Virginia hope

1/19/2018, 6:53 p.m.

We give high marks to Virginia’s newly inaugurated governor, Dr. Ralph S. Northam.

The pediatric neurosurgeon and his Democratic team of Lt. Gov. Justin E. Fairfax and Attorney General Mark R. Herring stepped into the limelight and their important posts on Saturday with an inaugural ceremony that spoke to what’s right and good about Virginia by embracing its rich diversity.

We were impressed by the wide tapestry of people invited to participate in the ceremony and parade. From the minister, rabbi, singers, bagpipers and Native American tribes that offered blessings to the young Muslim Boys and Girls Scouts leading the Pledge of Allegiance, the event highlighted the variety of ages, races, sexual orientation, ethnic and religious backgrounds, occupations, interests and regions that make up the Commonwealth.

Gov. Northam talked about inclusion, opportunity and hope in his speech, saying, his administration’s guiding principle will be to “work together to make our Commonwealth work better for all Virginians, no matter who they are or where they’re from.”

We know that words can be wonderful, but proof comes with action.

Already, Gov. Northam has given us a glimpse of how he will live up to those high principles. His first act as governor on Saturday was to sign Executive Order No. 1 ensuring equal opportunity in all facets of state government.

The order prohibits discrimination on the basis of “race, sex, color, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, political affiliation, or against otherwise qualified persons with disabilities” and veterans.

It also directs state appointing authorities and other managers to “take affirmative measures … to emphasize the recruitment of qualified minorities, women, disabled persons and older Virginians to serve at all levels of state government.”

Gov. Northam’s cabinet, his first hires, also reflect his beliefs in inclusion. His 15-member cabinet, which will lead policy decisions in areas including health, education and public safety, has eight women.

Aside from being the first majority-female cabinet in Virginia history, Gov. Northam’s inner circle includes three African-Americans, an Asian-American and a Pakistani immigrant.

What a stark and refreshing attitude, with Virginia’s new leader’s words and actions showing a sharp contrast with the disgusting mess coming out of the White House.

President Trump continues to horrify the nation and people around the world with his racist, xenophobic views — this time concerning immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and the African Diaspora, many of whom he wants to boot from this country.

He fails to recognize the contributions and talents of these immigrants, calling their countries of origin “stholes” and questioning why the United States has to accept them rather than more immigrants from places like Norway.

While right-minded people of all stripes and political parties have condemned his remarks, the debacle offers more glaring proof of the president’s racist views and raises alarms as to why so many Republican leaders still turn a blind eye and deaf ear to his bigotry.

These next years will be critical for Virginia, as well as the nation. Gov. Northam’s backbone and leadership very well may determine whether 400,000 more Virginians have health coverage, whether additional resources are put into Virginia’s public schools that enroll more than 1.2 million children and whether Virginia’s economy will lift all people.

Virginia became a beacon of hope for the nation with the November 2017 election results. Let’s hope Virginia will continue to show the way ahead for the nation.