For book, it's Patrick as motivator, marketer

Proposal shows broad ambitions

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Matt Viser
Globe Staff / April 4, 2008

Governor Deval Patrick isn't merely penning his memoirs. The book proposal he submitted to publishers reads like the roadmap for a self-help manual, one in which he will celebrate optimism, rail against cynicism, and seek to inspire a nation with his own life story.

The 65-page pitch letter that led to his $1.35 million advance last week from a Random House imprint reveals, in its overflowing optimism and aggressive marketing plan, just how high the freshman governor is aiming when the book is published in 2010.

It details a strategy to sell at least 150,000 copies through a "vigorous media campaign," a nationwide book-signing tour, multiple speaking engagements, and efforts to persuade big corporations to buy the book by the carton, activities that promise to pull Patrick away from Massachusetts and the State House during the last year of his term.

Patrick declined requests for an interview yesterday. His spokesman said the project won't distract him from his duties despite the heavy marketing schedule.

"The governor's first priority has been and will continue to be his work on behalf of the Commonwealth," said Patrick's press secretary, Kyle Sullivan. "He will finish out his term and fully expects to run for reelection."

The governor shopped the proposal to publishing houses two weeks ago under the cloak of confidentiality agreements, while his cornerstone casino legislation was being voted down in the House. The Globe obtained a copy this week.

The document describes an unusual business arrangement in which A Better Chance, the charity that lifted Patrick out of the South Side of Chicago and sent him to Milton Academy, will play an integral role in promoting and marketing the book through a ready-made network of national leaders, corporate supporters, and pre-scheduled events.

Patrick writes that major corporations are likely to buy tens of thousands of books.

"A Better Chance has numerous top-drawer corporate sponsors - GE, Sony, Coca-Cola, Toyota, Verizon, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, American Express (and many others) - who are capable of making significant bulk purchases of the book and distributing these copies among employees, business contacts, community leaders, students and others," the governor wrote.

Some of the corporations have interests and business before the state, possibly triggering ethical concerns; Patrick spokesman Sullivan said the governor would make sure that any agreements and promotional efforts abide by state ethics rules.

Patrick will also be the keynote speaker at numerous events sponsored by A Better Chance, including a fund-raising dinner in New York and smaller events held in San Francisco, Atlanta, and Dallas, according to the proposal. The charity also helped market Oprah Winfrey's book, "Make the Connection" in the 1990s.

In return for all its help, Patrick is planning to give the charity a portion of his royalties and speaking fees. Though the proposal was specific in the help he would receive from the philanthropy, it lacked specifics in how big a portion he would give back in return. Patrick and his aides have refused numerous requests to reveal what portion the organization will get. The New York-based charity's president, Sandra Timmons, did not respond to inquiries yesterday about its role and the money it will receive from Patrick. Patrick's agent, Todd Shuster, also declined to comment.

In his proposal, Patrick dangles the promise of celebrity endorsers, saying he has the connections to persuade high-profile figures to put promotional blurbs on the book, including cellist Yo-Yo Ma, former Clinton adviser Vernon Jordan, Harvard Medical School professor Alvin Poussaint, and Senator Barack Obama, who by then could be president.

Patrick portrays himself as an inspirational figure who is already getting Massachusetts residents to see their world in a new way and is ready to carry his message to a broader audience. While he boasts that he is able to draw big crowds and energize young people, he says that America is tired of a culture of self-centeredness.

"No matter who or what may try to stop us, we can reshape this world together," he writes. "My life is a living testament to that truth."

And as evidence of his ability to attract everyday people, Patrick said, "I was able to fill the Boston Common recently with ten thousand people eager to hear my dreams for the future."

The outline for the six-chapter book, to be called "A Reason To Believe: Lessons on Leadership and Life," reveals Patrick as an engaging and colorful writer who can weave a telling anecdote, but also as someone steeped in a quest for meaning, giving the book a strong sense of self-help credo. Among the six chapter title are "The Grace of Giving," "Cynicism is a Poison," and "Following Your Own Compass."

