After a political year when some politicians nationally attacked immigrants and refugees as dangerous or undesirable, Herbert lauded them as modern pioneers who have much to offer.
That included asking Yar Kuany Awan, a Sudanese refugee who just became a U.S. citizen, to lead the crowd gathered in the Capitol Rotunda in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.
"Yar grew up hiding from militants and dodging bullets in Sudan's brutal civil war," Herbert said. Now, she lives in Utah, has learned English, and has a full-time job at a medical device company.
"She truly exemplifies that the pioneer spirit is still alive and well in Utah today," he said.
Herbert pointed to other pioneers as examples of the hard work and sacrifice that he said are needed again to fuel what he called "the unique spirit of Utah."
Early Mormon pioneers faced "grueling weather and the sickness and hunger that made up the hardship of the trail. They persevered," he said. "They unselfishly built the roads and bridges for those who would subsequently follow, improving the way for their success."
Herbert also praised "the Greek, Italian, Japanese, Serbian and other immigrants who came to Utah around the turn of the 20th century to work in the mines and smelters. They were also pioneers."
In the spirit of Herbert's message, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sang a hymn that praises pioneers, "They, the Builders of the Nation."
The governor, who has declared this as his final term, said, "Utah's quality of life and economy are among the best in the nation."
Why? "I believe the main reason is because of the genuine goodness of the people of Utah," Herbert said. "You may not always see it in yourselves, but the uncommon blend of your humility, your hard work, and your willingness to pull together, despite differences, defines the Utah spirit. Let us do all that we can to foster Utah's unprecedented partnerships in order to continue to unleash Utah's unlimited possibilities."
He contrasted that with the national scene where, he said, "public life is awash in divisiveness, polarization, incivility and lack of respect."
"I believe that we as a state and as a people can continue to stay above such division and cynicism."
As a sign of bridging gaps, prayers were offered by Rabbi Ilana Schwartzman of Congregation Kol Ami, and by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the governing First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Herbert commended the willingness of Utahns to seek the help of God for their state, including during a drought and difficult wildfire season in 2012, when the state became a tinderbox.
"Working with my council of interfaith leaders, we sent out a request for an extra measure of providential help in our battle against the fires," he said. "Within days of your collective prayers, the rains came. And not just any rain, but gentle soaking rains without the winds that would have exacerbated the fires. The elements had, in fact, been tempered."