July in Utah is something special. Like the rest of the nation, we pause to celebrate our independence and the blessings that stem from living in a free society dedicated to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Additionally, three weeks later, we celebrate the rich history of our state and the legacy left by those early pioneers who arrived in the Salt Lake valley in 1847. I hope all Utans see Pioneer Day as an annual reminder of the solid foundation laid by those who came before us and our ongoing responsibility to build on it today.
Just as pioneers of yesteryear, people are flocking to our state today. Utah is the fastest-growing state in the nation, a trend accelerated by advancements in technology and a pandemic that showed how much of the workforce can be productive from any place with fast Wi-Fi. Many people who lived in other parts of the country now realize that if they can live anywhere, the Beehive State is an excellent choice.
It’s easy to see what attracts people to Utah. Our natural beauty is unsurpassed. Businesses and talent are enticed by low taxes and a governing philosophy cultivated to support the prosperity of all. We offer the highest degree of upward economic mobility, the most diverse economy and the lowest unemployment rate. We rank among the nation’s healthiest and happiest populations. The list goes on and on but people who live here know what makes Utah special isn’t captured fully by any list or ranking.
Utah is a place where we strike the right balance between individual responsibility and a sense of community. This is a place where neighbors know each other and look out for each other. As the rest of the nation has become more insular, Utahns have generally done a good job of welcoming newcomers and helping them become part of our community.
Many new Utahns are surprised to find that some of what they expected to find here is more stereotype than substance. No doubt, we are a conservative state rooted in principles of fiscal prudence, personal responsibility and support for the family; we do our best to also look out for one another. We probably don’t get enough credit for being the conservative state that crafted The Utah Compact on immigration. We showed the nation that inclusion isn’t a winner-take-all situation by supporting the LGBTQ+ community while protecting religious liberty. And we eagerly welcome and support refugees looking to start a new life. Community-minded conservatism is alive and well in Utah and we are thriving because of it.
More and more, I hear elected leaders in other states refer to the “Utah Way,” as a guide for doing things right. I think that’s a result of our understanding that politics isn’t a game and that public policy is about getting it right for the people. We understand that crafting smart policy is never done.
Building bridges, gaining trust and acting in the best interest of the people of the state have become fundamental elements of our policy-making process. Just as our pioneer forefathers knew, we cannot survive or thrive alone; we’re in this together and everyone has a role to play.
To all those who come to Utah, like the Pioneers 174 years ago, we welcome you to our community and ask that you remember why you left your home to make a new one here. Sensible taxes, restrained government involvement, a willingness to learn from one another and work together and being an active part of the community in one way or another. It all is at the heart of the Utah Way.
As we celebrate our pioneer heritage together this week, let’s recommit to honoring the sacrifices of those who came before us by building on the solid foundation they laid and enhancing Utah’s enviable quality of life.
Brad Wilson is the speaker of the Utah House of Representatives