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Wasin Pummarin, f11photo - stock.adobe.com
Salt Lake City skyline Utah at night

“Why don’t you move to Washington, D.C.?”

When you work in the public policy arena, it’s not unusual to hear that question. It’s as though working in D.C. would be the summit of our profession.

But I’m thrilled to be here in Utah, working for one of the best public policy groups in the country. I believe the real action — the real opportunity to improve government — is at the state and local levels. You can blame that on Washington gridlock, but it’s partly by design.

Under the 10th Amendment, we at the state level are given large blank canvases on which to draw a piece of our nation’s future. We are the laboratories of democracy, as Justice Brandeis once put it. We’re the building blocks of America. So we have a tremendous responsibility to fashion this block called Utah well.

How do we fulfill that responsibility? I believe we must begin with a spirit of hope. Now that might sound like a cliché, or a throwaway line from a political speech, but I’m talking about a spirit of hope at the core of who we are.

It’s the spirit we just celebrated on Independence Day — the hope that a nation could be forged based on the protection of our unalienable, natural rights. It’s the spirit Utahns celebrate in a unique way on Pioneer Day — the hope that led trail-weary families to gaze upon an empty expanse and believe they could make it bloom.

But increasingly, that spirit of hope is a revolutionary spirit that stands in opposition to the bitterness that the pundits are constantly dishing out. We’re constantly told how divided we are. We’re constantly hearing the most bitter voices and are then told that they’re representative of who we are. In effect, we’re constantly being fed a subtext — that there is no hope.

To operate from a position of hope is to rebel against that message. It is rebellion to say: It is possible for us to find solutions to our common problems. By providing information to help make those solutions possible, Utah Foundation stands at the forefront of that hopeful, common-ground rebellion.

And, after all, who doesn’t believe in efficient, effective government? Who doesn’t want a thriving economy, a well-prepared workforce and a high-quality of life for Utahns? And who doesn’t believe that we need good information to accomplish those goals? In short, who doesn’t share the Utah Foundation mission?

Clearly, the common ground among us is vast. And Utah Foundation will continue to stand there as an honest, independent, nonpartisan, informative friend to all who love this state and its localities and want to improve them.

The good news is, Utah is, in many respects, on a firm footing. Despite its challenges, there is so much to recommend Utah. And that’s another reason I’m thrilled to be here.

Recently, my 10-year-old daughter wrote a letter to one of her friends about our move to Utah from New Orleans. At a recent Utah Foundation meeting, I read it to attendees, and afterward, several people asked me for a copy. Here is an abridged version:

“Dear Leigh,” she wrote, “I will miss you very very very very very much. … Even though I will miss New Orleans, I am thoroughly and absolutely excited about Utah! I suddenly feel much more adventurous. There are 45 beautiful state parks in Utah, and they include amazing experiences and activities, beautiful sights and views, and an opportunity you’ll never find anywhere else, Zion National Park. … I will be living in the mountains and whenever I go out onto my front porch, I’ll see the beautiful mountains of Utah, and I will explore the beautiful mystic beauty of its amazing rain [sic] forests, canyons, rivers and mountains. Since it is the 5th healthiest state in the U.S, you can see how many activities, sports and lively entertainments they have in Utah!!! … Also, it has an amazing international airport that links to the rest of the world and has a reputation for the most on-time flights in the country!!! The crazy thing is, in the annual job growth listing Utah has an average of 2.8%! That is more than two times the whole country’s average! Another great thing about Utah is it has the best snow on earth. People from all over the country come to Utah to enjoy the thrilling snow sports! My dog will be so happy in Utah! He is adventurous and will enjoy hiking in the mountains. Hope you can visit this great place!

Your friend, Catalina Reichard.”

While the letter may be humorous coming from a 10-year-old, it gets the point across: This is a great place.

Since 1945, Utah Foundation has worked with government officials, the business community, civic groups and average citizens to preserve what makes this state so special and make it even greater. And as we march forward, we invite you to help us make sure Utah Foundation keeps doing its part – and then some.

Peter Reichard is the new president of Utah Foundation and the former research director of the Bureau of Governmental Research in New Orleans. He’s also president of the Governmental Research Association, which held its national convention in Salt Lake City this past week. Reach him at peter@utahfoundation.org with any comments, questions or suggestions for research.