Text of remarks by House Speaker David Clark, R-Santa Clara, to the 75 House members Monday during the opening of the Utah Legislature.
With humility and gratitude I address you today. Before we commence, I feel that I would be remiss if I failed to express my appreciation for the many people who have loved and supported through life's journey to this — a position of reverent service. I have been blessed with parents who provided me with emotional and spiritual support. I do not remember an event (that I participated in) where they were not there supporting me. Being raised in a strong and stable family has given me purpose, grounding, and a context for everything I do.
My parents set wonderful examples for their children. Education was very important in our house. My father was the first in his family to attend college. He obtained his Doctorate, and for 35 years was a college professor at BYU. My mother was the first in her family to go to college obtaining her masters degree and becoming the first female Principal in the Nebo school district. I wanted to express to them the love of a thankful and proud son.
I also count, as chief, among my many blessings my wife, Nan. She has supported me in the pursuit of my many dreams and has made me a better man. Together, we have been lucky enough to have four wonderful children who have given us nine beautiful grandchildren. Some of whom led us in the Pledge of Allegiance today.
Becoming a parent has broadened my perspective and increased my appreciation for a great many things. Like all parents, my children taught me to care about things I seldom thought of before and gave my life a purpose beyond myself. I wish to express to them the love of a proud dad.
Thank you for indulging me.
Today marks the opening of the 58th Legislature. The first to be opened on the fourth Monday in January and not on the historic third.
Today, January 26th is a date, historic in its own right.
On this date in history:
1945-The Russian Army first reached Auschwitz and the world never looked at its self the same.
1948-Executive Order #9981 ended segregation in the army and America took another step on the path toward a world where everyone is judged on the content of their character and not the color of their skin.
1954-Groundbreaking of Disneyland and the world found the happiest place on earth.
1980-Israel and Egypt establish diplomatic relations ending the period of violence that began with the Six Day War.
1992-America Disabilities Act goes into effect and we found a helping hand was not as difficult as we first thought.
And on January 26th, 2009, for the first time ever in Utah, we the Legislature are making history by convening not on the third, but the fourth Monday of January. By doing so we hope to pay respect to the progress that America has made, and to man who helped define that progress, Dr. Martin Luther King.
As we enter into a new era nationally, I would like to welcome all of you to the beginning of the new 58th Legislative Session of this great State of Utah.
In every new beginning, one should remember the history of what came before so as not to repeat the mistakes of yesteryear. With that in mind, I want share with you the story of how this hill overlooking the city became Capitol Hill.
In 1888 Salt Lake City officials gave approximately 20 acres on a barren hill north of the city center to the territorial authority for the future purpose of building this Capitol. At first, the gentle rise had been called Prospect Hill because of its position overlooking the entire expanse of the newly settled valley. But by virtue of that advantageous view, in only a few years Prospect Hill had become the headquarters for the Nauvoo Legion, a civil defense group carried over from the Mormon Pioneer days in Nauvoo, Illinois. The hill had also been the repository for arsenals of munitions belonging to four Salt Lake "powder" companies and gunpowder were stored in warehouses in the site.
Twelve years before the city gave the land to territorial officials on a bitter cold sixth day of April in 1876, three devastating blasts on the hill rocked the city below and caused widespread destruction. Subsequent newspaper accounts ran for days in the three local papers. The headline in the Deseret Evening News the day after the explosion read: "TERRIBLE DISASTER — Terrible Explosion of Forty Tons of [explosive] Powder — Four Persons Immediately Killed and Others Injured — Great Damage to Property."
Emergency workers at the scene found four large holes where the magazines had stood. The ground was strewn with small fragments of the buildings; an iron door was the only recognizable thing in the wreck. Reports claimed that 30 tons of flying missiles hurtled about as smoke and debris belched from the hill.
