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Massachusetts does a lot right

Like anyplace else, the state has its share of problems, but by many statistical measures, Massachusetts really is number one.

New Orange Line cars sit on the production floor of a factory in Springfield, Dec. 18, 2018.Lane Turner/Globe Staff

John Winthrop, one of the founders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, wrote its first mission statement back in 1630. “We must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill,” he said in the oft-quoted sermon. He wanted the settlement to be so successful that when others built their own commonwealths, they would think, “may the Lord make it like that of New England.”

Now, it’s not likely that Winthrop, a devoted Puritan, had in mind that Massachusetts would be the first state to legalize same-sex marriage. And, who knows, he may well have had reservations about Romneycare. His views on the startup ecosystem are, sadly, lost to history.


But, guess what? Four hundred years later, Massachusetts has become exactly what Winthrop envisioned. For good reason, a lot of other states look at their schools, their hospitals, their football teams — and wish they could “make it like that of New England.”

There’s a lot to be proud of in Massachusetts, and this week’s special Ideas celebrates some of the highlights. Massachusetts has set the pace on public K-12 education, spurred by a landmark 1993 law. It’s a powerhouse of medical and scientific research. The state’s health insurance reforms served as a national template.

Like anyplace else, the state also has its share of problems, of which regular readers of this page are well aware. But by many statistical measures, including the Social Progress Index that Harvard professor Michael E. Porter describes in his article, Massachusetts really is number one. On health measures like obesity, in education rankings, and even on safety metrics like traffic deaths, Massachusetts outperforms other states. (And, yes, it helps those traffic fatality numbers when congestion slows cars to a crawl.)

Those are accomplishments worth celebrating — and a legacy worth continuing.

Massachusetts can continue to be a national leader by recognizing its own strengths and committing not to take them for granted. Pragmatic political leaders, a collaborative business sector, and bedrock educational and health institutions have contributed greatly to the state’s success. Massachusetts has largely avoided the populist, ideological trend in national politics, and the state needs to take care to keep it that way.


For better or worse, the desire to be the best, and to show the rest of the world how it’s done, has been part of this state’s DNA since its founding. Winthrop feared that the Commonwealth would fail to live up to that ideal if the citizenry “prosecute our carnal intentions.” But our view is that the only way Massachusetts will lose its place atop the hill is if it gives up the innovative, problem-solving spirit that got it there.

Editorials represent the views of the Boston Globe Editorial Board. Follow us @GlobeOpinion.