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A message of gratitude
I want to thank the staff and leadership at Maine schools for their extraordinary efforts and deep commitment to the education of Maine’s children. Because of their courage and hard work, 100 percent of Maine public school administrative units were able to safely open up this fall and because of their diligent attention to the six requirements for health and safety at school, Maine schools are significantly safer than other settings in the greater community. Our public school students and staff members are less than half as likely to be positive with COVID-19 as the general population (with 40 percent the positivity rate that we’re seeing across other sectors of our state). School employees should know that their efforts and contributions are making all the difference for the students and communities they serve.
We’ve been asking more of our schools than we’ve ever had to ask before, and I have one more request. I’m asking school staff members and leadership to be gentle with their expectations and to give themselves the grace that educators and others who keep schools running tend to offer so generously to others. They should acknowledge that this has all been extremely difficult and they should own the fact that, collectively, they’ve been knocking it out of the park in terms of supporting students and in terms of providing their entire communities with steadfast assurance in a time of uncertainty.
You see, local public schools have always been far more than buildings where academic learning occurs. The schools give shape and identity to our communities. The schools hold us together in shared purpose and in a shared promise that we all make to the better future that awaits us.
Thank you to our educators and school leaders for their heroic work throughout this extraordinary time.
Maine Department of Education
A new Republican Party
Republicans need to jump off the Trump ship and start working on the Republican Party 2.0 before there is lasting damage to our democracy. Never in the history of our country has a sitting president intentionally worked so hard to divide us and revelled in his success. But that doesn’t mean that the wounds inflicted by President Donald Trump can’t be healed by the new party.
But that healing process must start with recognition of what Trump has inflicted upon our democracy and the expressed willingness to heal that gaping wound. That has to come sincerely from the new Republican party, not President-elect Joe Biden.
On his watch
There’s an old expression, “on his watch,” which we use to ascribe responsibility to persons in charge. On Sep. 11, 2001, four aircraft were hijacked by terrorists and crashed into the twin towers, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field, killing 2,977 people — an intelligence failure that occurred on President George W. Bush’s watch, though he can’t be directly blamed.
As the pandemic accelerates at an alarming pace, we are now looking at the possibility that more than 300,000 Americans will have died by the time President Donald Trump leaves office on Jan. 20, 2020. In other words, on his watch, the equivalent of one hundred 9/11s.
Had Trump been an active, engaged president, following the advice of health care professionals from the early days of the pandemic — like leaders in countries like Vietnam, South Korea and New Zealand — it is estimated by some that only a few thousand U.S. lives could have been lost. But, given Trump’s nature, that was apparently not possible.
There’s another old expression — “Nero fiddled while Rome burned” — an event that may be apocryphal. In our time, as the pandemic has raged, Trump has regularly played golf. So, here’s a new one for you: “Trump golfed while America burned.” And that’s not apocryphal.
Rather, it is now, and forever will be, the Trumpian legacy — despite all denials, all efforts to shift blame. For with the presidency comes final accountability. As Harry Truman’s old desk sign famously proclaimed, “The Buck Stops Here.”