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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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August 28th, 2013
05:31 PM ET

Gov. Deval Patrick: We must close the gap between our reality, and our civic ideals

The 50th anniversary of the March on Washington was a stirring day, and also a day to take stock of where race relations are in this country.

Governor Deval Patrick, D-Massachusetts, rang a bell in Boston, in unison with one that rang on the National Mall, and at more than 300 sites across the country. Patrick rang that bell as the only black governor in the United States, the first black governor in Massachusetts.

He was just 7 years old when Dr. Martin Luther King laid out his dream in an historic speech 50 years ago.

Patrick said he did not fully appreciate all the elements of what he saw on his grandparents black and white TV, and certainly the rhetorical essence was lost on the young boy.

But Patrick said he understood "that something important was happening, and that it was about me, and people like me all over the South Side of Chicago, and all over the country."

"It was about the American dream, not just a call for racial healing, although it was certainly that, but about being true to fundamental American ideals that call to us over the ages, and still do today," said Patrick.

President Barack Obama, a friend of Patrick's, spoke about that dream as well, saying that the March on Washington teaches us that we are not trapped by the mistakes of history.

"Very well said," Patrick said in reaction, saying the framers of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence committed the country to civic ideals.

Throughout history "we are called back to remember and to recommit ourselves to those ideals, and to closing the gap between our reality and our ideals," said Patrick.

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell said this week that he would like to hear the president "be more passionate about race questions."

"We're not there yet. And so we have got to keep working on it. And for the president to speak out on it is appropriate," Powell told CBS on Sunday.

"The president understands, as most Americans do, that we are in this equipoise between acknowledging the extraordinary progress that we have made, much of it in my lifetime and the president's lifetime, and also the progress that remains to be made," said Patrick.

"The march in 1963 happened in the immediate aftermath of the short aftermath of poll taxes and Emmett Till. We commemorate that march 50 years later in the short aftermath of voter disenfranchisement initiatives in North Carolina and Texas, and Trayvon Martin," said Patrick. "It's not that we are stuck. It's not that that's a cause for despair. It's a reminder of that point that Thomas Jefferson made that ... our freedom, all of our freedom as Americans, depends on eternal vigilance and renewing our commitment to those civil ideals."

Many say that Attorney General Eric Holder will not stay on for the whole of Obama's second term, and there are people suggesting that Patrick is someone the president would consider to be the next attorney general.

"I have the only job in politics I have wanted. I'm going to be in it for another year-and-a-half or so. And then, when I finish, I'm looking forward to returning to the private sector," said Patrick.

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