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May 23, 2020

It’s Memorial Day weekend and the forecast is for perfect summer-like temps sure to draw people out from sheltering to soak in the sunshine and load up on Vitamin D. This holiday honors the women and men who died while serving the U.S. military – and add to that the essential workers of today risking their lives to save the lives of those stricken by the virus and to serve communities sheltering at home to keep Covid-19 from spreading.

But as I watch states return to opening up, some more calculated than others, it’s up to us, the citizens, to take the ultimate test: will we ALL step up to the plate to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus by self-distancing and putting on face coverings? It’s not about vanity and it certainly is not taking away anyone’s personal rights. It’s simply about choosing between staying alive or the high probability of dropping dead from a virus that’s 10 times more lethal than the common flu.

Why is this reality hard for some to accept? Sadly, many of us by now have experienced the loss of a friend, family member, or colleague – or knows someone who has. Us included. Just last week, the country lost someone most of us didn’t know – but someone with whom we could all relate to some degree.

At 91 years old “Mr. Jerman,” the White House staff butler who served 11 U.S. presidents, died from Covid-19 on May 16. Poignant, for sure, but I wish he didn’t have to die this way. He first served President Eisenhower and last served President Obama. And it was during John F. Kennedy’s presidency that Jerman was promoted from cleaner to butler – “orchestrated by the former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.”

I enjoyed hearing Jenna Bush Hager speak briefly about Wilson Roosevelt Jerman, whom the Bushes fondly called “Mr. Jerman.” Jenna, daughter of President George W. Bush, reminisced about her childhood growing up in the White House. He was the first person we saw each day…and the last person we saw each night, she said. He was known to be a quiet man and never complained. He made the White House feel like a real home.

I could only imagine the countless people Mr. Jerman has touched. And the profound wisdom he possessed.

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