As a small business owner, a father and a son, I — like so many others — paid close attention to the day-to-day intricacies of this scary road we traveled over the past year. I was just 18 when I met our governor during college. He’s from humble beginnings, modest, extremely hard working and graduated Yale magna cum laude. He went on to serve our country and now our state. So I watched — and winced — as he bore the brunt of unrelenting attacks during this unprecedented time we all share together.
Criticism is part of the price for the honor of serving a strong public with diverse opinions. But last Friday, public discourse hit a low point with a Sun Sentinel op-ed by Hallandale Beach City Commissioner Sabrina Javellana bearing the salacious headline “Gov. DeSantis prioritizes racism and violence over COVID relief.” It jolted me.
The governor has been pilloried as he encouraged safe practices and trusted Floridians with the freedom to decide what was best for them and their families. He was attacked for leaving beaches open, even though outdoor activity proved safe. He received no credit when he was first to rope off nursing homes, even as it saved countless lives. And he was pummeled for protecting the livelihoods of tens of thousands of Floridians’ jobs at theme parks, stadiums and restaurants.
In effect, he chose to lead, not lord, and tried to recognize the holistic suite of issues in all Floridians’ lives. As time showed, Florida performed better than most in key categories, fairly similar in others and was not an outlier in any. Despite Florida’s success, the cheap shots continued. And they seemed to be loudest from those who didn’t lose hours or wages as they worked comfortably. Many engaged in finger pointing are part of the Zoom class — those who have the luxury of working from a guest bedroom with a virtual bookcase portrayed in the background, a professional shirt worn above the camera line, and a pair of shorts below.
As we learned from Teddy Roosevelt, however, “It is not the critic who counts; not the person who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena … who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes up short.” It is about a person “who does actually strive to do the deeds … who spends himself in a worthy cause.”
The governor is that man in the arena. He tirelessly works for all Floridians. He provided the most substantial COVID-relief to all communities — the right to work and earn a living. He pushed to open schools to help those communities where children are statistically far more likely to fall behind. And yes, the governor is also pushing smart legislation to punish those who commit violent acts, to protect small businesses, families and first responders from violent mobs, all while not infringing on the right to peaceably protest.
The governor has proven through action that he cares for all communities. I am confident Floridians will recognize that the governor as one who “at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” I’m proud of Gov. DeSantis for trusting in Floridians, staying above the fray, and working for all of us in Tallahassee.
Scott Wagner is the founder of Wagner Legal and the vice chair of the South Florida Water Management District Board.
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