The Ripon Forum

Volume 54, No. 2

May 2020

In this edition

By on May 17, 2020

The Ripon Society has long believed that America works best when Americans work together.  And so with a global pandemic paralyzing our country and the world, we decided to publish a Special Edition of The Ripon Forum focused on those Americans who are doing just that.

Over the past month, we reached out to businesses and non-profit organizations that are on the frontlines of the battle against COVID-19.  We wanted to know more about the challenges they are facing as a result of the pandemic.  We also wanted to hear any first-hand accounts of how their employees and volunteers are overcoming these challenges to keep Americans safe and secure during this tenuous time.

The stories that we heard are truly inspiring.  From automakers retooling their production lines to make ventilators and personal protective equipment to drug manufacturers shifting their focus to finding a treatment and a cure to clerks and drivers working overtime to make sure our grocery shelves are full, the story of the past six weeks has been a story of Americans at their best.  

Americans like Neil Ehmig, a military veteran serving as a trauma nurse at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Illinois who picked up an extra overnight shift to help with the fight against COVID-19.  “When I walk into work,” Ehmig says, “I feel a sense of pride now more than ever.”  

Or take Sister Nancy Downing, the Executive Director of Covenant House in New York City.  To meet the new demands of the current crisis, she and her team recently converted their offices near the Lincoln Tunnel into bedrooms where they can provide care to sick children and youth in one of the hardest-hit parts of the nation.

Steven Richardson is another example of an American rising to the challenge.  A truck driver with Big G Express, he has switched from hauling Jack Daniel’s whiskey to another product for which there is an overwhelming demand these days — hand sanitizer.

Another American rising to the challenge is Jami Clark.  A FedEx Express Global Operations Control specialist, C-17 pilot, and member of the Tennessee Air National Guard, Jami took to the skies earlier this spring to pilot a joint overseas mission with the U.S. Armed Forces, transporting nearly one million test swabs from Italy in under 80 hours. 

And then there is Debbie Hollis.  A General Motors employee and member of the UAW Local in Indiana, Debbie is helping to build ventilators at the GM plant in Kokomo — a challenge she compares to World War II.  “I’m grateful that I get a chance to do my part and be a part of something,” she says.  “We are modern-day Rosie the Riveters.”

Of course, Debbie Hollis, Jami Clark, and the others mentioned above are not alone.  Across the country, tens of thousands of Americans are quietly rising to the challenge themselves — serving in the hospitals, driving the delivery trucks, working the production lines, volunteering at the local food banks, and performing and providing the countless other jobs and services that are helping us get by at a time when we need their help the most. For these individuals, working from home is not an option, and the risk of catching the coronavirus is a risk they live with and work with everyday.

At a time when the headlines are filled with bad news, these Americans are providing us with uplifting and inspirational stories that give all of us confidence that America and the world will see a better day.  For these Americans, we dedicate this Special Edition of The Ripon Forum.  And most of all, we give them our thanks.

Lou Zickar
Editor of The Ripon Forum

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