Two nights ago, on January 25, Governor Charlie Baker gave his last State of the Commonwealth address. The impending change in administration represents a major transition for our state and the end of an administration that has been relatively stable.
Due to the event’s significance, a number of our congressional members were present, including the Massachusetts delegation’s dean, Congressman Richard Neal. As I walked into the hall, I ran into an old friend and former counsel to one of our past Senate Presidents. We both agreed that it is remarkable that Marylou Sudders, Secretary of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, remained in her role for eight years. We also praised her effectiveness and willingness to continue at such a demanding job, when historically, someone in her position would have transitioned much earlier.
Governor Baker’s speech was informal and yet deliberate. Let me share three takeaways from the address which reflect collaboration and trust.
He talked about the collaboration with cities and towns led by Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito.
He referenced many positive outcomes for the state which are due to collaboration with the legislature and its leadership. In support of this message, he quoted President John F. Kennedy: “Opportunities to be better, to do better together … to find the courage to compromise, to engage; to seek ‘the right answer,’ not the Republican answer or the Democratic answer.”
Addressing COVID-19 was another example of collaboration, with various important decisions made throughout the 22 months, including the passage of the recent supplemental budget. As Governor Baker stated, “The past 22 months have been tough. … We all suffered some degree of loss. … But the people of Massachusetts did what they always do: they collaborated, created, reimagined, and made the unbearable, bearable.”
Governor Baker’s closing comments referring to trust in relationships and collaborations moved me most:
“There’s no collaboration without trust. If we’ve tried to do anything over the past seven years, we’ve tried to build trust. … Today, it’s clearly more difficult to build trust, to collaborate in public life than it once was. The explosion of social media, the arrival of hundreds of news channels and distribution, and the ongoing churn of information have made it almost impossible for anyone in public life who wants to collaborate to build trust. Facts are often fungible and curated; missteps play out in real time and can go viral in bizarre and unusual ways.
“But the answer to the swirl of chaos is not more of the same poisonous brew. The answer is to stand up and accept the responsibility that comes with the work – to understand that trust is earned, and collaboration is how difficult things get done.”
Well said, Charlie. We appreciate your leadership in good and trying times, and we are in no rush to see you go.