Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Flags fly in honor of North Ogden Mayor Brent Taylor in North Ogden on Sunday, Nov. 4, 2018. Taylor was killed in Afghanistan.

“It was beautiful to see over 4 million Afghan men and women brave threats and deadly attacks to vote in Afghanistan’s first parliamentary elections in eight years.”

That was the start to North Ogden Mayor Brent Taylor’s final Facebook post published less than a week before tragically dying as an Army major in an apparent insider attack during a tour in Afghanistan.

Candid last words often show the measure of one’s character and can instruct others in their journey forward. Taylor’s last public comments leave no doubt he was a man dedicated to giving the oppressed the blessings of freedom, that he was a mayor, soldier, husband and father who gave his allegiance to his country and his fellow man.

We grieve with the rest of the state the loss of such a public servant. He was the first sitting Utah mayor to deploy for active duty. In his 15 years of service, he served three other tours in the region and received the Purple Heart and a Bronze Star medal while stationed in Iraq. He leaves behind his wife and seven children. Utah National Guard Maj. Gen. Jefferson Burton described Taylor’s service as “a testament to the character of this man and motivation to preserve the freedom you and I enjoy as Americans.”

Any apathetic American wrestling with the politics of today, turned off by fear-filled rhetoric and the hate that seemingly divides the country, should remember Taylor and the thousands of men and women who sacrifice for a larger cause. They uniquely recognize the priceless value of democratic governance and the peaceful transition of power absent from much of the modern world.

Taking for granted these radical bedrocks of stable governance is a mistake.

The framers of the United States were careful to give the people ownership of their new nation. They could have handed sovereignty to the executive or a body of lawmakers. They could have cemented their legacies as lifelong rulers of a new country, but they chose instead to boldly declare “we the people” wield the power.

" The framers of the United States were careful to give the people ownership of their new nation. "

Exercising that power to keep the country running requires but one thing of Americans: voting. It’s a simple concept, which is maybe why Taylor described democracy at work as “beautiful.” No voter votes in isolation; Election Day is an orchestration of millions of people each using their voice to speak for what they believe is the best path forward.

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It takes people around the world, like Taylor, years of fighting unrest, despotism and oppression to bring their nations closer to good self-government. They sacrifice much, and some sacrifice everything, but they do it with the goal of freedom fixed firmly in their minds. What they ask in return is perhaps best summed up in the conclusion of Taylor’s Facebook post:

“I hope everyone back home exercises their precious right to vote. And that whether the Republicans or the Democrats win, that we all remember that we have far more as Americans that unites us than divides us.”