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Marylander of the Year 2020 finalists | COMMENTARY

Marylander of the Year 2020

The overarching theme of 2020 has been the pandemic, this novel coronavirus that’s upended all of our lives and separated us from friends, family and familiar routines. It is our shared challenge, and many Marylanders have responded to it with bravery, brilliance and an eye toward the common good. But even as we battled COVID-19, a second issue captured the attention and efforts of many this year: social justice. Here, too, Marylanders shone. Unlike the pandemic — which swept in suddenly and, thanks to recent vaccine approval, has an end in sight — the fight for civil rights and equity among groups of people has long been waged, and the generation of folks rising up to fight it today will undoubtedly need to continue their work for years to come.

You’ll recognize standouts in both areas among the finalists, listed in alphabetical order below, for The Baltimore Sun’s 2020 Marylander of the Year designation, which honors those who’ve had the most significant impact on the state this year. You can vote for your pick online here poll.fm/10689265 through Dec. 23. The Sun’s publisher and editorial board will choose the winner and announce our decision on Sunday, Dec. 27.

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Front-line workers

In this category, we count two groups. First: the health care workers — the doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, first responders and so on — who have so selflessly put their own lives on the line to directly treat those afflicted with COVID-19. And second: the everyday workers from trash collectors, to store clerks to delivery drivers and mail carriers who, simply by showing up and doing their jobs, make life livable for the rest of us, affording us some sense of normalcy and allowing many of us stay home and out of harm’s way.

Lauren Gardner

The Johns Hopkins University associate professor and civil engineer, 36, developed the university’s COVID-19 Dashboard, an interactive, online database that launched in January and quickly became the authoritative source for news media, public health experts and politicians around the globe in tracking and analyzing the spread of the novel coronavirus and gauging its threat. The dashboard has provided trustworthy, transparent, accessible information that helps put the coronavirus into context for millions of users, with aggregate data from cases worldwide.

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Wes Moore

The bestselling author, Rhodes scholar, non-profit CEO and Army veteran had a strong showing in public nominations this year, with notable Marylanders from the non-profit, religious and business sectors writing in to sing his praises, particularly his efforts to advocate for underserved communities. This year, Mr. Moore, 42, published “Five Days,” with former Sun reporter Erica Green, telling the story of Baltimore’s uprising following Freddie Gray’s death in 2015 and adding insight to the area’s Black Lives Matter movement. He also launched a virtual series of “Critical Conversations” between community leaders and residents meant to find solutions to the challenges we face today and foster understanding among people, something Mr. Moore’s fans say he does better than most.

Kathleen Neuzil

Dr. Kathleen Neuzil, 59, is the director of the Center for Vaccine Development and Global Health at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, where she and her team have been international leaders in the race to develop and test safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines and treatments. She is the co-principal investigator for the National Institutes of Health’s COVID-19 Prevention Trials Network; oversees large-scale, later stage clinical trials of several vaccines; and played a key role in the development of two monoclonal antibody treatments that lower a person’s risk of hospitalization from COVID-19. It’s because of her tireless work that we have hope that coronavirus will be under control within the next year.

A’niya Taylor

Whether the topic was curbing gun violence, climate change or police mistreatment of Black citizens, young people led the way this year in promoting social justice on the streets of America, asserting themselves as a generation of action on civil rights. Among them was A’niya Taylor, now a 17-year-old Baltimore City College high school senior. Ms. Taylor, who was also a Baltimore Youth Poet Ambassador, helped organize multiple youth events throughout Baltimore this spring and fall protesting police brutality against Black people, and has a long history in activism despite her age. She represents the kind of engagement her generation will need to change what other generations wrought.

The Baltimore Sun editorial board — made up of Opinion Editor Tricia Bishop, Deputy Editor Andrea K. McDaniels and writer Peter Jensen — offers opinions and analysis on news and issues relevant to readers. It is separate from the newsroom.

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