After all these years, Utah is still the right place

Originally published in the Deseret News.

I love July in Utah because of the twin holidays of nationhood and statehood. We celebrate our independence as a country and our pioneering history as a state. The long summer days and two large parades provide a chance to reflect upon what it means to be an American and a Utahn.

I’m a fifth-generation American and Utahn. My great-great-grandfather — Howard Egan — emigrated from Tullamore, Ireland to Canada, became an orphan at age 13, found work in Salem, Massachusetts as a rope maker, converted to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, made the long trek West to help establish the Salt Lake Valley and later planned and rode in the Pony Express.

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Forming a more perfect union

Originally published in the Deseret News.

I saw “Hamilton” last week, the Broadway musical that chronicles the life of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton. The acclaimed show, with its hip-hop beat and powerful storyline, celebrates America’s founding, while featuring challenging questions about race, immigration, privilege and human frailty. The play delivers cultural criticism with fun, style and even grace. The Fourth of July offers a great time to ponder America’s founding and our “lived experience” as we seek a more perfect union.

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How to love your enemies

Originally published in Utah Business.

During a recent appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Democratic pollster Fred Yang summarized the modern political landscape by saying: “You get your reality from what channel you watch.”

His statement does not surprise me. If you watch Fox News, you celebrate our current president. If you watch CNN or MSNBC, you malign our current president. We are, in a very real way, what we watch.

In his new book, Love Your Enemies, Arthur C. Brooks, the former president at the American Enterprise Institute, provides an analysis of this type of “ideological siloing.” According to his writings, he says that not only do we stop interacting with people who hold opposing views but we hold contempt for them. He wants to start a countercultural movement to subvert the prevailing culture of contempt and open up our hearts to love more.  

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Generational change will impact the 2020 Utah governor’s race

Originally published in the Deseret News.

I grew up with a large weather vane atop the family garage. I enjoyed watching it shift as the winds changed. During a winter storm, southeasterly winds signaled lake-effect snow. In summer time, northeasterly winds often brought rain. Our weather vane served not only as an architectural feature but also as an indicator about the future.

The winds of change are blowing in Utah. Over the next several years, Utah’s weather vane will turn as Utah’s baby-boom generation passes the leadership baton to the Generation X and millennial generations. I view this change as an inflection point with profound implications for Utah’s future.

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Romney’s maiden speech spurs memories of D-Day and the cause of freedom

Originally published in the Deseret News.

At the invitation of Ann Romney, I attended Sen. Mitt Romney’s maiden speech in the U.S. Senate this week. There in the Senate gallery with approximately 30 other guests of Ann Romney and 75 or so additional onlookers, we listened as Sen. Romney spoke with vision and clarity about U.S.-China relations and the need for a comprehensive strategy to protect U.S. interests. His speech, combined with this week’s 75th anniversary of D-Day, strengthened my resolve to support and align with freedom-loving people around the world.

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Utah’s economic commonwealth

Originally published in Utah Business.

Prominent Utah historian, Thomas Alexander wrote the Beehive State’s official history titled Utah, the Right Place, as part of Utah’s centennial celebration in 1996. Mr. Alexander, who is now a professor emeritus at Brigham Young University, specializes in western US history and frequently writes about economic themes. He coined the term “economic commonwealth” in describing Utah’s diversifying and evolving economy since 1980 and I think Mr. Alexander got it right.

While we typically think of a commonwealth as a US state (there are four of them) or the British Empire, the term dates back to the 15th century. The term describes a community founded for the public good and connotes a coming together of people to promote the group’s well-being.

In economic parlance, it represents an economy that is diverse, self-sufficient, and independent. It’s an economy that supports the general welfare, controls its destiny, and provides well for its citizenry. The Utah economy today is an economic commonwealth.

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Quality growth should be our north star

Originally published in Utah Business.

I recently moderated a panel for the Sandy Area Chamber of Commerce about growth and Utah’s technology sector. The panel included Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, Sandy City Mayor Kurt Bradburn, and Envision Utah CEO Robert Grow. We discussed the opportunities and challenges posed by quality growth, particularly around the Point of the Mountain at the intersection of Salt Lake and Utah counties. I gained several insights from the ensuing dialogue.

Mayor Bradburn governs at near ground zero for Utah’s growth: the tech-intensive corridor that stretches from Sandy to Pleasant Grove. When I asked him if growth pays for itself he said, “no” without hesitation. I wasn’t surprised.

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Why Utah should be the birthplace of the fourth industrial revolution.

Originally published in the Deseret News.

Theresa Foxley leads Utah’s nonprofit economic development organization. Her association, the Economic Development Corporation of Utah, works with private industry and state and local government to attract and grow high-value companies. I recently attended a meeting where Foxley heralded Utah’s potential to serve as a “cradle” for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. I really like her idea.

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After graduation, find personal purpose and passion

Originally published in the Deseret News.

Graduation season is upon us. Adorned in regalia, graduates will walk the stage, collect their degrees and listen to commencement speeches. I hope graduates and their loved ones will magnify this moment by passionately finding and living their dream.

A few years ago, I met U.S. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson. She’s a former congresswoman from New Mexico and Rhodes scholar who was recently named president of the University of Texas at El Paso. Our brief encounter left a lasting impression on me.

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It’s time we combat America’s debt problem

Originally published in Utah Business

The late economist and former chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, Charles Schultze once said: “The deficit isn’t the wolf at the door; it’s termites in the woodwork.” This clever imagery reminds us that debt won’t blow our house down, but it will eat away at its foundation. Mr. Schultze’s keen observation stands in sharp contrast to a rising chorus of opinion leaders who argue that deficits don’t matter. I beg to differ.

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Writings and Reflections