ARLENE VIOLET – Strong leadership at the top

ARLENE VIOLET – Strong leadership at the top

Gov. Gina Raimondo has had a heap of criticism regarding her administration of the state. Since the buck stops with her, the negative critiques were warranted. Even her most vehement detractors, however, have to give her credit for her strong leadership through the coronavirus epidemic. Her daily briefings will, no doubt, become her ultimate legacy as governor in trumping all the negative press she has heretofore been getting.

I was reminded of the Blizzard of ’78 when then governor, J. Joseph Garrahy, calmed Rhode Islanders as he appeared daily on television in his plaid flannel shirt for briefings. Folks then also had cabin-fever and temporary shortages of food and medicine because of a lack of access to suppliers because of the depth of the snow. Given the “hidden enemy,” as President Donald Trump calls COVID-19, Raimondo has a more difficult task. It is not a situation where one single catastrophic storm came and went. Daily, the situation with the pandemic changes and promises to be a longer-term problem requiring a facility of leadership. So far the governor has met the task.

It was a moment of pride for me, also, in seeing the leadership of strong women in addition to the governor. R.I. Department of Health Director, Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, gave clear explanations as to what was as stake. Education Commissioner, Angelica M. Infante-Green, was ahead of the crowd in projecting the need for online education and requiring the submission of remote instruction plans. If anyone ever had a doubt about the level of skill of women in leadership positions, all three of these women aptly answered that question. Kudos to them.

Meanwhile, the public has to get with the program. Many are doing so but parents need to exert more direction with their respective children. Teens, in particular, perceive they are invulnerable. Yet, this is the time for lessons about community and doing what is in the common good. I have in the past lamented (and still do!) the lack of Civics education but the present circumstances can be a living lesson of social responsibility.

I was interested in some folks’ reaction to the Bishop ending Mass services for a time. He was right to do so. Since the underpinning of many religions is the practice of charity, the true nature of spirituality can be practiced by taking care of thy neighbor. Nothing substitutes for the practice of good works.

Chief among those “good works” is caring about all the folks who are out of jobs. While there is talk of two weeks, the length of time is still unknown. Certainly, the governor was on target in waiving the waiting period for collection of unemployment benefits. Yet, there are many neighbors who are in jobs where they are ineligible for workers compensation. Hopefully, the characteristic generosity of Rhode Islanders will be manifest as they lend a helping hand.

So, as I hunker down, I am mindful of all of you and hope to do all I can to alleviate any of your stress. I am blessed by wonderful neighbors, particularly Jack and Maria, who generously share their evening meal with me. I hope and pray that the readers have the same access to caring Rhode Islanders.

Violet is an attorney and former state attorney general.