As the coronavirus pandemic continues to dramatically alter the world we once knew, we are experiencing a crisis of epic health and economic proportions. With the intense spread of COVID-19 to more than 1 million globally, you do not have to look far to find adversity knocking on every door, spreading throughout every village and city, impacting every state, and ravaging every country.

Proudly born and raised in the Big Apple, my heart aches as I witness my hometown as our country’s epicenter of this pernicious virus. And while we mourn the loss of loved ones, friends, colleagues, and our fellow man and woman across the country and around the world, I believe without a shadow of a doubt that we can and we will WIN!

You may ask, why should we be do optimistic? My answer is simple. You see, throughout the course of our human existence, our species has shown itself to possess the unique ability to unleash a victorious spirit which becomes a steam engine of previously unimagined opportunities. Yes, there is reason for optimism because our collective will to win can defeat even the most formidable enemy – including the coronavirus.

The human cycle of struggle, challenge and adaptation is and will be our heritage. Today’s viral challenge to humanity is just another chapter in the halcyon human story and evolution. At the dawn of human existence 4 million years ago, we roamed Africa as the primal ape –  Australopithecus. Then, we spent 2.5 million years as Homo erectus, or “upright man,” and finally progressing to Homo sapiens in the paleolithic period – 100,000 years ago. Through these transformative steps in evolution we moved from prey to the apex hunting and gathering predator.

For millennia, our species has faced seemingly insurmountable obstacles that challenge our genetic legacy as survivors of the fittest. To overcome these obstacles and to thrive and survive, requires creativity, ingenuity, and industriousness. Even in today’s trying and troubling times, humans have no shortage of these qualities. Our imaginations and capabilities are boundless and there is nothing we cannot overcome if we remain steadfast, determined, and together. So, my message to all of us on this day focuses on 5 simple steps we need to take in order to be successful, while continuing our legacy as ultimate survivors:

  1. Optimism as a perspective is critical at every step of crisis adaptation. Shackleton brought 27 men back from the South Pole. Churchill gave us “Believernomics” where the “pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity, the optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty.”
  2. Innovate and discover tomorrow’s solutions for today’s problem. This is a dynamic challenge with peaks and troughs and variabilities by location: city, county, region, state, and country. Limitation of viral transmission and its ravages is always the objective. No one escapes the reach of this virus directly or indirectly. Data and science have taught us social distancing, handwashing, and masks are all effective and something each of us can do all the time. Science and medicine need to remain vigilant to develop the most accurate tests, the best combinations of therapeutic medicines, technologies, vaccinations, and treatment techniques.
  3. Compassion for all. Cooler heads and warmer hearts always prevail, and both are required 24/7 and on all levels. It is amazing how our frontline police, paramedics, firemen, nurses, our military, health care workers and doctors put themselves knowingly into harm’s way. This behavior represents the essence of our humanity. Even if you are hunkering down at home, what can you do? Call a friend, donate money, encourage others, and reach out to those who need it most. The feeling of paying it forward will be contagious and we can all do our part to help it spread to the hearts and minds of every man, woman, and child.
  4. Teamwork. Together, Everyone Achieves More. We as a nation have learned this at every step. E Pluribus Unum, “Out of many, one,” is our national credo and the fiber of this great country. Disparate states, governors, any of us must be aligned and united. The Zulu expression, Ubuntu, is often translated as “I am because we are,” or “humanity towards others.” Our lives, our humanity is defined by moments and our individual and collective response to them. Now, in this moment, let us together stop the deleterious political rhetoric that is being propagated by our politicians and media outlets. Now, in this moment, we are one nation, one world, indivisible, working together to heal those afflicted and protect those most vulnerable to this pernicious virus.
  5. Perseverance and Hard work. This will not be easy. It will not be comfortable or convenient. In fact, it will be a great challenge and take time for us to embrace a new normal. But this new normal – from our health to our economy – does not infer a lesser way of life, just a newer way of life. Virtual workspaces, less congregation, a challenged economy – we will need to pivot, adapt, stay focused and work hard at doing what we do – evolve. New normal? Those are words of a defeatist. A greater normal? Those are words of victors. And victors, refuse to accept normal, whether old or new. Victors pursue greatness in every aspect of their lives and raise the level of those they engage.

We must never forget the past, neglect the present or fear our future. We need to remember that we are survivors of the fittest. This is our humanity, our legacy, and our heritage. Keen survival instincts are in our collective DNA. Our human past has been challenged by scarcity of food, water and shelter, predators, and disease. Albeit, sometimes battered and bruised, we have always overcome it and became better for it. Our present generation has never seen a universal struggle as the one that confronts us. But through this adversity we will be empowered to discover the unimaginable – that our win is within. Let us all, together, reach back and never fear our future. Let us take this moment to access and implement the age-old game plan of not only to survive, but to thrive.