President Obama Shared Advice for Mayors on the Power of Truth, Building Strong Teams, and Supporting Essential Workers in Moments of Crisis
NEW YORK, NY – Participants from more than 300 cities around the world, including mayors, local leaders, and members of response teams joined Bloomberg Philanthropies’ fourth virtual COVID-19 Local Response Initiative convening today, where President Barack Obama and Michael Bloomberg addressed the mayors on the challenges associated with the pandemic. Joined by Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, MD, the Vice Dean for Public Health Practice and Community Engagement for the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University and director of the Bloomberg American Health Initiative, and Dr. Tom Frieden, president and CEO of Resolve to Save Lives and former director of the Center for Disease Control, and Dr. Kimberlyn Leary, Associate Professor of Psychology at Harvard Medical School and in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Mr. Bloomberg and President Obama highlighted the critical role mayors have in responding to the crisis and supporting vulnerable residents.
“It is wonderful to be [here] with mayors, because as the former mayor of Chicago, Richard Daley, once said, nobody knows how to find a president or a governor, but they know how to find a mayor,” said President Barack Obama at the beginning of the convening. “I’ve had a chance to work with you in the past, and I couldn’t be prouder of the work that so many of you are doing. And Mike, thank you for helping put this together. Because I know it’s making a difference at a time when I know a lot of folks feel isolated. To be able to share information and best practices makes all the difference.”
“Speak the truth. Speak it clearly. Speak it with compassion. Speak it with empathy for what folks are going through. The biggest mistake any us can make in these situations is to misinform, particularly when we’re requiring people to make sacrifices and take actions that might not be their natural inclination,” said President Obama as he shared his perspective on the power of honesty and evidence during this time.
President Obama also urged the mayors to build strong, reliable teams of experts. He said, “The more smart people you have around you, and the less embarrassed you are to ask questions, the better your response is going to be.”
Finally, President Obama encouraged city leaders to support their most vulnerable residents. “We’re seeing disparities in how people are affected in cities and towns and communities across the country. Look out for the vulnerable. When you start looking at issues of domestic abuse and you start looking at racial disparities that are popping up in your cities, paying attention to that is the kind of leadership I know all of you aspire to. You have to be intentional about it, and dedicate folks to thinking about those issues.”
Throughout the convening, mayors and other local leaders learned the latest facts from public health experts, and discussed best practices of crisis communications and ways different city leaders are helping their communities through this challenging time.
“Here in New York, we’ve now lost more New Yorkers to this virus than in the terrorist attacks of 9/11 – and the numbers continue to grow. While we’re starting to see ICU admissions stabilize, the city is still losing hundreds of people per day,” said Michael R. Bloomberg, three term mayor of New York City and Founder of Bloomberg L.P. and Bloomberg Philanthropies. “People need to know that you are understanding what they’re going through – and that it’s hard. They also need to know that better days are ahead. It won’t be tomorrow, or next week, but things will get better – and they’ll get better specifically because of the sacrifices everyone is making today.”
Over the past month, Bloomberg Philanthropies has brought together world leaders to share insights, advice, and inspiration with the local officials on the frontlines of the pandemic. Previous convenings featured President Bill Clinton and President George W. Bush. President Clinton highlighted the important role mayors play in sharing accurate, actionable information with residents. President Bush told mayors that in historic times like this, it is important to keep three things top of mind: Truth, empathy, and especially hope.
Bloomberg Philanthropies launched the COVID-19 Local Response Initiative in March to help cities combat the devastating impact of coronavirus on the wellbeing of residents and local economies. Working with public health experts from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health as well as additional researchers and clinicians from across Johns Hopkins University, the network is providing mayors with the most up-to-date information on the virus from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and helping them understand how to act on it quickly, efficiently, and reliably for the benefit of their citizens. The virtual convenings are held weekly in collaboration with the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative and also feature experts on crisis leadership and communications.
The COVID-19 pandemic represents the nation’s first 50 state disaster that will spare no community. Bloomberg Philanthropies is tapping into a wide range of partners to generate a robust set of support and resources to help local leaders combat the coronavirus and protect the social and economic wellbeing of cities.
Since launching, hundreds of city leaders have joined the virtual convening each week. The aim of the program is to provide cities with the tools to understand, respond and manage a dynamic public health crisis, they will be better prepared to slow the spread of coronavirus in the United States and protect their residents.
About Bloomberg Philanthropies
Bloomberg Philanthropies invests in more than 570 cities and over 160 countries around the world to ensure better, longer lives for the greatest number of people. The organization focuses on five key areas for creating lasting change: the Arts, Education, Environment, Government Innovation, and Public Health. Bloomberg Philanthropies encompasses all of Michael R. Bloomberg’s giving, including his foundation and personal philanthropy as well as Bloomberg Associates, a pro bono consultancy that works in cities around the world. In 2019, Bloomberg Philanthropies distributed $3.3 billion. For more information, please visit bloomberg.org or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter.
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