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Op-ed: On the conflicting emotions of a presidential visit

Deseret News Archives

Presidential visits to Utah have always been a point of common pride. I am old enough to remember the visits by Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan in the '70s and '80s. My father, Ted Wilson, was mayor of Salt Lake City during those times and had a ceremonial role. I remember that as a source of pride for our family.

Reagan visited several times and, in a 1982 visit, marveled at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' model of social assistance at the bishops' storehouse, where those in need can receive support and food. He also gave a barn-burner of a speech for Orrin Hatch, praising his balanced-budget efforts.

“I defy anyone,” Reagan asked in his speech, “to tell me why it doesn't make common sense that the federal government should start restricting its spending to be within the limits of its revenues.” Reagan’s statement makes me wonder what he would think of today’s Trump-Hatch tax plan, which would add up to $1.5 trillion to our national debt.

In 1978, a very different president, Jimmy Carter, visited Utah and gave a moving speech on faith and spirituality, especially in challenging times. Carter arrived early and said he was “pleased to watch the absolutely delightful and memorable (LDS) television spots that remind all of us who are members of families what our duties are.” He beautifully reached for connections between his own rural and deeply religious upbringing and Utah’s founders.

Let us now consider Monday's visit by President Donald Trump, escorted by Hatch. It’s clear to us all there will be little inspiration, a hallmark of previous visits. In fact, my head is still shaking as I seek to understand our senior senator's praise for Trump as “one of the best presidents I've served under."

For what? Partisan chaos? Bigotry? For provoking world leaders by tweeting? For increasing our national debt? For undermining our democracy?

As a fifth-generation Utahn taught to honor leaders and respect authority, I’m sad for my children: sad that I can’t use Monday's visit as a teaching moment. And I ask Americans, and Utahns, to step up and call for a return to days of bipartisan honor and decency from our highest office: honor and decency from the leader of the free world — honor and decency not provided by this president.

Although I have very deep concerns about Trump that are based on my values, I’m speaking out today — not Monday while he is on the ground in Utah — out of respect for the office of the president of the United States.

Monday, no tweets from me. No calls for “just the facts,” and no cries for reason. Until “wheels up” on Air Force One, I will be silent.

Regardless of the political party of our visiting president, when a president visits Utah, I’m always proud of what we as Utahns have to offer and share. I beam with hometown pride. And I hold out hope the visiting president observes — and absorbs — the dedication and honor of our people. To take a lesson from our unique history. To learn from our values.

Today I ask, What about us? Why are the extremely wealthy the beneficiaries of tax reform?

Does Trump find it duplicitous that, as the leader of the so-called party of fiscal restraint, he is proposing that we add over $1 trillion in debt for this one proposal alone? Why not work with the Native American population within Utah on Bears Ears border adjustments rather than steamrolling in? Does he know that thousands of Utah families and children will lose health insurance if his policies are enacted? Is he aware that we care deeply in Utah about our immigrants and refugees? That we treat them as our own and cheer for their success?

And I beg Hatch to begin to act as a leader and not fold to the lowest denominator of hate, arrogance, insults and division. I ask that we come together — to make Washington work again.

Today I wonder — I ask and I pray. Monday, I will be silent.

Jenny Wilson is an at-large member of the Salt Lake County Council and Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate from Utah.