A few events and announcements during the last week have led me to reflect on those who serve our communities, the various types of service, and how service to one another positively impacts our state.
On Tuesday, our long-serving senior Senator from Utah, Orrin Hatch, announced he was “hanging up the gloves” after 42 years in office. Senator Hatch was an effective lawmaker and statesman. For decades state leaders turned to Senator Hatch to assist Utah with major issues and challenges. Many Utah families have relied on Senator Hatch to assist them with deeply personal matters. It’s universally accepted that Senator Hatch was effective and accessible and that his staff over the years has been world-class in both shaping policy and in constituent service. I share in the chorus of those who thank Senator Hatch for his decades-long leadership and service to the state. I also note that his decision to retire was in itself an act of service; his announcement allows new leaders to step forward and make their own impact on behalf of and in service to the people of Utah and our country.
On Wednesday LDS church president, Thomas S. Monson, passed away. Following his passing, our community celebrates his life. President Monson’s service was in many respects one of “ministering to the individual.” I’ve enjoyed reading several stories of his kind and simple acts of service. Although President Monson oversaw a global church, he continued to focus on individuals and his leadership of the LDS church resulted in many positive impacts on his parishioners and on the state of Utah.
And finally, our team has been fortunate to attend the inaugurations of various mayors and Council members throughout the week as our local elected officials re-affirm or take their oaths of office. As I observed these inaugurations, I was particularly struck by this often thankless service at the local level. There are literally hundreds of local elected officials throughout our state who jump head first into city races because they want to make a difference in their community for their neighbors. A consistent theme in the remarks of elected officials at their inaugural events is that they choose to serve out of a sincere desire to improve the day-to-day lives of other city residents. It is important to note that such terms are indeed a sacrifice. There are few compensated local elected officials, and in most cities serving as a mayor or council-member is anything but a part-time job; therefore, these local officials often serve at the expense of their own family and professional lives. We are fortunate in Utah to have a tradition of great local leadership.
Those three events or announcements are what prompted me to spend some additional time thinking about service this week and to reflect on my gratitude for those who serve. As many of you know, Utah is consistently ranked as the top state for volunteerism, with 43% of our adult population volunteering at least once per year. While our volunteerism rate is never an explicit metric in any corporate site selection, it is an important part of the Utah story. It is important because service is a part of who we are. Service defines our state and is and is a part of our DNA as a people. Our service to each other makes Utah a better place to live. And service certainly has a lot to do with our success.