One Utah - Spencer J. Cox
For many years, 20/20 has meant one thing: clear vision and clarity in thinking.
Today, that number reminds us of times filled with a global pandemic, protests over racial injustice, worldwide economic struggles and in Utah, just in case that wasn’t enough, the largest earthquake in a generation.
And yet somehow the year isn’t even halfway over.
2020 has not been for the faint of heart. It has been a year that none of us will ever forget. And yet it’s a year that some of us wish had never occurred.
Of course each of us has experienced it in our own ways.
Grandparents who often suffer in loneliness, worried about their own health but just as important about the wellbeing of family, neighbors and friends.
Mothers and fathers unsure how or if their business will survive and for how long they can manage to pay the bills.
Young adults, students and missionaries whose plans and dreams were set, suddenly seeing their worlds turned upside down.
Weddings for our sons and daughters held with only a few family and friends present instead of the beautiful celebrations that they deserved.
And high school graduates who should have enjoyed all of the pomp and circumstance which usually comes with that rite of passage.
Of course, as Utahns we have always had a resilient spirit and we have found other ways to recognize those who deserve our praise.
I stumbled across one such celebration for the graduating class of a local high school. It was a parade with the town’s main street shut down for the event; cars were decorated and plans made for each graduating senior to ride up and down, proudly waving to family and friends who lined the road.
With the festivities just about to begin, clouds suddenly formed and for the first time in nearly a month a torrential thunderstorm struck and soaked our desert home.
And yet somehow, the phrase “when it rains it pours” just doesn’t feel adequate enough to describe the year of 2020.
When Abby and I announced we would be running for governor, we made three promises to each other.
First, while others may outspend us, no one would outwork us.
Second, this experience would not change who we are. Instead of misleading and negative attacks, we would prove that running for office doesn’t need to be about tearing others down.
And third, because we never had candidates for governor come to Fairview, we pledged to visit every city and town–all 248–and rally people to perform acts of service. That way, win or lose, we could feel like we helped to make the state a better place.
In short, we wanted our campaign to be different. And thanks to you — to a group that started as a small core of people and has now expanded into thousands — this campaign has been different.
You have made this a movement of people from all walks of life, Wasatch Front and rural, young and young at heart — people who have always paid attention to politics and those who put up a yard sign for the very first time.
You have made this campaign itself a force for good. You joined us from our largest cities to our very smallest, the town of Scofield, population 23. And you rolled up your sleeves to do service projects along the way. Whether it was laying sod in St. George, painting a church in Emery or planting trees in Koosharem, I’ll always remember that good kind of tired feeling we had when the work was done.
You volunteered to collect signatures from tens of thousands of your friends and fellow Republicans, making us the only ticket with enough signatures to get on the ballot without paying a signature-gathering firm.
Even when this pandemic and my duties as Lt. Governor required me to step away from the campaign trail for weeks, you joined my running-mate, Senator Deidre Henderson in calling Republican delegates. And one conversation at a time you secured an astounding victory for us at the Republican State Convention. Other campaigns had unlimited money and flashy endorsements. We had you.
Thanks to you, we have already received contributions from more individual donors than any campaign for governor in Utah’s history. And for several months, instead of donating to us, you gave money to your neighbors and communities that were struggling through this terrible crisis.
You have made yourself heard through thousands of posts on social media and EndorsedByUtah.com. Thank you for your support and for adding your voices to 140 mayors, 50 top business leaders, 75 county commissioners and legislators, and Governor Gary Herbert.
As all of you, and anyone paying attention can see, you have created a movement. What started as a campaign has now turned into a cause. And that cause is about all of us coming together with our shared hopes for what public service can be at its best. It’s about the good that comes from doing things together as One Utah.
I mentioned earlier our goal to visit all 248 cities and towns. Well, we made it to 205 before this global pandemic changed everything. Instead of large rallies and projects, we are now visiting individuals and families on their porches and in their backyards. We aren’t giving stump speeches. Instead we are doing something politicians almost never do…simply listening and learning. It might be the most important thing we’ve done.
We frequently talk about the “American Dream”…this idea that anyone can work hard and become successful. But here in Utah, I believe we want something a little different. Growing up on a farm in our small town, I often heard my parents and grandparents say that our best crop was our kids…and unfortunately it was also our best export.
In the quiet moments when we have been able to talk and listen, heart to heart, I’ve heard you express something similar. It’s something I consider to be the “Utah Dream.” Over and over again you’ve said:
“I want this to be a place where my children are happy, safe, healthy and successful. And I want to grow old surrounded by my kids, my grandkids, and all these good people—in this wonderful place.”
Of course, making this shared Utah Dream a reality means different things for different people.
In rural Utah it requires a dramatic increase in good jobs so that our children have a choice to stay. Along the Wasatch Front it requires more affordable housing, cleaner air, and better infrastructure so that our children have a desire to stay.
And all across our state, it means not just an economic comeback, but a commitment to the most aggressive upgrade to our educational programs since we became a state 125 years ago.
