A Q&A with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer
There is a saying: “Don’t judge me by my mistakes, judge me by how I deal with my mistakes.” What Mistake have you made and how have you learned from them?
This pandemic has been a crisis unlike any we’ve encountered before, and every day is a learning experience. I’ve made a lot of tough choices, like closing schools for the remainder of the year and banning public gatherings, but at the end of the day, I stand by all of them because I know they were the best things to do to keep our families safe. Everyone makes mistakes. It’s part of life. But the best thing we can do is listen to experts, monitor the data and do everything we can to keep people safe.
What is your advice for business leaders as they face a new normal in light of COVID-19, and what is the biggest thing you’ve learned about Michigan’s business community during this crisis?
My advice is to study the best practices in your field. … It is crucial that your employees and your customers alike can have confidence that your place of business is safe. Maintaining best practices and protocols — like regularly sanitizing surfaces and educating yourselves and your employees on the symptoms of COVID-19 — are key to that.
What is your leadership style and mantra?
Surround myself with talented people, ask questions and get the facts. One of the things I appreciate the most in this moment is that I have many fellow governors from both sides of the aisle with whom I confer. I’ve also been regularly working with health care experts right here in Michigan and across the country.
You’re the governor, a mom, a wife, a friend and Michigander. How have all your roles affected decision-making? How has the criticism you’ve faced affected you and your family?
I think of my kids and the long-term view of the decisions and direction we chart. I know that my daughters are watching, and that centers every decision I make. I want them to have the courage to stand up for what they believe in. My family is tough. They generally take things in stride, but sometimes there are hard days like recently when armed demonstrators protested outside of our home. But for every hard day, there are still always opportunities for us to have a laugh together like when Cecily Strong played me on “Saturday Night Live” recently. The bottom line is that my family is the most important thing in the world to me, and I think of them every time I have to make a tough decision.
What are your words of encouragement to those young people trying hard to adjust to a new normal?
My daughter is graduating from high school. She won’t have a graduation ceremony or party like we had always contemplated to celebrate this milestone. I can’t tell her what the fall will look like either. This is hard, and there are a lot of unknowns. But what we do know is that we will get through this together.