Editor’s Note: Alexis Glick is chief executive officer of GENYOUth, a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating healthier school communities through programs in partnership with the National Football League and the National Dairy Council. She is a frequent contributor to CNN on topics related to global business, the financial markets and CEO leadership trends. She advises CEOs and professional athletes. The views expressed here are hers. Read more opinion on CNN
I want to salute three different groups of heroes that have emerged in these early days of the Covid-19 crisis: the teachers in our public schools; government officials whose leadership skills come to the fore in times like these; and the corporations who share my belief in public-private partnerships to solve the most intractable of problems. Bravo to them all.
Thank you, educators
In all the discussion around the virus itself, the drama of shelter-in-place advisories, and the decisions about school closures, it’s easy to forget that some of the most valuable frontline workers have been our teachers.
I have four children in public school, from 2nd through 12th grade, and throughout the district shutdown, these teachers have been, to a person, fantastic.
Switching from classroom teaching to digital/online instruction is a huge paradigm shift. Teachers were tasked with reformatting and posting daily lessons, activities, and assessments for the next few weeks with very little notice. Not to mention that quizzes have to be written in such a way that answers can’t be searched on Google! Many have switched to assigning personal reflections, essays, and open book “thought questions.”
Teachers have been thrown into a virtual world. They are taking attendance digitally, learning to upload folders with resources, and getting up to speed on functioning online. Their job descriptions have changed overnight.
In all of this, they have kept kids calm, explained the ins and outs of virus communicability, while answering questions and taking phone calls from increasingly confused, worried, and in some cases frantic parents.
Through this new normal they are wrestling with problems daily, like what if families don’t have the technology necessary for lessons? What about kids with special educational needs and disabilities? What about the children whose homes don’t lend themselves to a calm or clean work environment, without even a desk or a table they can dedicate to schoolwork?
In my kids’ public school district, we’re lucky enough to have a faculty of teachers who are on top of all these things and more, and who do it with patience, grace, and compassion for the students and their families. I salute them now more than ever!
Kudos, Andrew Cuomo
Leadership is a word that’s thrown around way too often, and through overuse has almost become meaningless. But you know it when you see it – and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has shown leadership in spades over the past several weeks. I am in awe of his poise, his candor and his determination to get ahead of the situation and protect the people of New York.
He referred early on to the coronavirus pandemic as “a new war that no one has seen before,” and has been a laudable voice of calm in the midst of confusion, contradiction, mixed-messaging, and misinformation coming from Washington.
His straight-talk and reassuring authority have been particularly important in a state that has one of the highest levels of confirmed cases, as well as containing the small city that’s been referred to as a kind of “ground zero” of Covid-19, New Rochelle, right in my backyard.
Andy Slavitt, the former Acting Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in the Obama Administration, tweeted, “We have had our issues in the past, but Governor Cuomo is doing an absolutely outstanding job sharing everything, and more importantly speaking to the psyche of the country.”
Governor Cuomo himself, in a speech, said that “How you respond, how you act – this is a character test for all of us individually. It’s a character test for us collectively as a society.”
In my book, Cuomo has passed that test with flying colors.
The magic of public-private partnerships
Those who know me know that public-private partnerships are an obsession with me. It’s the way things get done quickly and efficiently. I’ve written extensively about the Business Roundtable’s “profit with purpose” mantra, which harkens back to BlackRock’s Larry Fink and his annual “CEO Letters” exhorting the private sector to step up where government can’t or won’t.
In that same spirit, the CEO of Albertson’s, Vivek Sankaran, is asking customers to show compassion and understanding. As health officials have urged people to keep their distance from others, grocery stores have been hotbeds of community gathering, with long lines of shoppers. Says Sankaran, “We are sensitive to the fact that everyone wants to make sure they have the items they need, and we also know that everyone wants their neighbors to stay safe and healthy, too. We are asking our customers to respect the special hours for those who are most at risk in our communities. We thank our customers in advance for their compassion and understanding toward their neighbors and friends.”
I’m pleased to see that in the Covid-19 crisis, it is happening. I was gratified by the White House’s announcement of a public-private partnership between the US government and corporate giants Target, CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart, among other healthcare giants, to battle the coronavirus and its impact by using all available resources to increase the numbers of tests available and keep essential businesses open to consumers. I am equally struck by Google, Amazon, and Microsoft, who have also, according to the White House, been engaged to provide technological resources for Covid-19 research.
Moreover, the Op-Ed published in The New York Times by Ken Chenault and Rachel Romer Carlson, “It’s Time for the Business Community to Step Up,” clearly details the ways in which our corporate leaders can and must act now to beat the corona virus. It chronicles a string of commitments to pay hourly workers by some of the largest companies in the world, from the tech sector to apparel and countless other industries, as well as the growing number of banks, fintech and tech companies who are opening lines of credit, relaxing restrictions, and providing new loans for millions of small business owners.
May this be the beginning of a wave – no, a tsunami! – of private responsibility-taking that I, and so many others, welcome.