The blast caused widespread destruction. A large boulder went through the mayor's roof and two floors of his new home. Territorial Governor Brigham Young's flourmill, nearly a half-mile away on City Creek was destroyed. One of Young's daughters was sitting near a window and received a head wound from the shattering glass.
The day following the blast city officials held an inquest at City Hall. Their preliminary verdict was that the explosion was caused by a burning paper wad shot from a gun igniting loose powder strewn around on the site. The act appeared to be traceable to two teenage boys, Charles Richardson and Frank Hill, who had been grazing their small herd of cattle on the side of Ensign Peak and had been seen taking target practice near the magazines. Both boys unfortunately were killed in the blast.
On February 28, 1888 that Mormon Church President Heber J. Grant proposed that Salt Lake City should donate the 20-acre plot of the former Arsenal Hill property for a future state Capitol site. At times this last year it seems as though the headline from that terrible day in April 1876 proclaiming disaster and destruction could just as easily have been the headlines describing House ethics charges, counter charges and the surrounding events. The tragic story of Arsenal Hill and its rebirth as Capitol Hill provide lessons we should all take to heart. As I reflect on this story, and in an attempt to not have Capitol Hill revert to Arsenal Hill.
I've found there are four things that once done you cannot un-do: First you can not un-do:
A stone after it is thrown
A word after it is said
The occasion after the loss
The time after it has gone
In 2008, stones were thrown, words said, occasions lost and time gone that will never return. I suggest to you that we are at a crossroads. To plow old fields as I recently read in the City Weekly is not what we should be about. As a legislative body we have a choice to look backward or look forward. I choose to look forward toward positive change. For the better part of over 150 years Utahns have proven that the pioneer spirit is alive and well and is still one of our core cultural values. We are a state born from adversity and persecution, yet we are quick to help a neighbor in need as demonstrated by Utah's ranking as the most charitable state in the nation. Utah's firm foundation has not been built on misgivings or hesitations; rather civility is the foundation-- civility for a social peace and human cooperation for a greater good. In fact the definition of civility is the art of maintaining good manners, a calm demeanor, and consideration of others in social interactions for the good of society. So I ask you, my fellow representatives: Why are you here? Is it to prove a point? Or are you here to solve the challenges facing our state?
As elected representatives, we owe the people of the state of Utah our very best efforts on their behalf. Our actions inside and outside of our official duties should not detract from our ability to deliver our very best efforts to the people. Geoffrey Chaucer, the author of The Canterbury Tales said, "If gold rusts, what shall iron do?" If we do not uphold the high values entrusted to us in this representative form of democracy, we risk the deterioration of the people's trust in us.
Sam Rayburn, former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, shared this thought, which I believe applies to us, "Members have two constituencies — they have their constituents at home and their colleagues in the house. To serve their constituents at home they must serve their colleagues here in the house." The persona we project to our constituents should be the very same persona we show our colleagues here in this chamber. The power of our political system is that it requires collective work, input and perspective in order to produce a finished product. Every piece of legislation is better for having been thoroughly debated, even contentiously debate as its rough edges are refined. In short, teamwork, compromise and openness are the hallmarks of our system and we should strive to ensure those traits are never repressed, but always celebrated.
In the dark days of the Battle for Britain in 1941Winston Churchill lifted the spirit of his nation by reminding them to never give in "Except to convictions of honour and good sense." As I have contemplated the example the Office of Speaker might set I have committed myself to the following eight guiding principles. I suggest they be helpful to all who serve in this chamber. They are:
1.Understand limits legislative "power" stems from personal influence rather than mere office.
2.Have genuine respect for differing points of view as demonstrated by consulting with as many colleagues as possible.
3.Remember that the members of this chamber are your colleagues, and not your opponents. Everyone here has a family, people that support him or her, and loved ones that read the newspaper.
4.Listen more often than you speak. Senator Everett Dirksen once admonished his son-in-law, Senator Howard Baker, in his first year in the U.S. Senate to "occasionally allow yourself the luxury of an unexpressed thought."
