EDITORIAL: Let leaders lead by example

DomeLight by Jim Zachary 

Leaders often lead by example. 

Words matter. 

Sometimes actions matter more. 

There are times others will do what we do more readily than they will do what we say. 

State leaders have a unique opportunity to send a strong message to the people of Georgia by both their actions and their words. 

Regardless of partisan politics, most people know deep down inside that there are very simple measures we can all take to help keep our communities safe and to protect the most vulnerable among us during this pandemic. 

It is very clear that people do not like being told what they must do. 

They do not want government, whether it is federal, state or local government, telling them what they have to do on hardly anything and most especially not when it comes to what they should wear on their faces. 

Wearing protective face coverings is such a political hot potato. That is so bewildering because it is all about keeping everyone safe and looking out for our families, friends, neighbors and the most vulnerable among us. 

Still, even that message of goodwill does not seem to resonate. 

No matter how thoughtfully it is expressed, somehow or another the messaging around wearing protective masks to help stop the spread of COVID-19 always seems to be interpreted as some kind of big-brother-like government mandate and an assault on personal freedoms. 

When, in fact, it is not that small piece of cloth or filter across our mouth and nose that threatens us. It is a deadly, contagious virus that is the real danger among us — all of us — regardless of political party or ideology. 

So, it could be of great benefit to see more of our leaders, at all levels, lead by example. 

Model good behavior. 

When you show up in communities, participate in meetings or even when you attend church services and shop in grocery stores, wear your masks and practice social distancing. 

Show respect for others and show a real and genuine concern for the health and wellbeing of the people — all the people — you are elected to represent. 

Whether you are a member of city council, the mayor, a county commissioner, state representative or senator, the governor, a U.S. congressman or the president of the United Staes, if the public sees you taking this danger seriously, it could send a strong message and maybe, just maybe, help save lives. 

Jim Zachary is the editor of the Valdosta Daily Times and CNHI Director of Newsroom Training and Development. He is president of the Georgia First Amendment Foundation and can be reached a jzachary@cnhi.com.

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