President Joseph R. Biden has nominated Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo to serve as Secretary of the United States Department of Commerce. When announcing her nomination, President Biden called her “one of the most effective, forward-thinking governors in America” whose experience will help knit the nation together.
Governor Raimondo, the first woman governor of Rhode Island, grew up in a tight-knit Italian-American family. Her family history and childhood experiences were responsible for shaping her core beliefs in hard work, opportunity for all, and the importance of financial security.
After arriving from Italy at age 14, her grandfather learned English studying in the Providence Public Library and later lived with Gina’s family. Her father was a World War II Navy veteran from a family of butchers and became the first in his family to attend college thanks to the GI Bill. After working for 26 years at Bulova watch factory in Providence, Joseph lost his job along with hundreds of others when the factory moved overseas, and the Raimondo family lost their sense of financial security.
As a teenager, Gina rode a RIPTA bus to LaSalle Academy in Providence, where she was valedictorian of her graduating class. She went on to graduate with honors from Harvard, where she was recognized as the top economics student in her class. She won a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University where she earned a doctorate, and later graduated from Yale Law School. Missing Rhode Island and wanting to be closer to her family, Gina co-founded Point Judith Capital, an early stage venture capital firm.
In November 2010, Gina was elected to serve as General Treasurer of Rhode Island, where she tackled the state’s $7 billion unfunded pension liability. She was elected Governor in January 2015, and reelected in 2019 with the largest victory Rhode Island has seen in more than a generation. During her time in office, Governor Raimondo kick-started the state’s economy and made record investments in infrastructure, education and job training. She quadrupled the number of public Pre-K classes, introduced computer science education in every school, and made Rhode Island the fourth state in the country to offer tuition-free community college to every high school graduate.
While Governor Raimondo’s professional accomplishments are substantial, her personal commitment to bettering the lives of others is even more impressive. From the first moment that I met Governor Gina Raimondo, I liked her. She had no entourage, no heavy ego and no secondary agenda. She was clearly a public servant who was focused on the public good. It was also obvious, that she was good. An authentic public servant, more so than a narrowly focused politician. She just wanted to get to solutions that actually solved. A trait that I admire, both then and now. We quickly became friends, because we both respected work and results, and we never met a problem was too tall. Such confidence and belief was necessary when COVID19 hit our nation, and her state.
By mid-2020, I was receiving calls from Rhode Island, asking how the Operation HOPE solution models could be put to work in and for the people of Rhode Island. Then came questions, meaning that the Governor and her team were also looking to learn (all that they could). And then came the request — would we partner with the State of Rhode Island government on a uniquely designed Back to Work that was vintage Raimondo-thought-leadership: bringing together the best from the private sector, community and government — and broad intellects — to solve the problem of jobs and sustainability in the midst of a public health pandemic and economic crisis.
A key component to ensuring the success of the Back to Work Initiative was providing every participant with the tools they needed to succeed, with highly trained career coaches offering personalized counseling. Operation HOPE was honored to partner with the State to provide wraparound financial education and empowerment services to those in need, working to support the financial resiliency of all Back to Work Rhode Island participants.
Well, it worked, producing results at year end that surpassed the 5,000 jobs that all reasonable observers thought was optimistic. She brought on more companies (as employers), engaged more stakeholders, and helped more people than anyone thought. And we are still ‘at work’ in Rhode Island.
I am proud and pleased to issue a strong statement of support of and for Governor Gina Raimondo, and it is my sincere hope that she will now use her immense talents to help the nation get ‘back to work,’ at scale. And just like before, we will be right there with her still. Just like so many others than respect, trust and believe in her integrity centered leadership.