|Governor Patrick Visits Morris Elementary In Lenox|
|By Tammy Daniels, iBerkshires Staff|
09:52PM / Friday, May 25, 2012
|Gov. Deval Patrick reads 'A River Ran Wild' to Sharon Kennedy's third-grade class.|
LENOX, Mass. — If you ask him, he might very well come.
Gov. Deval Patrick speaks with fifth-graders in the library at Morris Elementary School. Below, he checks out a gift bag given to him by Jacob Munch, who invited him to the school. See more photos here.
That was the lesson learned by young Jacob Munch, who met Gov. Deval Patrick at a book signing at Berkshire South Community Center in Great Barrington and decided to invite him to his school.
"I read his book, and I met him, and I always liked politics," said the Morris Elementary School fifth-grader. "I knew that he sometimes visits schools and stuff, so I thought it might be cool for other people to meet him, like I did. Because it was exciting."
On Friday afternoon, Jacob introduced the governor to his fellow fifth-graders, giving them a chance to the quiz the governor on everything from his workload to his dog to whether he'd met the president.
"I sent him a letter and he answered and here he is," said Jacob, gesturing toward the governor as his classmates gathered in the library.
Patrick isn't one to pass up an invitation to visit a school and it's very obvious he relishes the chance to connect with his youngest constituents. They eagerly responded in kind as he made his way through the school with state Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli, popping his head into classrooms to say hello or asking them how they were going to spend their summers.
"How's everybody? Are you guys just happened to be lined up here?" he asked a contingent of giggling fourth-graders waiting for him in the hallway, then spoke to and shook every child's hand as he made his way down the line.
"I visit a school once or twice a week usually without fanfare," he said later. "Jacob wrote to me, in the office, and told me he read my book and he'd come to a book reading I did out here."
The governor said he gets a lot of correspondence from children. "I try to respond to all of the letters that kids send ... sometimes it's quite clear they've gone to a lot of trouble to think about what they want to say.
"I want to do what I can to encourage them and to encourage their teachers."
He read "A River Ran Wild" to third-graders in Sharon Kennedy's class and commended them for their diligence in reading and encouraged fifth-graders to appreciate, and keep in touch, with their teachers.
"I had some incredible teachers," he told the children. "I went to school in Chicago, on the South Side of Chicago ... in broken, underresourced, sometimes violent public schools."
He particularly spoke, as he has in the past, of his third- and fifth-grade teachers. It was his fifth-grade teacher who took his class to the movie "The Sound of Music" to teach them about the rise of the Nazis and World War II.
"She's the first teacher who made me imagine what it might be like to be a citizen of the whole world," he said. "I realized early that I had a gift to imagine like that."
He also fielded questions on how hard the governor's job is (he told them his day starts around 5:30 a.m. and ends around 10 or 11), how much paperwork and documents he signs, and about Toby, his Labrador (patiently waiting in the car). His favorite thing about Massachusetts?
"My favorite thing about Massachusetts is the Berkshires," the Richmond resident said to cheers, although quickly modifying that to note he loves whereever it is he's asked. "I love the Berkshires and I love Massachusetts. There's a tremendous amount of variety in the landscape, and the people, where they come from. We have people from all over the world and they speak every language."
He pointed out that the citizens are particularly well educated. "Massachusetts students are No. 1 in the nation in student achievement ... No. 1 — that's something to be proud of."
The governor's comment on the state having the highest education results in the country, said Principal Timothy Lee, was a real validation for the work of the students and teachers at Morris and elsewhere.
Some were very excited to meet the governor.
"The students really enjoyed having somebody here who could bring what they're learning in the classroom to life," he said. "About Massachusetts history and about Massachusetts government and about state and federal government in general."
The governor also told the students that yes, he knows President Obama and even has dinner with him. "I knew the president before he was president, before he ever ran for anything," said Patrick.
Afterward, Patrick, one of the co-chairmen of the president's re-election campaign, said he was confident of president's victory over his own immediate predecessor, former Republican Gov. Mitt Romney.
"I think the president is going to win," he said. "It's going to be hard, he's not taking it for granted, and that's important. I'm not taking it for granted. I think the American people get this is a once-in-a-generation kind of election. It's about the character of the country, what kind of country we're going to have."
The governor left the school as he entered, through a gauntlet of children eager to shake his hand. "Goodbye, St. Patrick!" yelled a kindergartener, prompting the governor to reply, "Not yet!" with a laugh.