I grew up a theater kid. My very first role in a musical was as a townsperson in "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers." I loved being a part of something that brought so many people together — stage technicians, actors, dancers, an orchestra, costume designers and more, all working to create a special experience for the larger community.
From an audience's perspective, what makes good or interesting theater? Star-crossed lovers, obstacles, struggles for power ... in short: conflict. Conflict makes for good drama. Our current political chatter is drenched in drama. But that addiction to drama and division does not reflect the kindness and compassion I’ve found personally speaking to thousands of people across Utah.
We’re being told, and seeing on social media, that our political rhetoric has become too heated and that we’ve never been more divided about more things than we are today. But here’s what I know, at the doors, face to face — people are kind. People are decent. The divisions between us might happen online and in spaces where we’ve lost touch with our neighbors and communities. But they don't show up as we speak to each other, civilly, at the doorsteps I’ve stood on across this district.
There’s much more agreement than we’re led to believe by our elected officials or the stories we see in the news. Drama, division and fear sell. The very real and quiet fear of not being able to pay our medical bills or take care of an aging parent doesn’t fit the narrative of division, so it doesn’t make the headlines. What brings us together is also rarely going to be featured on the nightly news.
Recently, I was out knocking on doors in Bountiful. A lifelong Republican opened his door, and we had a lovely and productive conversation about the burden of his prescription costs, his challenge to keep up with rising medical bills and his concern for our expanding federal deficit. I told him I shared those concerns. We spoke about my plans for controlling prescription drug costs, reducing administrative costs in health care and creating future tax bills that wouldn’t prioritize profits over families.
As I was leaving, he pointed across the street toward a neighboring house. He said, “I don’t know if you’ve knocked on that door yet, but my neighbor just lost his wife a few days ago. I think he’d like to talk to you, but he’s going to need some time.” The two of us then watched as a neighbor up the street left her house, carrying a dish of food to the grieving man’s door to deliver him a home-cooked meal.
The greatness of this country is captured in that moment where a Democrat and Republican can converse on the issues that matter most and find common ground. Where our neighbors put the concerns of our fellow community members front and center in the way that we behave and in the way that we speak to each other. Where we come together in times of need, not fall back on rhetoric of how divided we all are. When honest questions get honest answers, every time.
These are complicated times. Our families face really big concerns that we struggle with around our kitchen tables every night. I’ve heard about them at door after door. There’s a lot we agree on. Here are some things I know are true:
Integrity matters, and we deserve leaders who tell the truth.
Fiscal responsibility and fairness are important.
Working families are often struggling to make ends meet.
Health care costs too much, and we get too little.
We feel our representatives are out of touch with the issues we face every day.
More than anything, we want honesty: honest answers to honest questions about the challenges we face.
I know this country is great, and in the words of Teddy Roosevelt, “We cannot do great deeds unless we are willing to do the small things that make up the sum of greatness.” I see small things that lead to greatness all over this district, from the kindness of neighbors to the responsibility of stewardship we feel toward our land, water and air, and I’m ready to work on great deeds.