By HOUSE SPEAKER K. JOSEPH SHEKARCHI Sixty years ago, up the road in Boston, President Kennedy gave farewell remarks to his home state before assuming the presidency. Those remarks still guide public servants well. He challenged those of us entrusted
Sixty years ago, up the road in Boston, President Kennedy gave farewell remarks to his home state before assuming the presidency.
Those remarks still guide public servants well. He challenged those of us entrusted with public office to question ourselves in four fundamental ways:
First – the president asked – are we people of courage? Can we withstand public pressure and private greed?
Secondly, are we people of judgment? Do we have enough wisdom to know that we don’t know everything, and the humility to admit it?
Third, are we people of integrity who never run away from the principles we believe or those who believe in them? Will we never divert from the sacred public trust … not for financial gain or political ambition?
And finally, are we people of dedication, with an honor devoted solely to the public good and never compromised for any individual, group or private obligation?
Courage. Judgment. Integrity. Dedication.
These ideals have guided me as I’ve worked to honor the trust afforded me by the constituents of my beloved Warwick.
These same ideals will guide me as I honor the confidence of my House colleagues.
The desire to honor and serve my constituents brought me to the State House, but my family’s unconditional love and support is my inspiration. My father, now 94, immigrated to America in the 1950s. He became a successful surgeon and always went the extra mile to help others. I learned the power of kindness from my parents … and I also learned that kindness should never be mistaken for weakness.
My father and dear late mother instilled in me an ethic of hard work, honesty and compassion that I will apply to the difficult tasks before us.
COVID-19 has dealt a crippling blow to our communities and state. We must adapt to new realities and find new solutions to achieve what the U.S. Constitution requires of us – to establish Justice, promote the general Welfare and secure the blessings of Liberty.
The past year has forced us to confront our failings in this regard. As the economic tide went out, it exposed a society where justice has not been established equally, the general welfare has not been promoted fairly and the blessings of liberty remain out of reach for far too many.
We need to do better – much better. We must all collaborate to prioritize difficult challenges.
In the short term, we will work to lighten the pandemic’s burden, particularly for those communities who have borne its brunt.
We will listen to and support first responders, healthcare professionals and teachers.
We will find new ways to support and protect small businesses, the unemployed and families.
We will work with Governor Raimondo and the Senate to rapidly, effectively distribute the vaccine.
And in the long term, we will clear away the rubble of the pandemic and build a new and better Rhode Island.
We will strive for a Rhode Island that provides a just, secure and prosperous future for everyone, regardless of ZIP code, skin color or how long anyone’s family has claimed the title of “American.”
I am looking to my fellow legislators to continue our “Lively Experiment.” I will seek new ideas, energy and perspectives. As with all experiments, honest mistakes will be made. But mistakes can be powerful teachers.
My goal is to facilitate collaboration in pursuit of the common good. My approach will be different, but it should never be confused with an unwillingness to make difficult, final decisions at the appropriate time … and make them stick.
We must pledge to listen to each other, and always treat each other with respect and kindness.
Today, we humbly begin our duty to solve the problems of our day. I am certain that many of the answers lie within our members. I look forward to finding them together.
K. Joseph Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick) is the Speaker of the Rhode Island House of Representatives.