And, boy, did we need her.
I don’t typically define myself as a South Carolinian, not having been born or raised here. But this past year, I found it difficult not to.
Every South Carolinian will admit that 2015 was a horrible year. We were in the international spotlight way too many times last year for all the wrong reasons.
First we were horrified by the racially-motivated massacre at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. Our grief was nearly as deep as that of the victims’ family members and were deeply ashamed that one of our own could cause us such heartache. In July, we cringed as racial tension erupted again when what amounted to an in-state war over an outdated flag was fought in front of the media’s cameras. In the end, South Carolina entered 21st century when the Confederate flag FINALLY came down from the S.C. State House grounds, where it never should have been flying. And then we had to suffer through endless video broadcasts of two tragic and allegedly racially-related shootings of possibly innocent people by law enforcement..
Probably the only person to come out a winner in all this is our governor, Nikki Haley. And kudos to her. Time Magazine listed her as one the “100 Most Influential People” for her leadership during these days (among other reasons, I’m sure). If you don’t have a copy you can read Sen. Lindsey Graham’s tribute to her here.
Gov. Haley had a rough first term – so rough that one wonders how she got re-elected. She battled allegations of extra marital affairs, was accused of numerous ethical violations, clashed with her Republican colleagues, and showed poor judgment on numerous occasions – all while trying to improve the state’s 10.8% unemployment rate during the devastating economic crisis that began in 2008.
Most of the contention has quieted down and the rumors of personal and ethical indiscretions have all but evaporated. She’s matured, learned a few lessons, and done a lot right during her second term (including putting Donald Trump in his place with some well-timed Southern charm).
But most importantly, she won our hearts during the distressing events of 2015 when she responded to each one with compassion, intelligence and determination. We were proud to have her represent South Carolina’s sorrow and humiliation with such dignity.
I’ve never been a huge Haley fan and often criticize her policies. Nevertheless, I appreciate her leading us with such grace and empathy during our worst days. We needed that.