Politicians, leaders pay tribute to President Hinckley
Scott G. Winterton, Deseret Morning News
The Utah Legislature held a moment of silence in honor of the passing of President Gordon B. Hinckley before moving on to the business at hand Monday.
In Washington D.C., Sens. Bob Bennett and Orrin Hatch paid tribute to him on the U.S. Senate floor. And government and civic leaders inside and outside the state shared personal stories about their associations with him.
President Hinckley died Sunday of causes incident to age. He was 97.
The usual rustle in the Utah House and Senate chambers stopped for a minute as lawmakers stood and bowed their heads before debating bills in their morning sessions.
House Speaker Greg Curtis, R-Sandy, seemed a bit overtaken by the event.
"I think this (moment of silence) is the best way to honor him. And then we all may worship in our private way his passing."
When the silence broke, Curtis said, "It may seem a little trite to go on with business." But the House did, as the law requires.
"He was a great community leader as well as a religious leader," Curtis said, in explaining it was proper for the government entity to recognize President Hinckley's contribution to Utah.
Calling it a "solemn occasion," Senate President John Valentine, R-Orem, allowed his colleagues to express their thoughts about President Hinckley for about 20 minutes.
Sen. Carlene Walker, R-Cottonwood Heights, recalled the respect shown President Hinckley at the dedication of the remodeled Capitol Jan. 4, his last public address.
"As the prophet came and approached the podium, there was total silence in the Rotunda and reverence for that great man. Not all in the audience were members of the LDS Church, but there was a great deal of reverence for him as a leader in this community," she said.
"It strikes me how he had a big picture, eternal perspective. He thought outside the box. I think it behooves all of us to keep a big picture, eternal perspective."
Shortly after being elected Senate president, Valentine found himself sitting next to President Hinckley at the governor's inauguration.
"After we finished the inaugural events, I went over to shake his hand. He looked at me with those grey blue eyes he had, and he embraced me. He gave me a hug. He looked at me and said, 'President, lead well. Lead fairly. And lead with your heart.' He then took his cane and waved to everyone as he walked away."
Bennett, R-Utah, spoke on the U.S. Senate floor of President Hinckley's life and legacy, noting how connected he was to the world.
"He read the papers. He watched the television. He knew what was going on in the world outside the church, every bit as much as we did, and his memory was phenomenal. There are many people who were 20 to 30 years his junior who could not remember current items of news as well as he could," Bennett said.
"We do not mourn for him. He has joined his wife, his parents, and others who have gone before him who may have a little sense of, 'Gordon, what took you so long?' but he stayed at his job and fulfilled his stewardship in an impressive manner."
Said Hatch, R-Utah, "His love of God fueled his love of country. President Hinckley carried the torch of patriotism, and the spirit of America burned in his heart."
"But President Hinckley never let his love of the United States obscure his vision for the rest of the world. ... He traveled across the globe, setting an energetic pace that would have exhausted men half his age. The nations of the earth heard his voice and he brought them a knowledge of the truth by the wonderful testimony which he bore."
Gov. Jon M. Huntsman Jr. cut short a trip to Florida, where he campaigned for John McCain, to thank the Hinckley family for their contributions to Utah. Speaking from the governor's mansion, he called the state better off because of President Hinckley's life. "It's hard to describe adequately a man with his leadership talents."
Huntsman said he particularly enjoyed escorting visiting dignitaries to President Hinckley's downtown office.
"He could engage anybody regardless of their background or philosophy," the governor said. "He was a man who understood the world. He was a man who was perfect for these times."
Other politicians and community leaders, too, recalled Monday personal interactions with President Hinckley.
"I will always appreciate the words of comfort that he brought to the family and friends of former Congressman Wayne Owens by speaking at his funeral services," said Wayne Holland, Utah Democratic Party chairman.
"Congressman Owens was a close friend and mentor to me. I will never forget President Hinckley's comment that, 'Any man who is engaged in the cause of peace is engaged in the cause of Christ.' That was the essence of Wayne's life."
Jeanetta Williams, Salt Lake Branch NAACP president, said she has fond memories of working with President Hinckley, including asking his support to change Human Rights Day to Martin Luther King Jr. Day and inviting him to speak at an NAACP regional conference.
"President Hinckley was always concerned about the way people treated one another, and each time that he and I spoke he always asked how I was being treated by the people of Utah and on my jog," she said.
"He had a deep concern for the community and what others outside of Utah thought about the people in our state."
Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, while heading the Salt Lake Olympics, remembers being impressed with President Hinckley's knowledge of details.
"We asked for the ability to use a city block, which the church owned, which had four parking lots on it ... for us to level the parking lot and turn it into a plaza for the medals ceremony.
"It would seat, as I recall, approximately 10,000 people and another 10,000 would be standing and he turned to the other counselors that were there of his and said, 'Aren't the sewer pipes too close to the surface on that lot for them to be able to level it?' He literally was aware of ... the sewer system for that lot well enough to recognize that was an issue."
Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nevada, said President Hinckley led a remarkable life."His faith and leadership have inspired countless lives throughout the world. He leaves a deeply rooted legacy on our religion through his teachings and his lifetime of service to the church."
E-mail: email@example.com Contributing: Bob Bernick Jr. and Nicole Warburton
Contributing: Bob Bernick Jr. and Nicole Warburton
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