Arlene Violet: Who is Rhode Island's Person of the Year?

By Arlene Violet
Posted 12/31/20

Definition: Person of the Year is a person…who, for better or for worse…has done the most to influence the events of the year. -TIME magazineIn applying this definition to a Rhode …

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Arlene Violet: Who is Rhode Island's Person of the Year?


Definition: Person of the Year is a person…who, for better or for worse…has done the most to influence the events of the year. -TIME magazine

In applying this definition to a Rhode Island person who has most influenced the trajectory of Little Rhody, the selection is a slam dunk. The state has been pockmarked by a variety of events which occurred over the world and throughout this country. A plague of biblical proportions, racial injustice, inequality of resources, and a tottering democracy have all made their marks on our local citizenry.

While the United States has seen by far the most confirmed COVID cases, Rhode island added to that tally by an upsurge of cases following the Thanksgiving holiday. The tragic deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, etc., and even 2 killings of unarmed black men by police officers right before Christmas, highlighted systemic racism. Rhode Island had its own march for racial reckoning. While food shortages plagued the country, far too many Rhode Islanders went hungry. Democracy here took a hit while fights broke out about voting with absentee ballots and a culture war raged over wearing masks. Some state Republicans maintain Donald Trump was robbed of his reelection by nefarious acts of fraud despite the Electoral College, Biden’s 7 million vote plurality, and a lack of legal grounds for such fraud assertions.

The basis for my selection of the Rhode Island Person of the Year required resiliency in confronting the pandemic, and a yeoman’s job of maintaining a steady response to the epidemic and the resultant effect on the economy. She had a constant hand.

Despite new vaccines, the task still lies ahead of righting the ship of state. This person was the target of criticism. Without question mistakes were made but very little suggestions of an alternate approach were time tested or even proposed by detractors.

In 2020, Rhode Island’s Person of the Year tackled the pandemic and built a responsive structure from scratch to curtail its spread. When the streets were filed with protestors, she dispatched health care workers to hand out masks and activated the National Guard to protect property. She lent a sympathetic ear to the real plight. The plan to implement vaccine injections took into account the science as well as racial equality. Acknowledging that the prisoner population was a sitting duck for the raging coronavirus her dispatch of inoculations there as a priority was a correct judgment albeit an unpopular decision. Supporting absentee ballots ensured the enfranchisement of state voters.

She also got her licks in on behalf of climate change. She advanced a 100 percent renewable electricity future for Rhode Island, particularly for state agencies and vehicles, developed alternative energy, and joined a regional effort to eliminate greenhouse gases in New England.

As 2021 dawns, her tasks are not finished. There still will be no rest for the weary. She will continue to confront the pandemic, work hard at re-establishing the economy, and curb the deep skepticism that divides the citizens of this state. She has proven that she is up to the job.

For all these reasons, Governor Gina Raimondo is the Rhode Island Person of The Year and for “the better.”

Arlene Violet is an attorney and former Rhode Island Attorney General.

Arlene Violet

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