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The Utah Way from our pioneer roots and beyond

Utah is where we find the right balance between individual responsibility and a sense of community.

A couple rides a float with a handcart during the Pioneer Day Parade Wednesday, July 24, 2019 in Salt Lake City. Pioneer Day is a beloved Utah-only party every July 24 that includes parades, rodeos, fireworks and more. It marks the date of 1847 when Brigham Young and other Mormon pioneers, many of whom pulled handcarts, ended their treacherous journey across the country from Illinois and discovered the Salt Lake Valley. (AP Photo / Rick Bowmer)

July in Utah is something special. Like the rest of the nation, we stop to celebrate our independence and the blessings that come from living in a free society dedicated to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

In addition, three weeks later, we are celebrating our state’s rich history and the legacy left by those first settlers who arrived in the Salt Lake City Valley in 1847. I hope all Utans see Pioneer Day as an annual reminder of the solid foundation laid by those who came before us and our responsibility continues to inspire us today.

Much like the pioneers of yesteryear, people now flock to our state. Utah is the fastest growing state in the country, a trend accelerated by advancements in technology and a pandemic that has shown how productive the workforce can be from any location with one connection. Fast Wi-Fi. Many people who lived in other parts of the country now realize that if they can live anywhere, the Beehive State is a great choice.

It’s easy to see what draws people to Utah. Our natural beauty is unmatched. Businesses and talent are drawn to low taxes and a philosophy of governance cultivated to support prosperity for all. We offer the highest degree of upward economic mobility, the most diverse economy and the lowest unemployment rate. We are among the healthiest and happiest people in the country. The list goes on and on, but the people who live here know that what makes Utah special isn’t fully captured by any list or ranking.

Utah is a place where we find the right balance between individual responsibility and a sense of community. It’s a place where neighbors get to know each other and look out for each other. As the rest of the country has become more insular, the Utahns have generally done a good job welcoming newcomers and helping them be a part of our community.

Many new Utahns are surprised to find that some of what they expected to find here is more stereotypes than substance. Without a doubt, we are a conservative state rooted in principles of fiscal prudence, personal responsibility and family support; we do our best to look out for each other as well. We probably don’t have enough credit to be the conservative state that crafted the Utah Immigration Pact. We have shown the nation that inclusion is not a win-win situation by supporting the LGBTQ + community while protecting religious freedom. And we enthusiastically welcome and support refugees looking to start a new life. Community-driven conservatism is alive and well in Utah and we thrive on it.

More and more, I hear elected leaders in other states refer to the “Utah Way” as a guide to getting it right. I think it’s because we understand that politics is not a game and that public policy is about doing things right for people. We understand that smart policy making is never over.

Building bridges, gaining trust and acting in the best interests of the people of the state have become fundamental parts of our policy making process. As our pioneer ancestors knew, we cannot survive or prosper alone; we are in the same boat and everyone has a role to play.

To all who come to Utah, like the Pioneers 174 years ago, we welcome you to our community and ask you to remember why you left your home to make it a new one here. Reasonable taxes, limited government involvement, a willingness to learn from each other and work together and be an active part of the community in one way or another. Everything is at the heart of the Utah Way.

As we celebrate our pioneering legacy together this week, renew our commitment to honor the sacrifices of those who have come before us by building on the strong foundations they have laid and improving Utah’s enviable quality of life.

Brad Wilson is the Speaker of the Utah House of Representatives

Mary Cashion

The author Mary Cashion