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“If you don’t understand something you might be standing in the wrong place.”

deval_1According to Deval Patrick ’74, perspective is vital to understanding virtually everything, and a shift in perspective — looking at something from a different place — may lend new understanding. “You will need perspective in the world you will soon inhabit,” Deval said as he addressed the Milton Academy Upper School on Wednesday, January 16. “It is a complex place. It is filled with great beauty, extravagant wealth and remarkable people. But it is, in the same instant, filled with hate, indescribable violence, abject deprivation and injustice.”

With his two daughters in the audience, Deval told Milton students that the ability to change their perspectives could enable them to help change the world.

Deval arrived at Milton Academy on what he remembers as a warm summer day in September of 1970, from the ghetto on the south side of Chicago. At the time Deval immediately realized that he had a lot to learn. Some of the most important things he carried with him from his Hallowell House days were making friends across differences and realizing that a good education wasn’t just about the information one learned, but about learning to listen to anything.

In 1994, President Clinton appointed Deval Patrick the assistant attorney general in charge of the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice where he was responsible for enforcing federal laws prohibiting discrimination. Deval is currently executive vice president and general counsel of The Coca-Cola Company. He joined Coca-Cola after serving as general counsel at Texaco, Inc..

Deval has long been an advocate for equal rights. After service as a law clerk on the United States Court of Appeals in Los Angeles, Deval joined the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund in 1983 as a staff attorney in New York City. In 1986, he joined the law firm of Hill & Barlow in Boston, becoming a full partner in 1990. After serving in the justice department, Deval returned to private practice with the Boston law firm of Day, Berry & Howard as a partner in the Labor and Employment Group, the Government Investigations Group, and the Commercial Litigation Section.

Deval Patrick graduated cum laude from Harvard College in 1978, and earned a Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School in 1982. A member of the bar of Massachusetts, the District of Columbia and California, he is admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court, the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the First, Fifth, Ninth and Eleventh Circuits, and various Federal district courts.

Deval ended his speech by urging the students to resist hopelessness, to learn to see, and to dig in.