fellow and a great salesman, but as governor he was more interested in having the job than doing it.

When I came to office, we set out on a different course — investing in ourselves and our future.

And today Massachusetts leads the nation in economic competitiveness; student achievement; health care coverage; life sciences and biotech; energy efficiency and veterans’ services.

Today, with the help of the Obama administration, we are rebuilding our roads and bridges and expanding broadband access.

We have much more still to do. But we are on a better track because we placed our faith not in trickle-down fantasies and divisive rhetoric, but in our values and common sense.

What’s at stake is real.

The Orchard Gardens Elementary School in Boston was in trouble. Its record was poor, its spirit was broken, and its reputation was a wreck; no matter how bad things were in other urban schools in the city, people would say, “at least we’re not Orchard Gardens.”

Today, thanks to a host of new tools, many enacted with the help of the Obama administration, Orchard Gardens is turning itself around. Teaching standards and accountabilities are higher. The school day is longer and filled with experiential learning, art, exercise and music.

The head of pediatric psychology from a local hospital comes to consult with faculty and parents on the toughest personal situations in students’ home lives. Attendance is up, thanks to a mentoring initiative.

In less than a year, Orchard Gardens went from one of the worst schools in the district to one of the best in the state. The whole school community is engaged and proud. So am I.

At the end of my visit a year and a half ago, the first grade — led by a veteran teacher — gathered to recite Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech.

When I started to applaud, the teacher said, “not yet.”

Then she began to ask those 6- and 7-year-olds questions: “What does ‘creed’ mean? “What does ‘nullification’ mean?” “Where is Stone Mountain?”

And as the hands shot up, I realized that she had taught the children not just to memorize that speech, but to understand it.

Today’s Republicans and their nominee for president tell us that those first-graders are on their own — on their own to deal with their poverty; with ill-prepared young parents, maybe who speak English as a second language; with an under-funded school; with neighborhood crime and blight; with no access to nutritious food and no place for their mom to cash a paycheck; with a job market that needs skills they don’t have; with no way to pay for college.

But those Orchard Gardens kids should not be left on their own. Those children are America’s children, too, yours and mine; and among them are the future scientists, entrepreneurs, teachers, artists, engineers, laborers and civic leaders we desperately need. For this country to rise, they must rise — and they and their cause must have a champion in the White House.

That champion is Barack Obama. That cause is the American Dream. Let’s fight for that.