The Power of Courage

A few months ago, my 10-year-old son asked me if I knew anyone truly courageous. I had to pause. In a culture consumed with a twerking Miley Cyrus, Norwegians singing about foxes, government shutdowns and other ridiculous behaviors, courage isn’t an everyday occurrence.


So it took me a while to think of someone I considered truly courageous.  And then I remembered Utah Sen. Curt Bramble.

Sen. Bramble isn’t a close friend—we’ve only met a couple of times. But I like him because you always know where he stands.  A few years ago, he took on powerful political forces in his party and backyard on the emotional and complicated issue of immigration reform.  He stood side by side with Sen. Luz Robles and others pushing for reform and said, “This is what I believe and this is where I stand. I am willing to accept the consequences of doing what I think is right.”

At the time, party activists told him that his political career was over. They promised to oust him in Utah’s caucus system. The proposals he championed were commonsense laws, supported by the business community and religious leaders. The threats were real but Bramble didn’t back down. In fact, threats only made him more determined. By showing courage in the face of threatened political defeat, he went on to be vindicated in the 2012 caucuses and election.

Every day, ordinary people do remarkable and courageous things. In many ways, these simple acts of courage or defiance help to move our society forward.  As Malcolm Gladwell says in his new book, David and Goliath: “Much of what we consider valuable in our world arises out of lopsided conflicts, because the act of facing overwhelming odds produces greatness and beauty.”

Now the issue of immigration reform has moved from the state legislature to the federal level—where it should have been all along. And after nearly three decades, Congress is finally poised to fix America’s broken immigration system.  Now is the time for our national leaders to display the same kind of courage Sen. Bramble displayed.

Last week, I had an opportunity to visit with several members of Utah’s congressional delegation. I was part of a national group of 600 business, religious and law enforcement officials in Washington, D.C., to push for a comprehensive solution to immigration reform. The 13-member Utah delegation included representatives from law enforcement, manufacturing, hospitality, agriculture, construction and high tech industries.

I was impressed with the depth of knowledge our House members displayed on the issue. They understand the debilitating impact our broken immigration system has on Utah businesses and families. This year in the Beehive State, crops went un-harvested, fruit rotted on trees, we turned away some of the world’s best and brightest graduates and with hundreds of engineering jobs that can’t be filled by U.S. citizens. Nobody in our meetings wanted amnesty, but we all expressed the same concerns. The current situation is untenable and now is the time for Congress to act.

Utah’s congressional leaders have the capacity to show enormous courage and leadership on this issue as they work to find solutions instead of the classic Washington excuses for another year of inaction. Here’s what house members can do:

First Congressional District
Rep. Rob Bishop can play a unique leadership role. After six terms in congress he has the seniority, stature and relationships to make a real difference. He is respected by congressional leadership and is seen as a consensus builder and statesman. He has an important role to play in solving this seemingly intractable problem.  His lifetime of public service, as a schoolteacher, state legislator and member of Congress gives him a remarkable depth of perspective and understanding.

Second Congressional District
You don’t get the MacKay Trophy or break the world record for fastest nonstop flight a round the world without courage.  Rep. Chris Stewart has written eloquently about our country’s destiny during difficult times in the past.  Now providence has given him an opportunity to show leadership, courage and determination in forging a path forward on immigration reform.

Third Congressional District
Rep. Jason Chaffetz is one of the most effective communicators in Congress today. He has already shown great leadership on this issue by co-sponsoring several bills to deal with immigration reform, including HR 1417, HR 2131, HR 2278, HR 1772 and HR 1773. I appreciate what he has already done for individual immigrants trying to work in the confines of a broken system, and ask him to do even more to lead out and fix the system in an inclusive way.

Fourth Congressional District
It takes courage and deft negotiation skills to run successfully time and again as a Democrat in deeply red Utah. Rep. Jim Matheson is seen as a reasonable and moderate leader by legislators on both sides of the aisle. By championing reform, he would again rise above the partisan bickering that engulfs our nation’s capital to find a commonsense, thoughtful solution to this issue as he has on so many others.

Three years ago, Utah’s faith community stood with business leaders and political officials to sign The Utah Compact, a declaration of five principles to guide Utah’s immigration policy discussions.  The first principle of the Compact states:

Immigration is a federal policy issue between the U.S. government and other countries—not Utah and other countries. We urge Utah’s congressional delegation, and others, to lead efforts to strengthen federal laws and protect our national borders.

Now is the time for our congressional delegation to lead, through courage and a sense of urgency to find solutions that protect our boarders, improve our economy, keep families together and reinforce our values as a free society.