Iowans’ Ideas: The power of kindness

Iowans’ Ideas are guest columns featuring the views of different Iowans.

Sometimes it takes a crisis to change things up and cause people to question the status quo.

Like many of you, I am ready for this global pandemic to end. I look forward to the day when our kids can hug their grandparents again; when we can all safely go to school, to work and out to eat; and to be able to gather for church, sporting events, live music, family get-togethers and special occasions.

Iowans have made big sacrifices and stepped up to help each other in ways we would had never imagined just months ago. Whether you are a small-business owner, health-care provider, teacher, hairstylist, child-care provider, farmer, parent, student or any other kind of essential worker — you’ve been pushed into making heavy decisions that impact your life and the lives of those connected to you.

As leaders, we are sometimes faced with making impossible decisions. That’s what we’ve all been facing this year, making decisions that aren’t easy.

Leadership requires us to wrestle with options, rethink what is possible and ultimately forge ahead.

We have been given a rare moment in time, requiring us to look at nearly everything from a different perspective. I’m hopeful we use this moment to do good things for our state, putting the power of kindness into action.

Let’s push for strong, caring leadership when tackling COVID-19 and future pandemics.

Iowans should be able to say with confidence that our state government is truly leading during a crisis by:

• Protecting the health and safety of all Iowans.

• Stabilizing the financial security of Iowa families.

• Creating an Iowa-focused economic recovery plan.

Let’s advance human and civil rights.

One of the bipartisan hallmarks of the 2020 session was passage of a criminal justice reform bill in the wake of the death of George Floyd, a Black man killed while in police custody in Minneapolis. Responding to protests and conversations, every Iowa legislator — Republican and Democrat — supported these first steps to advance equality and justice.

The real test of leadership will be the next steps — ending racial profiling, enacting criminal justice reforms, expanding voting rights and preventing racial disparities in health care, income and education.

Let’s create friendly workplaces.

Iowans deserve policies that help them win at work and at home — such as paid family leave, equal pay for equal work and access to safe, high-quality, affordable child care.

Let’s safely deliver our next generation.

Iowa’s maternal health system is in crisis. More than 40 labor-and-delivery units have closed in our state, and maternal mortality has more than doubled in the past three years. Iowa families deserve safer care.

Let’s expand access to health care and mental health services. Iowans should advocate to keep telemedicine, a silver lining in the COVID-19 pandemic, and create a stable, substantial funding source for adult and children’s mental health services.

We’ve also uncovered gaping holes in Iowa’s safety net programs to protect seniors, children and vulnerable Iowans that must be fixed.

Let’s clean up Iowa’s water and land.

Spending time outdoors has helped many Iowans during this pandemic. It’s time to invest in our natural resources and expand cultural and recreational opportunities, especially in small towns and rural areas.

Let’s make Iowa’s economy work for everyone.

Iowa has a strong history of investing in public education because we know it is the great economic equalizer. It’s time to make our educational system No. 1 again and give all Iowans the chance to get ahead in life.

As C. Joy Bell once said, “We can’t be afraid of change. … Holding onto something that is good for you now may be the very reason why you don’t have something better.”

Sen. Janet Petersen, the Senate Democratic Leader, represents the northwest side of Des Moines.

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