“Governor, I’ve heard you give a lot of good speeches. Tonight’s was the best. Keep it up,” said State Treasurer Seth Magaziner. Representative David Cicilline said, “I hope everyone realizes – those words are not uttered by governors of every state in this country.”
She started with a joke. Like most good jokes, it was based in truth and revealed something unrealized. “Don’t move to Canada,” said Governor Gina Raimondo, “move to Rhode Island!”
Raimondo, speaking at a vigil for those lost to gun violence at the First Unitarian Church of Providence, finally seemed to have found the right words and the right tone in response to the surprising and dangerous presidential election win of Donald Trump. She did so by recalling the values upon which our state was founded.
“Tonight’s an opportunity to remember that hate and intolerance and violence have never been a part of what makes the state strong,” said the governor, “The results of the recent election isn’t going to erode our core beliefs. It’s not going to weaken our commitment to our core beliefs.
“For me personally, it provides a greater sense of urgency for the work that I do and for the values that we hold dear, to protect them even more because we realize we need to.”
Certainly Raimondo didn’t suddenly reverse course on her support of fossil fuel infrastructure or her reliance on economic policies that award tax dollars to corporate millionaires, but her embrace of the values upon which our state was founded and the realization that these values are our greatest asset resulted in her best and truest statement about where we are as a people. This was a glimpse of Raimondo’s inner progressive, fighting to emerge from the unyielding neoliberal chrysalis she’s built around herself.
This was not the same Governor Raimondo who condescendingly said, “I hear you,” to Burrillvillians anxious about the looming disaster of yet another power plant in their small town. This was a governor who really did seem to hear and even share the anxieties and concerns of the people.
“There are many people who have great anxiety after this recent election,” continued Governor Raimondo, “I’ve spent an awful amount of time with faith leaders, people in the LGBT community, the immigrant community… there’s a lot of anxiety. I understand that, and frankly, I share the anxiety. As long as I’m governor I’m going to protect the people of Rhode Island. We’re going to protect the immigrant population in Rhode Island, we’re going to protect women in Rhode Island, we’ll protect people of all faiths, all colors, all religious backgrounds, all heritages, all people that come from where ever that are in Rhode Island.
“That’s non-negotiable and that is the core value – it’s the principle upon which the state was founded. Religious freedom, religious tolerance and I promise you, that I will do everything within my power to live up to those values which is to protect people and to let you know you are safe here and you are welcome here and you are loved here. There is a community here that embraces you.
“Let’s work together to make sure we have a ban on assault weapons, high capacity magazines, and military style weapons. All military style weapons belong in the military they don’t belong on the streets of Providence. We’re lagging behind our neighbors in that regard.
“The values that bind us and the love that binds us, the talent that binds us the freedoms that bind us is much stronger than the hate that divides us.
“Now is the moment to dig deep. We’re being tested. We’re going to find the hope, and the resilience and the faith and the love that is going to allow us to overcome this hatred, overcome the violence, get our legislators to take action, and make Rhode Island the place that we all want to live in.
“A lot of your neighbors are afraid. Afraid of the unknown, afraid they’ll be attacked… be kind and be patient be tolerant and give them a hand. because you will set the example.”
The vigil was organized by the Religious Coalition for a Violence Free Rhode Island. You can watch the full video below: