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Conversation with Dr. Ricardo Rosselló Nevares on Policies in Governance, Negotiation, Faith and Science, and Fatherhood: Former Governor, Puerto Rico (5)

2022-06-01

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interviewer: Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Numbering: Issue 30.A, Idea: Outliers & Outsiders (25)

Place of Publication: Langley, British Columbia, Canada

Title: In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Web Domain: http://www.in-sightpublishing.com

Individual Publication Date: June 1, 2022

Issue Publication Date: September 1, 2022

Name of Publisher: In-Sight Publishing

Frequency: Three Times Per Year

Words: 3,024

ISSN 2369-6885

Abstract

Ricardo Rosselló Nevares holds a PhD in Bioengineering and Biotechnology. He graduated from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) with a Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry and Biomedical Engineering with a concentration in Developmental Economics. Rosselló continued his academic studies at the University of Michigan, where he completed a master’s degree and a PhD in Bioengineering and Biotechnology. After finalizing his doctoral studies, he completed post-doctoral studies in neuroscience at Duke University, in North Carolina, where he also served as an investigator. Dr. Rosselló was a tenure track assistant professor for the University of Puerto Rico Medical Sciences Campus and Metropolitan University, teaching courses in medicine, immunology, and biochemistry. Dr. Rosselló’s scientific background and training also makes him an expert in important developing areas such as genetic manipulation and engineering, stem cells, viral manipulation, cancer, tissue engineering and smart materials. He discusses: progressive moves; the status of Roman Catholicism amongst the population; a man of science and a man of faith; and being a father.

Keywords: faith, fatherhood, governance, Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rosselló Nevares, science.

Conversation with Dr. Ricardo Rosselló Nevares on Policies in Governance, Negotiation, Faith and Science, and Fatherhood: Former Governor, Puerto Rico (5)

*Please see the footnotes, bibliography, and citation style listing after the interview.*

*Interview conducted January 21, 2021.*

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: You mentioned equal pay for equal work. You did work for LGBT+ issues while in office. What were some of these other progressive moves that were not necessarily part of institutionalized culture prior to your government?

Dr. Ricardo Rosselló Nevares[1],[2]*: Here’s a reality. The parties in Puerto Rico are different than others in the United States. If you were trying to superimpose your Canadian system into the United States, there would be things that are similar and things that are different. Even though, we are part of the United States. And it’s not that different. It is still different. One difference, my party tends to be more conservative. Although, if somebody had to describe me, they’d describe me centre-left, probably.

Where I think it misguided analysis, anyway, how I see myself, I am fiscally conservative. I was very much a fiscal hawk. Not because I like to cut or not to spend, but because the initial conditions in Puerto Rico demanded it. By the same token, I felt Puerto Rico was very behind on the times in terms of equal rights. My argument, which I must confess was not successful verbalizing it effectively, was, “Statehooders such as ourselves. Our main argument is that we want equal rights. How can we not? Equal rights can’t be for one thing and not for another. It is conceptual. How can you be for equal rights and then not be for equal rights for women, for example, or for equal pay or for equal rights for LGBTQ?”

I’m not going to say it was smooth. My views evolved throughout the whole process. To give you a few examples of policy, I put into plan for Puerto Rico the elimination of conversion therapies. Everybody signed it. Because they weren’t even looking at it. Their oath was already there. At the beginning, they went with it. Then they started to battle it a little bit. We created a bill. We sent it out to the House and the Senate. It didn’t pass.

So, I looked for the best legal minds I could find and said, “Can I do this by Executive Order?” While it is not as strong, it, certainly, was stronger. I made 13 policy promises for the LGBTQ community and 13 policy promises for the faith-based community. Bear with me for a second, here’s how I made them, I think my story is a convoluted story of success and failure because the success in actually doing all of this was saying, “Okay.” This is from what I told you a little bit about seeing people divided and not knowing why they are divided.

I went to sit people at the table. I took leaders from the LGBTQ community and the faith communities. I said, “Hey, you might not agree with some of these things. But which of these things can you live with? What can you not live with? What do you need on your side?” Try to hash those things. It seems like an incremental approach, but it was working. From my 2.5 years in office, I fulfilled 11 of the 13 for the LGBTQ community and, I think, 10 out of the 13 for the faith-based communities.

The problem was that as we were making progress with everything; they wanted more. Each community wanted more, naturally. Then it became a fist-fight. So, here’s what happened, I sent the bill over to the Senate and the House. They declined it. I signed the executive order. Immediately, they decided to create a bill over there that’s a restrictive abortion bill. Not part of our plan, nowhere near it.

Very much, they knew it was against my vision with this anyways. We weren’t going to tackle it one way or another. I think Puerto Rico had a pretty liberal position relative to the States, at least, with abortion. They wanted to restrict it. It was like a response to me on the other side. They passed the bill. They sent it to me. I veto it. You see all of these things. It starts getting angry. A lot of these folks are the base of my party. I’m actually, on principle, fighting for some of the things that I had agreed upon for a community.

It’s the truth. I was not likely to get the majority of the votes because of the party I was from.

But in the list of things, we created the first LGBTQ council for the governors that would establish policy. We changed – on LGBTQ off the top of my head – the administrative actions for equal treatment on most of the agencies, including healthcare. We established civil rights training on LGBTQ for the police and other forces. There were housing projects that were initiated. One of my concerns was the elderly LGBTQ community. It was sort of a niche. They had to go through the harder times – let’s put it that way. It is still very challenging. Many of them were alone. We were trying to create these concepts of housing for LGBTQ elderly. There was a no bullying policy as well.

We created a pilot program called “The Co-Educational Schools.” Let me step back, my policy in Puerto Rico was to establish a choice schooling system within the island. The reason is: The educational system in Puerto Rico has collapsed. The way I saw it. It’s not that I necessarily want or don’t want private or other sectors in it. We needed to shake the system up, somehow. We open it up, Charters come in.

These co-educational schools come in, which mean, essentially, that they teach without assigning gender roles to work. It is unfortunate. It is true. In schools, at least when I was there, they would think about an engineer as a guy; when they think about cooking, they would think of a girl. These schools are designed as a pilot program of 20 schools across the island to break them completely.

On the other side, we allowed the churches to be part of what are called school churches, which is, essentially, a Catholic school or a Protestant school. But it is part of the educational system. Then you would allow parents to go wherever they wanted, where they chose the place for the kids. That is another policy. Being able to adopt for LGBTQ couples who went through our administration, being able to change your birth certificate for trans, those are, in general, off the top of my head, policies.

It was driven by the idea of having an LGBTQ council. I did the same with women. I created a women’s council. I’m a man. I think I know some of the things. I’m sure I am missing others. I am sure I am missing other things I am not feeling; I need their advice to guide policy moving forward. A lot of it came from those two councils. Those are some of the policies. Of course, the vetoing of the abortion restriction bill was a big one.

They almost went over the veto. They missed by one vote. But they almost passed that, as a rage response after some of the other things that were happening. While getting people together worked for me, in establishing policy, it also inevitably created this chaotic environment at the end. Where, if you moved an inch for somebody else, they would see it as an attack on their essence. Both sides would battle it out. I ended up being attacked by both sides.

That’s the cautionary tale. I would still do it that way, as I think that is the way to do it. I wouldn’t have as much hubris as I had – of thinking I could manage it. There are some things that can spiral out of control. As you said, you need to be more vigilant and not think that you can solve everything.

Jacobsen: Going to these Catholic schools as a youngster, what is the status of Roman Catholicism amongst the population, amongst the hierarchs there, as you’re growing up compared to now? Also, many of these positions would seem boiler plate against many of the standard positions of the hierarchs of the church. I understand there are some differences, sometimes vast, between hierarchs and the laity.

Nevares: I consider myself a man of faith and a man of science. This is something I bring to the equation. I don’t think those two points contradict themselves. I think that science allows us to keep looking forward. Similar to an ant in my backyard not knowing Africa exists and has no idea. There are physiological limitations to our brain capacity. They’re likely to enhance as time moves into the future, if we’re sustainable as humanity.

I respect religion. I see the downfalls of it as well. I respect people having faith and diversity in faith. I was never very much too in tune with just being a Catholic or not. It was the school I went to; my parents didn’t really thrust it upon me, either. I was very independent, luckily, with that sort of thing. So, yes, a lot of positions that I took would fly against the establishment, with those things.

Particularly, my origin from a more conservative-leaning party. The thing is, the conservative nature was more on the fiscal and economic rather than on the social. However, I was open about it. Even though, I confess some of these views evolved. You could get angry at it, but you knew where I was going. It was not just said, but written in a document. I said what I wanted to do. My naïve mentality was that there are some things that both faith-based community and LGBTQ are at odds with, but there is a lot of space where we can progress.

At least, let’s get those out of the way, in Puerto Rico, the Catholicism now compared to then; I can’t give you the numbers. I can recall a Time magazine article that was stunning to me. It shows where Catholicism was growing in the world. Some countries in Africa had the most growth. It was dipping the most in some places. Puerto Rico had like a 23% dip if memory serves, in a span of 20 years.

The reason: Puerto Rico opened a lot of Evangelical churches as well. Obviously, aligned with Christianity, but not with Catholicism, I would say Catholicism has dwindled while these other churches have dwindled. There is, particularly among the young, a growing number of folks who identify as either atheists or agnostics. It is, certainly, more diverse.

Again, the Catholic upbringing, before we were the U.S. colony, we were a Spanish colony. Catholicism was baked into it. Yes, it has fallen down. But again, there’s the environment right now, which is similar to the States. It is unfortunate. Sometimes, you have these two sides metaphorically killing each other, where the vast majority of people on a non-charged situation would agree with a lot of the policy. I’ll give you an example.

I think on a neutral basis. 90% of the people in Puerto Rico would agree with me: Conversion therapy needed to be prohibited. I think, by the same token, 90% of the people believe in religious freedoms. The detail is how you define it, of course. The way I define it. We have a diversified faith-based community in Puerto Rico. We have Muslims. We have Jewish faith. We have Evangelicals and Catholics. One of the activities made after Hurricane Maria. We had all of them represented.

The idea behind that concept of religious freedom was more directed to the following: “Nobody can discriminate against you because of your faith.” Not the other side, “Hey, I can’t bake a cake for you.”

Jacobsen: [Laughing] I remember that.

Nevares: I think 90% of the people would agree. When put into a head of these sides, they become these symbolic victories to either avoid or moved forward some of these things. It gets murky and problematic.

Jacobsen: Now, you consider yourself a man of science and a man of faith. What are the attributes of God?

Nevares: It’s simple. It’s just, “I don’t know.” For me, it’s as challenging to claim there is a bearded man in the clouds as to claim there is absolutely nothing; and it’s just randomness. Could be, I’m not saying they’re not. I’m saying, “I don’t have the foresight or the wherewithal to make those claims. What I do see is there is complexity in the universe, we don’t understand most of it. So, do I think it’s a man who is pulling the strings? Probably not. Do I think there are other forces, which we don’t fully grasp now and might explain or might never understand like consciousness, and so forth? My position: I assume there is a purpose. I don’t think about it necessarily in terms of an afterlife or gods. I just say, “I have faith in that broad definition of what that means to me. That I can’t claim that I understand everything. I can’t claim everything is deterministic, which may or may not be true.”

I do not claim, taking the analogy of the ant, the emergent properties of our consciousness – right now, to us, is the apex in terms of what we analyze. Why should we think rational or logical thinking or scientific thinking, or the analytical basis, is the top tier and the defining element of it all? Again, it’s not taking anything away from science. I think science, as we have been discussing, is a necessary tool to evaluate everything. As with everything, it has its limitations. A lot of it spawned from Newton and his approximations.

Then Einstein made it better, more broad. Yet, Newton’s approximations really run 99.9% of the world around us. I’m saying, in order to achieve some of these higher questions, “I don’t know if some of the tools that we have now are sufficient to get good answers to that.” Obviously, some of those questions are the questions of consciousness, the questions of purpose, afterlife, ‘gods’ if you will.” It is an open-ended book. I see it as something exciting. It is exciting to know and to not know, as there is still a lot to figure out and still a lot to identify.

That’s more or less my worldview. You see it like an onion. You keep peeling layers and information keeps coming. I’ll give an example. I worked on the Human Genome Project, when it was starting at MIT. We thought that we had the road map for humanity. “That’s it! We have the genes. We will be able to solve everything else.” There is a lot more complexity now. You have your proteome. You have interactions. You have junk DNA. All these other things, we are trying to decode that.

We’re figuring out ways to decode all of that. If you ask me, my sense in seeing what has transpired in just my lifetime. We’ve been able to enhance the coding significantly in your and my lifetime. Not to say, in 30 years, we’ll have this conversation, “Wow! Those things talked about back then were outdated and obsolete.” My hunch says, “We’re in an accelerated pace of these things happening with artificial intelligence, with genetic engineering, climate change and the necessity to innovate with it, space travel. Things are going to take a quantum leap forward and have novel systems to survey the landscape.”

Jacobsen: You mentioned having early warnings, then having a gap, then having a late morning for work. What does being a father mean for you?

Nevares: It is a blessing. I’ll tell you. I confess like every father. When you’re in the middle of it, it is grinding.

Jacobsen: [Laughing].

Nevares: It is tough. From my perspective, when I ran for governor, I had my baby girl in 2014. I was already on the road 20 hours a day. Then I had my son. My wife was pregnant the hurricane came. She was 7 months pregnant when it came. I, practically, never saw them. The silver lining to all of this. You try to make sense and think about the good things that you have as well. I have been able to spend more time as a father. It’s not all rosy all of the time. It is frustrating right before.

