When Gov. Larry Hogan speaks at his daily news conferences announcing new initiatives to fight the coronavirus, Marylanders listen carefully and then abide for the most part by restrictions or future plans outlined by this highly credible leader.
From the outset of the crippling pandemic, Hogan has spoken plainly and clearly to his fellow citizens. Early on, he developed an immediate trust. He engages in no fluff, no misstatements, no drama and no hyperbole.
Hogan has been the right person at the right time. As he conveys concern and compassion, he is unafraid to demand inconvenience and frustration for the sake of “flattening the curve” and limiting cases and deaths.
At the same time, as head of the National Governors Association, he has employed the same direct, straightforward approach in dealing with President Trump, not hesitating to refute bold-faced lies and claims based on delusion, not facts.
When I attend frequent conference calls or zoom meetings, inevitably one or more people will point to a statement uttered by Gov. Hogan, as if it were the Holy Grail. Their days include studiously listening to the governor’s news conferences.
I understand from friends that Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York is equally respected and admired for his grasp of facts, willingness to listen to scientific experts and care for, and about his constituents.
Governors like Hogan and Cuomo deserve tremendous credit for understanding early on the potentially destructive impact of COVID-19 and rallying their citizens around a common mission: do everything possible in social distancing, wear of masks and shelter in place to stop the spread, if possible, of the novel coronavirus.
Hogan and Cuomo have stressed the need to coalesce around the common good. Selfishness is secondary.
When I served in the Maryland National Guard and the State Treasurer’s Office, I observed good and bad leaders. The best could communicate honestly, clearly and consistently. Their integrity was unquestioned. While they certainly had their flaws, they could lead by being believed. They sought respect, not popularity, though the latter often accompanied the former.
Unfortunately for our country, our president is a feckless leader, unable to tell the truth and unwilling to understand information provided by scientists and medical doctors. He thrives on childlike attention, prompted by outrageous statements unrelated to truth or reality.
Unlike Hogan and Cuomo, Trump is the wrong man at the wrong time for marshalling our nation in dealing sensibly with a calamity.
Though my distaste for the policies and behavior exhibited by a president ill-suited for a crisis—except those he creates—are oft-stated in this column, I believe that the disjointed effort by Trump to communicate credibly about a grave emergency places in stark relief the failure of Donald Trump to engender trust and faith.
I am disheartened for Americans, who seek reasoned direction during a crisis worse than anything they’ve ever experienced.
Governors and medical professionals have stepped into the breach to provide some semblance of stability when COVID-19 has turned the world upside down. They warrant our gratitude. Even our prayers.
The past six weeks have been difficult. The future is uncertain. Sickness and death dominate the headlines. Millions and millions of people have lost their jobs. Families are struggling to stay afloat economically and emotionally. Children are studying away from friends, even restricted from playing with neighborhood pals.
Simply, lives have been disrupted, requiring adaptation and resilience.
We all pray for resumption of the lives we knew and treasured. We also realize that our normality may be very different.
Nurses, doctors and first-responders are our heroes, risking their own safety for the sake of others. Saying they are only doing their jobs, they have displayed unrelenting courage.
Gov. Larry Hogan is my hero for exhibiting constant leadership and credibility during a complex emergency.
(And kudos to the governor and his wife Yumi for acquiring 500,000 coronavirus tests from South Korea, Mrs. Hogan’s native country).
Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland. Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer. In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.