Even before the riotous beginnings of the United States when American colonists asserted independence from the English Crown, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has been at the leading edge of our nation’s developments. Here’s a quick review:
- The pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock in 1620, a mere 40 miles away from where I write this post.
- In 1630, aboard the Arbella, Puritan leader (and future governor) John Winthrop famously proclaimed that the Massachusetts Bay Colony would be a “city upon a hill,” watched by the world.
- America’s first college [http://www.harvard.edu] was founded in 1636 in Cambridge.
- The “shot heard ‘round the world” on the battlefields of Lexington and Concord in 1775 marked the beginning of the American Revolution.
- The framers of our revered U.S. Constitution based the living document upon the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts , written by John Adams.
- In 2003, Massachusetts courts took the America’s first real step toward marriage equality with the Goodridge v. Dept. of Public Health decision.
- Here’s my personal favorite: In 1820, Massachusetts divided the Commonwealth, leading to the admission of the nation’s 23rd state: Maine. (It’s not a first, but, in the humble opinion of this blogger, it is easily the best product of Massachusetts.)
The list of historic events and achievements go on and on, continuing to the present day. In 2006, Massachusetts voters elected the commonwealth’s first African-American governor, Deval Patrick. Patrick – only the second African-American to be elected as governor in U.S. history – continued to advance the leading edge in 2010, appointing Justice Roderick L. Ireland as the first African-American Chief Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts – the oldest continuously operating court in the Western Hemisphere. At Chief Justice Ireland’s swearing-in ceremony, Governor Patrick, a former civil rights attorney, noted the historical importance of Justice Ireland’s installation.
“In the darkest days of Jim Crow, in my own lifetime, it was the courts to which black people turned, because no other avenue worked,” the governor said. “The courts listened, when no one else would, and that’s exactly as the system is supposed to work.”
To fill Justice Ireland’s vacancy on the court, the governor nominated Appeals Court Justice Fernande R.V. Duffly yesterday. Justice Duffly will be the first Asian-American judge on the commonwealth’s highest court. From Indonesia, she arrived in America as a small child without the ability to speak English – a story shared by so many American families since the founding of our nation.
As quoted in the Boston Globe , Governor Patrick said, “Quality and preparedness are first, obviously. But the ability to be first . . . this adds a depth to our SJC. It adds a range of brainpower and judgment and wisdom.”
While firsts are great for history texts and headlines, I hope that people take the time to dig deeper to see the underlying importance. The revolution stood for the promise of a new nation. Making difficult decisions on marriage equality validates our nation’s founding principles. Finally, electing and appointing citizens that represent our diversity stands for the ideal that our leaders must reflect the changing face of America.
Although I’m a Mainer through and through, I am proud to live at the vanguard of America – Massachusetts.