5.No surprises, simply keep colleagues informed.
6.Tell the truth- whether you have to or not. Remember that your word is your only currency; devalue it and your effectiveness as a legislator is over. Even when as Harry S. Truman once said, "I never give them hell, I just tell the truth and they think it is hell." Be honest.
7.Be patient with colleagues and the process. Patience and persistence will always win the day.
8.Be civil and encourage others to do likewise.
In concluding my remarks, I would like to ask the pages to please begin passing out the books.
Over the past eight years I have often found myself faced with two choices with regard to policy: either tinker with systems clearly not working and then rest on the laurels of having made a bad system a little less bad; or dive headlong into issues that will attract the critics, risk be ridiculed and maybe, just maybe, transform the system. I have always tried to choose the latter.
As we look at our State today there is a widespread sense of financial insecurity. Many in our State feel they are one layoff or one serious illness away from losing everything they have earned. Worst of all, Utahns doubt that they will be able to leave their children what their parents left them: a better life.
As I look out this Chamber I wonder if we are a Legislature of Destiny or Demise. No other Legislature has been asked to meet such ever-growing needs under such trying economic circumstances. It will require all of our collective wisdom, courage and vision.
I ask each of you to accept the responsibility for Utah's future. I ask you to not see Utah as it is today. Rather, we must envision it as it could be tomorrow.
The most important issue facing Utah today is the future!
I deeply believe in the power of ideas. In life, real progress results from a marriage of good ideas and the courage to see those ideas through. In government, we ask every Utahn to work hard and play by the rules. In turn, we commit to creating a government whose role is to insure that every Utahn is given the opportunity and freedom to achieve financial security and ultimately leave for their children a better life than their own.
So today, I ask you to make a commitment to the people of Utah about our future.
You hold in your hands the first draft of a book that charts the course of Utah's future. Today your book, as is mine, contains 100 blank pages. Out future has yet to be written. So between this historic day and another historic day, July 24th, 2009, our challenge is for each of us to fill these 100 pages with 100 innovative ideas. In doing so I ask that you enlist all 2.8 million of our fellow citizens and constituents to fill this book with the energy of ideas.
We should collectively challenge all citizens of Utah to consider their place in public service. One need not stand for election or sit in this legislative chamber in order to affect good government. Working as a private citizen does not excuse one from their obligation to society. I issue the challenge to legislators, local civic and business leaders, and those who call Utah home to not let this book sit silently and gather dust. To assist you even further if you prefer you can email your innovative ideas directly to firstname.lastname@example.org. Do not let the bold ideas in your heart fall silent. Give life to innovative notions and together we can chart a better, brighter course for Utah's future. I urge all who engage in this process to keep three things in mind: First, our ideas should focus on the real challenges and anxieties of Utahns. They should be relevant to the day-to-day lives of the average Utahn. In order to find those ideas, I suggest as legislators we talk a little less and listen a little more.
Second, our ideas should be focused on tomorrow. Each idea should be about what's best for our children and grandchildren now and 20 years from now.
Third, our ideas should not just be anti-government. Nor should they be about just expanding government's role. But they should be about anti-waste.
In our search for answers, I encourage you to look not to government but to what I believe are the foundations that have helped to make this country great; the family, the civil society and the free market system. The role of government should be to serve and protect these three institutions — not run them.
You will notice on the book in your hands and on the wall above this dais, is written in Latin VOX POPULI — voice of the people.
I ask you, my colleagues, to commit yourself to meet with your constituents' to fill your book with the ideas that will power Utah well into the future.4 comments on this story
What we do in this Chamber matters. It will matter even more if we commit to be ambitious in bringing the voice of the people to the House of the People.
I look forward to July 24th, 2009 and the return of what, I hope, will be your dog-eared, well-worn, idea-filled books. Together, we will turn innovate ideas into excellent state policy that will serve our state well now and for generations to come.
Thank you for your services to this great State.
May God bless each one of you.