Sharing intimate details of her life and encouraging Chelsea’s young people to dream big despite sometimes humbling circumstances, Massachusetts First Lady Diane Patrick inspired a large crowd on Monday morning at the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Community Celebration.
“We don’t dream about being a drug addict, living in poverty, not going to college or having a family we cannot provide for,” she said. “We don’t dream those things, but for some of us those are probably real possibilities. They are possible because sometimes people around us make them realities…Ladies and gentlemen, to despair is to have lost. To despair is to live in a world without hope. You have to dream good dreams and then believe you can overcome.”
Within her 20 minute speech – which drew examples from the life of King, her husband Gov. Deval Patrick, and her own life – Patrick spoke mostly about overcoming challenges in life and helping others to overcome such challenges.
While she grew up in humble circumstances in New York City’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood during the 1950s, she said she never lived in poverty and was never allowed to stop dreaming. After graduating college, she pursued a teaching career in New York City, only to be laid off soon after starting. That pushed her to go to law school and eventually become a noted attorney in the field of labor law.
However, it was during that time, and even after having met her current husband, Gov. Patrick, that she said her first husband crushed her will and caused her to stop dreaming. She offered it up as a warning and also to highlight one of her top issues – domestic violence.
“From my point of view without self-esteem you can’t put one foot in front of the other; you can’t make choices,” she said. “You look to others to make choices for you and often those choices aren’t good choices. I know about this. I was once there. I once stopped caring about myself. My self-esteem was systematically taken away by a man I used to be married to – a man who convinced me I was worthless…Believe me, a daily dose of that kind of abuse can get you down. It took away my dreams. I was paralyzed and had just about given up.”
She credited her husband, Gov. Patrick, with being an outstretched hand to her in her darkest time – helping her regain her self-esteem, to realize her self-worth and to begin dreaming again.
She harkened that experience to the experiences of adults and, especially, young people living in Chelsea who may not have the benefit of strong and helpful parents.
“Think about the young people who don’t have a sense of value; think about the children who don’t allow themselves to dream because they don’t believe their dreams are attainable,” she said. “What happens to them? They often make bad choices. We need a generation of young people who are strong and confident and refuse to accept limits put on their abilities. We need a generation of young people who will swim against the current and stand up to shoe who fear what they stand for and who believe change is bad.”
In closing, Patrick recalled that King often spoke about not allowing oneself “to wallow in the valley of self-despair.”
With that message, she challenged the audience to let no limits be put on dreams, to keep faith in themselves and those around them, and to reach out a hand to help someone.