He focuses on the search for meaning, writing of "speaking and living your own personal truth," and suggesting that "inner innovation within the soul of one human being can ripple outward and create great revolutionary change in the exterior world."

By "following your star," he writes, "you feel a terrific new confidence, strength, and freedom. And with your own self-image intact, you grow that much more resilient, tolerant and compassionate towards others. Indeed, I have come to believe that the courage to offer friendship and caring to people who may misunderstand or even hate me has been the very thing that saves me from being consumed by rage."

He tells of growing up in a two-bedroom tenement in Chicago, where he shared one set of bunk beds with his mother and sister and every third night had to sleep on newspapers on the floor. He watched his uncle Sonny shoot heroin into his arm in the family's living room.

Aided by A Better Chance, he sprang from that environment, where his school was guarded by police officers, for the leafy lawns at Milton Academy in suburban Boston. He no longer had to worry about gang violence at his school, but he says he had to learn about blue blazers, Brooks Brothers ties, and how to fit in with rich, white teenagers.

While supervising soda and candy concessions at the school, the money didn't always add up. Several white students were reaching into machines to take the sodas. But Patrick says he was the one the headmaster accused of stealing. It was just one of the many episodes that shaped his time at Milton, where his father thought he would lose his black identity and where, his sister informed him when he returned home for vacation, he learned to talk "like a white boy."

"Milton was a rich and complex experience," he writes. "I got a great education, at the risk of a broken heart."

Patrick describes finding great meaning in gestures of grace and generosity. There was the kind act of a Chicago bus driver, "a world-weary black man with grey grizzle and a salt-and-pepper mustache," who let him ride even when he could not afford the full fare. There were the connections he made while on a traveling fellowship in college, speaking in broken Arabic on a journey through the Nubian Desert in Northern Africa to Khartoum.

But he also sees societal problems seeping into everything from rap music to presidential politics. He writes of dropping his daughter and three friends off at a 50 Cent concert in New Hampshire. Unbeknownst to her, Patrick was watching his daughter from behind the curtain backstage, as she was completely enthralled with the shirtless rapper singing about "bitches" and "hoes" and listening to songs with gunfire in the music's background. After dropping her friends off, Patrick asked her about the language used.

"I told her it was important to me to know that she was neither a 'bitch' nor a 'ho' and that I never wanted her to accept being called that by anybody," Patrick wrote. " 'You are a jewel,' I said. 'Nothing less.' "

Patrick takes Senator Hillary Clinton to task for accusing Obama of raising "false hopes" during the Democratic presidential primaries.

And he expresses disdain for those in power in Massachusetts, a theme that he used repeatedly during his campaign and has continued to use to mobilize grassroots forces to take on power brokers such as House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi.

His refusal to play the insider games at the State House has widely been seen as hampering his ability to get things done, and some critics say he appears reluctant to roll up his sleeves and work with lawmakers. But Patrick appears in his proposal to advocate following his own path, which he says can be transformative.

"Innovation is sometimes met not just with indifference, but with active resistance," he writes. "Nowhere is that more true than in the Massachusetts State House, where a deeply entrenched political establishment is almost contemptuous of change. They count on the politics of inertia or just enough incremental change to give people the false impression that something is happening."

In one of the most emotionally raw moments of his book proposal, Patrick addresses the struggles he has faced being the state's first black governor. He sees the pride in black teenagers and their hope for a life like his, but he also expresses sorrow for failing to help make streets safer in Dorchester, a neighborhood much like the one he grew up in.

"More than any organized constituency or member of the legislative leadership, they are the ones I feel the most pressure to serve," Patrick writes. "And yet as the violence continues and the despair deepens, I feel I am not making a big enough difference in their lives."

Matt Viser can be reached at

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