We can do these things, even though they are hard. And we must take bold action, even as we emerge from the turbulence of 2020.
When Gary Herbert unexpectedly became Governor in the midst of The Great Recession, Utah’s prospects looked bleak. Unemployment was shooting up, reaching as high as 9%, and our economy was shrinking. People were scared.
Governor Herbert laid out a game plan, both clear and simple. He said, “It’s time to get government off of people’s backs and out of their wallets.”
He knew that heavy-handed central planning — even when packaged as a grandiose vision — could never bring Utah back. We had to unleash Utah’s entrepreneurial energy.
All of the people who have been here the last ten years have played a part in that economic miracle.
Firing on all cylinders — private sector, faith-based institutions, non-profits, and yes, a lean-and-mean state government — Utah came roaring back to become known as the best place to do business, the fastest growing and most diverse economy, and the best managed state with the lowest unemployment rate in the country and in our state’s history.
You made Utah the Startup State, with small business booming and dynamic new companies attracting tens of billions of dollars in external investment. You have fueled the rise of a technology sector which is now the biggest and fastest growing segment of our economy, bringing tens of thousands of high-paying jobs with it, and making our state the envy of the nation.
Your stunning success enabled Utah to earn a triple A bond rating and to put away $900 million dollars in a rainy day fund.
But more importantly, while you were bringing our economy back, you showed the world how to give back by leading the country in volunteerism and charitable donations.
Let this be a reminder and a blueprint — for newcomers and some of our neighbors — and most of all for future generations: we have found a formula here that works. It is rooted in conservative principles like freedom, hard work and strong families; limited government and big-hearted communities. And it is made real as we rally together, overcoming each problem that comes our way as One Utah.
But economic prosperity alone is hollow if we don’t work to lift everyone. Being One Utah is so much more.
Last Saturday was a very special day for us. During some of the final stops on our 248 city tour, we met a few people that changed our lives.
A Black mom of 5 boys who shared real and devastating experiences of racism—some intentional and some unintentional—and the lessons she has to teach her boys that I could never imagine teaching my own children.
A white police officer who dodged rocks and bottles as rioters attacked him while he was protecting the rights of peaceful protesters-—all while his wife and young daughters watched on TV, worried for his safety.
An inspired person who has dedicated his life’s work to helping at-risk kids find their creative voice—and yet showed great vulnerability in his willingness to help me better see the difficulties of navigating the inequalities of the world as a black man.
A humble Latino family, in a small trailer with 3 kids, one severely disabled—expressing their love for this state and the opportunity they have been given to make a better life for their children.
Because it is so important, I want to reiterate a thought I shared just a few weeks ago. As humans it’s hard to understand things we haven’t experienced. So often we don’t even try. Or we do try and it might be awkward. And then we just give up and go back to our tribal corners. I’ve been guilty of it, too. We can’t allow that to happen anymore. We must be willing to be vulnerable. We must learn empathy. Change can only happen when we understand. And we can never understand until we climb into that pit of fear and pain and sorrow with those who are suffering. We must learn to mourn with those that mourn.
In the coming days and months we will work through critical changes to policies and laws. But none of that will matter nearly as much as the changes we make in our hearts and minds.
And so, let me conclude where we began—back in that graduation parade. Parents, neighbors, friends—even complete strangers—standing there waiting for a commencement ceremony unlike any they could have imagined just a few short weeks ago. And then, as if Mother Nature decided to add insult to injury, the skies opened and a freezing downpour drenched everyone and every thing.
In that moment though I watched Utahns do what they always do. They stood through the rain, and they finished what they started. They clapped and cheered and celebrated–soaked to the bone–for those students; every last one.
It’s been said that adversity doesn’t build character, it reveals it.
Utah, over these last few months, I have seen you — and I have never been more proud to call you my home.
Your strength has given me hope. It has reminded me again, that no matter how dark the storm, there is always the promise of a beautiful sunrise ahead and our shared belief in good things to come.
What if 2020 is the year when we realize we are stronger and more resilient than we ever imagined.
What if 2020 is the year we commit to judge other people a little less, listen a little more and try a little harder to love those who are different than us?
What if 2020 is the year when we reject negative campaigning and the toxic, tribalistic divide in our country and commit to strengthening our bonds and re-discovering our better angels?
What if 2020 is the year when we discover the next “Greatest Generation?”
You see, at the end of the day, all of the rankings and statistics in the world aren’t what matters most.
Stripped down to our core, no AAA-bond rating will get us through this crisis or any future one waiting just around the corner. Top rankings in Forbes magazine are nice, but they won’t be the deciding factor in how we come through a storm.
When the clouds arrive and the rain descends — and they always will — all that will be left will be our people standing there, side-by-side, ready to finish what we started.
And that is why I am so confident in our future. Because of you. Because of you, we will rise up and conquer the challenges in front of us today; Because of you we will achieve the Utah dream. And, together we will write the next incredible chapter in the story of our state — as One Utah. Thank you.
To watch Lt. Gov. Cox’s speech, click here.
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