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Deval Patrick: Closing the gap between our reality and our ideals

CBS News asked noted figures in the arts, business and politics about their experience in today's civil rights movement, or about figures who inspired them in their activism.

Gov. Deval Patrick (D-Mass.)

Is there something that you'd like to share about your personal connection to civil rights issues?

Gov. Deval Patrick, D-Mass.

I'm ever mindful that the Civil Rights Act and much of the modern civil rights movement happened in my lifetime.

I was seven or eight years old when the Civil Rights Act was signed into law. Before that Act it was lawful and customary to serve people in separate facilities and to discriminate in public accommodations -- restaurants and hotels and the rest. I think about what's happened in the last 50 years and what a difference it has made in the expectations of both black and white people -- of all Americans -- that they will come before the law equally; that they will be able to enjoy the conveniences of modern American life equally.

At the same time, I'm aware of how much work remains, and I think that's been one of the great challenges of civil rights and indeed the whole conversation around race in this country: How we acknowledge the extraordinary progress we have made over a relatively short period of time, and also acknowledge the work that remains in creating a consistent atmosphere and reality of fundamental fairness.

I'm proud of the fact that we live in a country where a kid like me from the South Side of Chicago can get opportunities that enable him one day to prepare for and then become Governor of Massachusetts. But I'm also aware that there were kids on the South Side of Chicago back in the '50s and '60s and here today, and in neighborhoods like it all around this country, that are just as determined, just as creative, just as imaginative and ambitious who aren't yet getting their chance.

I like and respect the kind of perennial tension in our country between our reality and our ideals, and I think we've been in our very best in this country over our long history -- but especially in the last 50 years since the Civil Rights Act -- when we strive to close that gap between our reality and our ideals.

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