Vice President Biden Encourages City Leaders to Support Neediest Citizens as They Pursue COVID-19 Response Strategies
Weekly Convening for Mayors and City Leaders is Part of Ongoing Collaboration Between Bloomberg Philanthropies, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative
New York, NY – More than 350 participants from over 220 cities around the world, including mayors, local leaders, and members of response teams, joined Bloomberg Philanthropies’ ninth virtual COVID-19 Local Response Initiative convening today where Vice President Joe Biden and Michael Bloomberg addressed some of the challenges associated with the pandemic.
Joined by moderator Jorrit de Jong, Faculty Director, Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative; Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan; Amy Edmondson, Professor of Leadership and Management at Harvard Business School; Dr. Caitlin Rivers, Assistant Professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; and Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, MD, the Vice Dean for Public Health Practice and Community Engagement for the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and director of the Bloomberg American Health Initiative, Mr. Biden and Mr. Bloomberg highlighted the ongoing role mayors have in leading the response to the crisis.
“Think of all the people out there that are in trouble. Think of all the lives that have already been lost. Think how long it took for you to get the kind of help that even began to flow your way early on,” Biden told the mayors at the beginning of the convening. “You, more than most, have been on the front lines of this crisis. The American people are seeing what leadership looks like. And it’s coming from the mayors of this country. I want to commend you for the example you’re setting for the public and for public service and the lives you’re saving by responding to this pandemic. Relief needs to go to people who are hurting the most, your Main Street business owners, mom and pop shops, women and minority owned businesses. We need more federal funds to support state and local budgets.”
“We have an opportunity to come out of this crisis stronger than we went in,” Biden added, saying regular Americans need help now more than ever. “We’re going to need an overwhelming moral response to put this economy back on track and our cities back on track. We have to focus on the needs of ordinary people who are getting clobbered.”
Over the past two months, 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, President George W. Bush, President Barack Obama, Bill Gates, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, and Chef Jose Andres. 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. President Obama reinforced the importance of speaking clearly, and with compassion, to avoid misinformation in the current environment, when so many are making sacrifices.
“As Vice President, Joe also helped manage the White House’s effective responses to the H1N1 and Ebola epidemics. And as we heard from President Obama, their administration prepared for future pandemics as well, and wrote a playbook for how to respond at the federal level. So he has a lot of valuable experience in dealing with these issues,” said Michael Bloomberg, Founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies and Bloomberg LP, three-term mayor of New York City.
Bloomberg also stressed how uniting local leaders can provide benefits in managing this crisis. “So far, 275 mayors have participated in these weekly sessions and almost 400 cities are receiving technical support or assistance with best practices. And we’ve seen the impact in community after community, where mayors have led the way in acting early and adopting a public health framework for making decisions. And now, as pressure builds to re-open, they are putting health and science ahead of politics.”
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan underscored the importance of learning and relying on other local leaders for guidance. “This platform today is something that mayors across America know is invaluable. We’ve had such a lack of federal leadership, and no playbook. So we’ve had to rely on each other, on our public health experts, and on the community of mayors, governors, and others who are listening to that public health advice in moving forward.”
Amy Edmondson from Harvard, whose session focused on leading diverse and dispersed teams in times of crisis, urged mayors to check their instincts, assumptions and normal working methods. “Biases, fears, dysfunctional group dynamics, and political and organizational pressures can push us to downplay risks and delay action,” Edmondson said. “The more you check your instincts and let the urgency of the moment drive you toward action, humility, empathy, and learning, the more effective you will be in your response.”
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 the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the network provides mayors with the most up-to-date information on the virus from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and crisis management support from experts from Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard Business School, and other schools across Harvard to help them act quickly, efficiently, and reliably for the benefit of their citizens. Learn more about Bloomberg Philanthropies’ additional COVID-19 Response Initiatives here.
The Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative, which provides leadership and management training to mayors worldwide, designs each session to provide mayors and other local leaders with the latest facts from public health experts and crisis leadership essentials, from communicating during a crisis to building resiliency and working across sectors.
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.