Responding to the Events at the Capitol

January 7, 2021

I am sure that many of you join me in feeling shocked and dismayed after yesterday’s events. Who would possibly have thought that in one of the world’s most respected and enduring democracies, the U.S. Capitol Building would be stormed by a mob of pro-Trump rioters seeking to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power to the incoming administration? A transfer of power following a free and fair election in which more than 150 million Americans exercised their right to vote.

The storming of the Capitol was bold in its arrogance, disrespectful of the institution and, frankly, craven in its desire to desecrate the very traditions that make our democracy unique. There is something wrong when a large group of protestors can be persuaded to interfere with the certification of President-elect Biden’s Electoral College victory. We are better than this. Mob rule must never prevail.

One of the ironies of yesterday’s shocking events was that it overshadowed an event of equal historical significance: the election of Democrats Raphael Warnock and David Ossoff to the United States Senate from the State of Georgia. The former the son of southern sharecroppers. The latter a 33 yr. old Jewish investigative journalist. Two men, from two very different backgrounds, elected by a progressive and multi-racial mosaic of individuals representing what this country is fast becoming: a multi-racial, multi-ethnic 21st Century democracy.

But what values will prevail within that diverse 21st Century democracy? Will we publicly stand against mob rule and bullies? Are we on a path towards a new kind of democracy – a democracy redrawn by the growth of multi-racial, multi-ethnic communities; a democracy that has elected an African American President and Vice President in three of the last four elections? I believe we are. I believe our democracy will grow stronger through its diversity.

Early this morning, I drove around the Capitol building. The building is still standing. Our institutions remain fully functional. Last night, the Senate fulfilled their constitutional duty and certified President-elect Biden’s Electoral College victory. Democracy endured. We are a resilient nation, and we will get through this dark event in our history.

The challenges confronting President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris will be immense.

Covid-19: With over 3,000 daily fatalities reported, the U.S. leads the world in per capita cases. We must control this virus and drive these numbers down. If not, 2021 may prove as painful for many of us as 2020.

Black Lives Matter: The storming of the Capitol building by an overwhelmingly white mob was shocking. However, it has been just as shocking that so many rioters were permitted to walk out of the building without being stopped or arrested. If any single act fully captures the attitude – and actions – of our justice system toward different segments of our society, it was yesterday. The new administration will be charged with addressing our unresolved conflicts around race so that this country can fulfil its promise to all its’ citizens.

Equitable Recovery: Our economy will bounce back from the COVID-19 shutdown. It always does. However, our recovery must provide real and sustainable opportunities – primarily financial – for disadvantaged groups and communities too often left behind and too often allowed to fail. We must not allow this to happen again.

The Biden-Harris administration has their work cut out for them. They need our support. We need them to succeed. Let’s take a moment to reflect upon yesterday’s important events. Then, we need to move beyond those events and turn our attention to building a nation that will live up to its promise for all.

By Gary A. Officer
President & CEO