I will never forget my older brother’s trembling hands reaching into the glove box in his car. As I sat in the passenger seat next to him, I listened to his story for the first time — nearly 50 years after it happened. He slowly opened an envelope containing three shiny Medals of Honor, vestiges of his service as a career Navy man serving in the ungodly Vietnam War. He was contemplating whether he should give the medals to his adolescent grandson who had been living with him and whose mother was dying of cancer. As he described the sheer terror of numerous close-call attempts to land fighter jets on the aircraft carrier USS Midway, I was at a loss for words. We had been very close growing up and, as a little sister, part of my heart was cut out when he seemed to suddenly disappear for the Navy. As with so many other valiant war veterans, Vietnam stamped my brother’s future like the imprint of a soldier’s boot in a muddy rice field.
As our country now tries to mend itself from its own dastardly political war, what can we do to demonstrate our thanks to those that have served? Is this what they fought for? It is now our turn to step up, put our collective gear on and fight for an educated, forgiving, sane future for our country. Mr. Trump, I will be your most difficult convert. Like millions of Americans, your vicious and offensive words cut deeply into my heart. Your behavior is the antithesis of what I consider a decent human being. For millions, your words sparked flashbacks of playground bullies, scenes of verbal and physical abuse and profound hate and rejection. You have four years to show us that is not who you really are. Show us. This won't be easy for me, but for my part I will begin by burying the hatchet. It's time to give thanks and to give back. Notwithstanding its warts, America has always been great. But it's time to be one America again.
Hubert Humphrey said, “The moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped.” It’s up to us to make sure our government passes that moral test and it’s up to us to be willing participants in proctoring the test.
I am sick and tired of hearing what’s wrong with America. I am fortunate to serve in positions, on boards and on committees that deal with everything from education to health care to women’s leadership. As my personal lanes merge with others that so willingly give of their time and resources, I am reminded of the greatness of Americans. I recently toured the Youth Resource Center in Salt Lake City, a shelter for homeless youth. It’s clean, bright, new and full. The staff is professional and caring. Volunteers help provide and serve three meals a day to young people who need a hand up while they attend training and receive guidance and counseling. Look at the Hope Lodge, so generously funded by the Eccles family, that serves as a home away from home for cancer patients and their families. The Huntsman Cancer Institute is another prime example of the genuine philanthropic activity that has been bestowed on us.
Examples of goodness don’t necessarily equate to wealth, either. Consider the people who work as caregivers and aides to people who cannot help themselves, such as the dedicated employees of Columbus Community Center for people with disabilities. Visit the Utah Food Bank, the Fourth Street Clinic, the Volunteers of America and The Road Home, to name a few, all bursting with activity and flooded with capable people helping others. Consider the inspirational teachers in your neighborhood schools, the brave firefighters who get the call on Christmas Day and the exhausted soldiers in Afghanistan. Look at the young mothers who clean, cook and take care of their little ones, only to start all over the next day, and women who watch over grandchildren and elderly parents at the same time. Look at the neighbor who lends his ladder and tools, drives the car pool and coaches the kids’ soccer teams. America is a colorful quilt stitched together by solid people with good souls.
That’s what America is. Those are our values. That’s what my brother fought for.
Patricia W. Jones is CEO of the Women's Leadership Institute, a 501(c)3 based at the Salt Lake Chamber. She was a co-founder and former president of Dan Jones & Associates. She served in both the Utah House and Senate for a total of 14 years, holding leadership positions 12 of those 14 years. She was elected minority leader of the Senate in 2008, the first woman of either party elected to lead a caucus in the Utah Legislature.