THE CHARLIE BAKER MISSION : A MORAL ONE DEEPLY GROUNDED IN CIVIL RIGHTS GOSPEL

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^ Governor Baker greets Boston Public Schools Superintendent Tommy Chang and 30 graduates of College Bound’s matriculation program at last night’s ceremony in the Bruce Bolling Building in Roxbury

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If you want to grasp Governor Baker’s fundamental message, a good place to start is Curtis Mayfield’s 1960s-era anthem “Keep On Pushing” :

Keep on pushin’
Keep on pushin’

I’ve got to keep on pushing
I can’t stop now
Move up a little higher
Someway or somehow

‘Cause I’ve got my strength
And it don’t make sense
Not to keep on pushin’

Hey, Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Keep on pushin’

Now, maybe some day
I’ll reach that higher goal
I know I can make it
With just a little bit of soul

‘Cause I’ve got my strength
And it don’t make sense
Not to keep on pushin’

Now look a look, look a look
A look a yonder
A what’s that I see
A great big stone wall
Stands there ahead of me

But I’ve got my pride
And I’ll move the wall aside
And keep on pushin’

Hey, Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Keep on pushin’
Keep on pushin’

What I say, yeah
Keep on pushin’
Well, that’s alright

Or one might watch James Brown do “I Don’t Want, Nobody To Give Me Nothin’, Open up the Door, I’ll get It Myself” :

These anthems from the Black struggle for Civil Rights 50 years ago inspired us all; the determination, courage, and idealism that made it happen remain iconic for the best in us. They’re the fire that moves Baker’s basic message to people : that life is tough no matter what and that yhou have top keep on keeping on, at all times, if you want to have any fair chance tro succeed.

Last night, at the College Bound matriculation ceremony, Baker talked of “grit,” speaking directly to the 30 or so graduates in front of him : “I cannot imagine the grit necessary to face life;’s problems, feed a family, work, and still have the desire to go to college… you have grit.”

He talked of setbacks in life — of his own setback, the defeat of 2100,and what it took for him to decide to try again, knowing that if he lost, he would be, and forever known as, a “two time loser.”

Politicians rarely talk about their defeats. They certainly do not talk about how defeat got to them, challenged their self worth.But baker here was talking to people who have had their self worth challenged many, many times by defeats in life.

You simply have to keep on pushing. Yes, you may have to ask someone to open the door for you — as College Bound’s graduates all have had to do — but once that door is open, you simply have to be ready to grasp the opportunities yourself. Now and forever after, as long as you live.

This is the message that baker brings, over and over again, to Boston’s communities of color, at sports events and to self-help groups — of which there are many in Communities of Color, largely because self-help is often the only help available to people whom society often shuts out. Baker bonds with self help groups all the time, and politically it’s as wise as ,morally, because Baker is, at day’s end,a Republican, and self help groups accord well with the morally, politically best GOP mission.

Self-help also has deep, broad roots in American history well beyond particular applications to people of color. And Baker is right : underlying self-help is grit : keep on pushing, I’ve got to keep on pushing, I can’t stop now, Move up a little higher, 
Someway or somehow.

Baker’s view is that government can — and should — give those who need a hand all the door-openings it can; but that it really is up to those for whom doors are opened to keep on pushing, getting it themselves. Baker talks all the time about getting people out of poverty. For him it’s a partnership been door openers and people’s motivation : their grit.

I think he’s right. Motivation is crucial. Life is never easy, not for anyone at all who isn’t born rich (and even for them quite often) and there is nothing government can do to make it easier except to not be an actual barrier to people’s advancement.

Baker sees every agency of state government as a door opening. He’ll do the best he can to open those doors effectively and at not too dear a cost, in hopes that people will take equally effective advantage of said services.

This is the pact that Baker is building with the state’s residents. There remains work for him to do, especially with the state’s Hispanic communities, which have different cultural referents than Black Americans and somewhat different legal barriers facing them. But my guess is that Baker will bring his message and power position to Hispanic communities, too. It’s what motivates him.

Obviously Baker has his sights on re-election. Will his mission prove a vote-winning one ? In the 2014 election he won barely 9 percent of Black voters,maybe 12 percent of Cape Verdeans,  about 18 percent of Hispanic voters. Voters of color are the Democratic party’s core constituency. Baker is almost certainly winning the favor of many. I see it every day. Yet come 2018, the Democrats will almost certainly nominate a Baker opponent who voters o color will like as well. How will Baker stack up against that nominee ? Better than 9 to 18 percent of the vote, almost certainly. But by how much ?

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

Author: hereandsphere

Here and Sphere is an online journal of news, opinion, reviews, advice, & bits n' pieces of everything else - from HERE to SPHERE...... Co-founded by Michael Freedberg, a long-time Boston Phoenix journalist, and Heather Cornell, a South Coast Massachusetts columnist and editor.

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