Reflecting on this truly unbelievable year in our history, we can easily highlight its faults, shortcomings, epic failures, and unexpected challenges. However, I have spoken with a number of business leaders, family, friends, neighbors, fellow church members, public servants, and my team here at the Georgia Chamber, and what I have learned, and personally experienced, is that there have also been some truly positive outcomes this past year.
From a business standpoint, the word that is most often repeated is resilient. When our healthcare system was overwhelmed, the business community stepped up to address needs. When employees needed additional care, business changed the very nature of how we work. When small businesses were forced to close, the community rallied around them. Time and again we saw incredible acts of innovation and determination to survive, thrive and better prepare for the future.
From a government standpoint, we saw traces of bi-partisanship and service. Leaders like Governor Kemp acted quickly to establish safety protocols, quarantine regulations, testing, tracing, and stand-up new treatment centers. A bi-partisan Congress moved swiftly to approve a national stimulus package and activate the U.S. Small Business Administration, equipping it with paycheck protection programs and economic injury disaster relief loans to keep small businesses going through the global health crisis. First responders and public safety officials demonstrated strength and peace on the verge of national panic. We now know what we can achieve when we work together.
The pandemic was not the only reckoning we faced this year. Society has been forced to come to terms with the inequality of opportunity. In response, we started tough conversations, tearful dialogue, and the passage by a bi-partisan General Assembly of Hate Crimes legislation. Though much has to be done, the steps of 2020 should lead us to a better and more fair society.
All of this has forced families, friends, and neighbors to put down social media and find a renewed appreciation for loved ones, our faith and home. Perhaps, for the first time, many of us refocused from the world to our own health and wellness and recommitted to real quality time with those who matter most. This year has not been without its heart break. Many have lost loved ones due to the pandemic, including some of our very own here at the Chamber. I have mourned with them and, in talking with them, have even come to appreciate the reminder that life is fragile and what we do, today, echoes in eternity. I hope we do not abandon that reminder.
In the end, I am grateful for the ways in which innovation and leadership have driven our ability to adapt and survive against the overwhelming odds of this year’s turmoil. But I am equally thankful for the ways in which COVID-19 forced each of us to re-evaluate, recharge and truly begin to reimagine a more balanced and resilient future for us all.