A Message from Michael Combs

Michael Combs, CorVel's President and CEO

June 09, 2020

Side walk lined with trees

Reed College Parkway is a mile-long pristine tree-lined greenway in the Eastmoreland neighborhood of Southeast Portland.  The canopy offers shade from the sun and a shield from the rain.  I’ve not thought to count the trees though I would estimate that there are several hundred.

Within the heart of the neighborhood, the path offers a quiet space to unwind, exercise, or simply detach from the news of the day, the rising pandemic related deaths, and the demonstrations occurring across our nation.

I took a walk Saturday morning along Reed College Parkway, each tree on the greenway had a placard affixed with the name of a Black man or woman, each the victim of injustice.  The sheer number of names was shocking, more alarming though were the number and names with which I was familiar.

While I’ve shared my optimistic outlook on making it to the other side of the pandemic, I have struggled to find the right words to express my thoughts after hearing of George Floyd’s death and resulting protests.  Just as the coronavirus has disproportionately affected the Black community, so has the prevalence of systemic injustice. In contemplating my privilege, my thoughts consistently came back to the fact that, as a White man, I never had “the talk” with my father, nor did I need to have “the talk” with my son.

Not the birds-and-bees talk, but the conversation Black parents have with their sons and daughters, telling them how to avoid drawing the attention of police officers and what they need to do when pulled over.  Not the things they might do to avoid getting a ticket, rather the things they need to do to prevent unnecessary escalation. We’re one month shy of the 7th anniversary of the Black Lives Matter movement, founded July 13th, 2013. For those of us who don’t need to have “the talk” with our children, it goes beyond understanding Black Lives Matter; it’s about the continued momentum driving change with the destination being justice, equality, and peace. I mourn the deaths of George Floyd, and the many others we as a country have lost to systemic injustice. It is my commitment to educate myself and listen to the perspectives of those who do not share my privilege.  I will challenge injustice when I see it, both in the workplace and in my community.

I stand in solidarity with our Black employees. To the CorVel team, I reaffirm our Core Values, today and every day. I am listening, and I am learning. I challenge us all to do better and to be the difference.

Thank you.