Today, I woke up at 4 in the morning. I did some work. Then my kids wake up, then I’m with them for a little bit. My daughter has class. Today, the first part of the class, I wanted to be with her. She’s in first grade. The attention span of not only her, but all the other first graders is impossible to teach a class to first graders. I don’t know how they do it, but God bless a teacher’s patience. I cherish it.

You see – with kids – all of this potential. To me, again, even though, the world is getting more complicated in all these things. I think my role as a parent is just to help them identify something that makes them happy, lead them, give them advice. My eventual goal is, whether it be becoming a scientist or becoming a painter or a dancer or a builder – whatever they want to be, to try to lead them to make their own decisions and to be happy.

I think the two areas, which I think are most important. Which is sort of in the face of traditional education, two qualities that I see that are very important for humanity moving forward is your capacity to adjust to a lot of the changes. Parallel to that, your ability to critically think, to learn and to unlearn. It is weird. I don’t think that was said 40 years ago. But one’s capacity to unlearn is almost as important as one’s capacity to learn because of all of the changes occurring. They are good kids. I am enjoying tis time. Whatever happens, I hope they can lead happy lives. That’s really the crux of it.

Footnotes

[1] Former Governor, Puerto Rico.

[2] Individual Publication Date: June 1, 2022: https://in-sightjournal.com/rossello-5; Full Issue Publication Date: September 1, 2022: https://in-sightjournal.com/insight-issues/.

*High range testing (HRT) should be taken with honest skepticism grounded in the limited empirical development of the field at present, even in spite of honest and sincere efforts. If a higher general intelligence score, then the greater the variability in, and margin of error in, the general intelligence scores because of the greater rarity in the population.

Citations

American Medical Association (AMA): Jacobsen S. Conversation with Dr. Ricardo Rosselló Nevares on Policies in Governance, Negotiation, Faith and Science, and Fatherhood: Former Governor, Puerto Rico (5)[Online]. June 2022; 30(A). Available from: https://in-sightjournal.com/rossello-5.

American Psychological Association (APA, 6th Edition, 2010): Jacobsen, S.D. (2022, June 1). Conversation with Dr. Ricardo Rosselló Nevares on Policies in Governance, Negotiation, Faith and Science, and Fatherhood: Former Governor, Puerto Rico (5). Retrieved from https://in-sightjournal.com/rossello-5.

Brazilian National Standards (ABNT): JACOBSEN, S. Conversation with Dr. Ricardo Rosselló Nevares on Policies in Governance, Negotiation, Faith and Science, and Fatherhood: Former Governor, Puerto Rico (5). In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 30.A. June. 2022. <https://in-sightjournal.com/rossello-5>.

Chicago/Turabian, Author-Date (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott. 2022. “Conversation with Dr. Ricardo Rosselló Nevares on Policies in Governance, Negotiation, Faith and Science, and Fatherhood: Former Governor, Puerto Rico (5).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 30.A. https://in-sightjournal.com/rossello-5.

Chicago/Turabian, Humanities (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott “Conversation with Dr. Ricardo Rosselló Nevares on Policies in Governance, Negotiation, Faith and Science, and Fatherhood: Former Governor, Puerto Rico (5).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 30.A (June 2022). https://in-sightjournal.com/rossello-5.

Harvard: Jacobsen, S. 2022, ‘Conversation with Dr. Ricardo Rosselló Nevares on Policies in Governance, Negotiation, Faith and Science, and Fatherhood: Former Governor, Puerto Rico (5)’In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 30.A. Available from: <https://in-sightjournal.com/rossello-5>.

Harvard, Australian: Jacobsen, S. 2022, ‘Conversation with Dr. Ricardo Rosselló Nevares on Policies in Governance, Negotiation, Faith and Science, and Fatherhood: Former Governor, Puerto Rico (5)’In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 30.A., https://in-sightjournal.com/rossello-5.

Modern Language Association (MLA, 7th Edition, 2009): Scott D. Jacobsen. “Conversation with Dr. Ricardo Rosselló Nevares on Policies in Governance, Negotiation, Faith and Science, and Fatherhood: Former Governor, Puerto Rico (5).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 30.A (2022): June. 2022. Web. <https://in-sightjournal.com/rossello-5>.

Vancouver/ICMJE: Jacobsen S. Conversation with Dr. Ricardo Rosselló Nevares on Policies in Governance, Negotiation, Faith and Science, and Fatherhood: Former Governor, Puerto Rico (5)[Internet]. (2022, June 30(A). Available from: https://in-sightjournal.com/rossello-5.

License

In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Based on a work at www.in-sightpublishing.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012–Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links June be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen, and In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and can disseminate for their independent purposes.

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