Weston Kenney, Deseret News
FILE — Evan McMullin, who's running an independent bid for president, talks with the Deseret News and KSL editorial board in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2016.

Like many of you, I’ve spent this past year trying to wrap my head around this exceptionally painful election. Deciding between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton is like deciding if I want to stay on the Cliffs of Insanity or take my chances with Inigo Montoya’s sword. For me, neither is an acceptable option, and I reject the false premise that I must choose between one of them as “the lesser of two evils.”

In 1984, when I was a junior at BYU, I proudly voted for Ronald Reagan. The next year, I was privileged to meet with him in the Oval Office. I will never forget the plaque he had on his desk. It read, “There is no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he does not mind who gets the credit.”

One of the reasons Reagan was so beloved was his innate humility. He never sought to portray himself as the answer to America’s challenges, but instead constantly referred to Americans — we, the people — as the solution. His rhetoric constantly focused on what he loved about America and her citizens, and what we could do to make our great country better. His parting note to the American people, after he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, captured this sentiment perfectly.

He wrote, "I now begin the journey that will lead me into the sunset of my life. I know that for America there will always be a bright dawn ahead."

Reagan wasn’t perfect, but his dignity, patriotism, integrity, values and character remain the benchmark against which I measure all candidates for elective office. There’s only one person running for president today who can begin to approach these lofty standards: Evan McMullin.

When I learned about McMullin’s unique background, knowledge, conservative values and mature temperament, I knew he was someone I could vote for. I want to cast my vote for a principled conservative, not just against another candidate. I want to vote for a decent, moral, capable person, not “the lesser of two evils.” I want to vote for a candidate who reflects my values. Is my vote wasted on a candidate much of the country doesn’t even know exists? No. The point of a democratic election is to check the box next to the name of the candidate who most reflects your views and standards. That’s when we fulfill our duty as voters.

I’ve worked with the military for the past decade. I’ve become close friends with generals and Medal of Honor recipients — men and women I deeply respect. I’ve told the stories of hundreds of brave warriors who fight for freedom, so I feel qualified to say that McMullin is the kind of man we can respect as commander in chief. He has served his nation with honor. He understands “peace through strength” foreign policy from the clear perspective of someone who’s been fighting terrorism in the trenches. I’m deeply impressed with his ability to articulate principled solutions to troubling issues, and I’m moved by his optimistic view of America. I truly believe he’s the kind of leader who can unify our country in a time when others have created a chasm of division.

McMullin has rock-solid integrity and character. He is pro-life. He defends the constitutional principles of individual liberty and limited government. He will never ask our men and women in uniform to compromise our national defense and security, nor will he dismiss their expertise and advice. He proposes a smarter tax code, streamlined regulations and entitlement reform. He holds the conservative values that once were synonymous with the Republican Party I knew when Reagan was president: dignity, maturity, class, integrity, duty and character.

I’ll proudly cast my vote for Evan McMullin on Nov. 8, and I encourage you to join me.

Sharlene Hawkes is president of RMS Productions, a Utah-based company that produces historical commemoratives for the military. She was Miss America in 1985.