I am so pleased and honored to join you today for this inauguration ceremony. Congratulations, Mayor Fuller, on being sworn in for a second term as the first woman mayor of the City of Newton! Congratulations to all the members of the City Council and the School Committee who are being sworn in today as well! And thank you to everyone who has helped to make this such a special event.
Having lived here in Newton with my husband for more than 16 years, and having raised our two sons here, I feel a strong connection with this community. So I deeply appreciate the extraordinary efforts that the Mayor, the City Council, and the School Committee have made – along with everyone in our city government – to deal with the many challenges we have faced especially over the last two years.
My own experience in leading our state court system during the past 13 months has given me some understanding of the many problems you have grappled with and the hard decisions you have had to make. So thank you all for your dedication to serving the people of Newton during this difficult time.
It sometimes seems as if we are presently facing a perfect storm of calamities and conflicts in our nation, between the persistent pandemic, political strife that just seems to get worse, and the repeated tragic reminders of the inequities in our society.
Reading the daily headlines, it’s difficult not to become discouraged. How do we keep moving forward to tackle these seemingly intractable problems in the face of all the bad news?
One path is to focus on building trust in our society.
An article published last year by the consulting firm Deloitte concluded that “America is experiencing a crisis of trust.” Trust in the federal government has been declining for decades, and even trust in state and local governments significantly declined during the pandemic.
Likewise, the percentage of Americans who believe that most people can be trusted has fallen over the last half-century. And a 2019 survey found that 70 percent of respondents believed that Americans’ low trust in each other makes it harder to solve the country’s problems.
So many of our problems are created, or exacerbated, by a lack of trust.
- People avoid vaccination because they distrust public health authorities and medical experts.
- People disbelieve election results because they have been led to distrust government and the democratic process.
- People fear and mistreat those who seem different from them at the root of that is distrust.
- So how can we restore trust?
For government entities, Deloitte suggests a focus on demonstrating humanity, transparency, capability, and reliability in their interactions with the public.
That is– when government
- Acts with empathy, kindness and fairness;
- Openly shares information and the reasoning behind decisions made;
- Creates high-quality programs and services to meet needs in the community;
- And delivers programs and services consistently and dependably–
It shows genuine care for constituent well-being and generates confidence and trust.
Government also has a role to play in building trust between and among members of the public, by preventing discrimination, fostering dialogue, and supporting a stronger sense of community.
We are fortunate that our city government puts these principles into practice in many ways. We can see transparency and humanity reflected in the Mayor’s weekly email updates. Ongoing improvements in our city infrastructure – repairing roads, renovating schools, and developing affordable housing – demonstrate capability and reliability. The heroic efforts of our School Committee, school administrators, and teachers and staff to continue providing a quality education for our students while maintaining a safe environment during the pandemic similarly reflect a commitment to capability and reliability. And the work of the Human Rights Commission and the Director of Community Engagement and Inclusion, among others, helps to prevent discrimination and strengthen the community.
In our state court system, we similarly are striving to build trust with court users. We seek to express humanity and transparency through fair judicial decisions that explain the reasoning behind the rulings. We are working to increase our capability and reliability by improving our information technology to better serve court users. And we are striving to eliminate discrimination through ongoing training and dialogue to address the insidious effects of implicit bias.
Efforts to build trust, whether here in Newton or in our courts, may seem small in the face of the enormous problems looming over us. But our collective efforts, and the efforts of other local and state institutions like ours, can inspire others to undertake similar work, leading to widespread improvements.
The great Desmond Tutu, who died last week after a lifetime of extraordinary accomplishment, reminded us to “Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” In seeking to dismantle apartheid and overcome its legacy of hatred and distrust, he faced a challenge at least as great as any we face today. Yet he did not lose faith in a better future, and neither should we.