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New Year’s resolutions? We asked some of our sources what they hope for in 2020

In the age-old tradition, Deseret News reporters asked newsmakers and thought leaders they interviewed this year to share their resolutions for 2020.

SHARE New Year’s resolutions? We asked some of our sources what they hope for in 2020

Clockwise from top left, Green Muslims Executive Director Sevim Kalyoncu, Washington State football coach Mike Leach, Rabbi Avremi Zippel, and Matt and Jill McCluskey share their New Year’s resolutions with the Deseret News.

Clockwise from top left: Rod Lamkey Jr., for the Deseret News; Eric Christian Smith, Associated Press; Spenser Heaps, Deseret News; Geoff Crimmins, for the Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — When Americans vow to lose weight or be a little kinder in the coming year, they’re following a tradition that stretches back more than 4,000 years to when Babylonians swore fealty to their king and promised to pay their debts and give back borrowed items. History.com says they were currying favor with their gods by promising to be their best.

The details have changed, but the practice hasn’t veered too much: early Christians saw a new year as a time to ponder their mistakes and promise to do better. Today, evangelical Christians carry on a tradition that dates to the mid-1740s, when Methodist founder Rev. John Wesley created the “Covenant Renewal Service” for New Year’s Eve or Day.

Most resolutions now have less to do with faith than self-improvement: I will be less judgmental. I will exercise more. I will learn to play the harmonica. Statistics indicate while about half of us will make them, fewer than 1 in 12 will keep our resolutions past February. Some experts say setting goals yields better results.

But resolutions can be interesting, sometimes even inspiring, so we had a few Deseret News reporters ask people they interviewed this year to share their resolutions for 2020. Happy New Year.


Washington State coach Mike Leach stands along the sideline during the second half of the Cougars’ early-season college football game against Houston, Friday, Sept. 13, 2019, in Houston.

Eric Christian Smith, AP

Mike Leach, head football coach at Washington State University and a key innovator behind the revolutionary Air Raid offense, talked about change, in both the game and the business.

I try to improve each year. Basically, I’ll try to think of somewhere to travel. Try to travel somewhere major — some part of the world I haven’t seen. And I tell myself I’ll exercise and eat better, and I do off and on. I do eat right generally; the exercise part can be tricky, and that comes in spurts. Right now I’m walking home in the middle of a snowstorm, so I’m sure today it’s pretty good.

For me, every day is a new year as far as a continuation of trying to improve. Like anybody, I’ll go sloppy or dormant for a month — or months. But I’m not a real big resolution guy. I’m kind of like, why wait until the new year, you know?

Ben Cook, a law professor and director of the Brigham Young University Center for Conflict Resolution, told us why it’s getting so hard for Americans to talk civilly about politics.

One of my resolutions is to learn Spanish. I haven’t had a Spanish class since middle school, but communicating with someone in their own language feels like a gesture of respect — that I care enough about other peoples and cultures to put in the hard work of learning their language and meeting them on their terms. So in addition to the practical benefits of speaking another language, it also feels like a symbolic (albeit very modest) way of helping strengthen the global community. 

And if that sounds supercilious, I want to run the New York City Marathon in 2020 — just because. 


The Rev. Marian Edmonds-Allen, pictured in this July 16, 2015, file photo as she was named executive director with the Utah Pride Center. The Rev. Edmonds-Allen is now executive director of Parity, a New York-based nonprofit that focuses on faith issues in LGBTQ communities.

Tom Smart, Deseret News

Rev. Marian Edmonds-Allen, executive director of Parity, a nonprofit focused on faith issues in LGBTQ communities, was featured in a November story on bridge builders in a divided society.

My resolution is to make three new friends, friends who are very different from my usual “circle.” It is too comfortable for me to surround myself with those who think the exact same way that I do, who share the same religious, political, cultural, ethnic and racial characteristics. In particular, I have already identified someone with almost opposite views on faith and sexual orientation and gender identity. That is the person that I hope will become a new, perhaps even dear, friend. 

James Tabery, an associate professor of philosophy at the University of Utah, explained the prevalence of conspiracy theories after financier Jeffrey Epstein’s suicide in federal custody.

This year I have resolved to practice the same kindness toward others that I admire in my 5-year-old daughter, Olivia.


Rabbi Avremi Zippel poses for photographs outside the Matheson Courthouse in Salt Lake City on Monday, Feb. 4, 2019.

Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

Rabbi Avremi Zippel, program director of the Chabad-Lubavitch of Utah, catalyzed a #MeToo movement among Orthodox Jews when he shared his story of being sexually abused as a child.

My resolution is to be a better listener. During the past year, I’ve had the opportunity to hear so many remarkable stories from amazing people, each with their own message to share. It’s reminded me of the incredible beauty that everyone’s life brings to your own.

This next year will hopefully bring an end to the legal process, which is something I welcome. But I believe the path I’ve chosen is a never-ending one: the path of raising awareness and being an advocate for other survivors of sexual abuse. This is not a task that has an end date attached to it: It is a lifelong journey. 

I hope to continue to be an advocate for survivors and a source of strength in their lives, and to help remind them that they are going to be OK. 

Rev. Sally Bingham, the Reverend Canon for the Environment for the Diocese of California and founder of Interfaith Power and Light, told us faith leaders should stand up for the environment.

I stopped making New Year’s resolutions about five years ago because I was unable to keep them for a whole year and that made me feel guilty. I used to give up chocolate, or wine or ice cream. Once I said I will do a nice thing for someone every day and even that didn’t last more than a few months. So this year, I will focus on trying not to think about politics and what is happening to our country, the divisive nature and polarization. Instead, I will pray every day for some moral integrity to return to Washington. I hope the mean-spirited attitude will resolve and people will start liking/loving each other. I will pray that Jesus’ message of loving your neighbor and being nice to your enemies may become the norm. 


Green Muslims Executive Director Sevim Kalyoncu takes time from her day for a portrait on the trail in Springfield, Va., Thursday, Aug. 1, 2019.

Rod Lamkey Jr., for the Deseret News

Sevim Kalyoncu, executive director of Green Muslims, a nonprofit that helps people understand how their individual choices affect God’s creation, called motherhood a “wake-up call.”

I will be aiming to reconnect with old friends. As the years go by, my feelings for those people are as strong as ever, but I haven’t done a good job of staying in touch. Maybe none of us have, but I intend to try harder... at least in January, and hopefully it will pay off for years to come! I do fear that modern technology and the busyness of modern life contributes to the difficulty in staying connected. We are all always busy, or at least feeling busy, but I wonder how much time we are actually losing to our devices and the internet. I bet I’ll make my outreach efforts initially by text vs. phone, but it’s not good if people don’t actually speak to each other.

Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, Anglican archbishop for southern Africa, became a climate advocate after seeing the impacts of changing weather on the people he serves.

In 2020 I’m going to tirelessly pursue the goal of reigniting the world’s trust in each other. We are living through an era of profound distrust which has contributed to an historic level of intolerance, inequality of opportunity and a growing trend in canceling out the voices of those we don’t agree with. To be trusted is more important than being loved.


Ambassador Sam Brownback delivers a speech about religious freedom during the 25th annual International Law and Religion Symposium at BYU’s J. Reuben Clark Law School in Provo, Utah, on Monday, Oct. 8, 2018.

Qiling Wang, Deseret News

Sam Brownback is the U.S. ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom. In May, the Deseret News explored whether he has enough power to make a difference.

The Abrahamic Faith Initiative, which will be launched January at the Vatican, is really on my radar. We’ve got to get top theological leaders to renounce the use of violence to promote faith.

In various places, faith communities are being manipulated by bad actors to be part of violence. We need to have good actors out there pushing for peace, for human development and not human demise.

A second big focus for me in 2020 is to get the International Religious Freedom Alliance off the ground. We need strong countries to stand up and push for religious freedom.

Jerry Falwell Jr., president of Liberty University and a vocal supporter of President Donald Trump, told us why a football game at Brigham Young University was a prophecy fulfilled.

I’d love to see Liberty continue to move forward on all fronts. That’s been my New Year’s resolution for about as long as I’ve been alive, just to have Liberty keep moving forward. And I’m determined to fight hard for a good result in the 2020 election. I just tweeted about how impeachment is the Democrats’ version of Pearl Harbor, and I told the West Palm Beach GOP tonight that I believe the election of 2020 is going to be Hiroshima and Nagasaki for the Democrats.

Other than that, my resolution is that our country will continue on the right track by protecting our Constitution and moving away from all the silly partisanship.


Matt and Jill McCluskey sit in their daughter Lauren’s bedroom on Friday, May 24, 2019, at their home in Pullman, Washington.

Geoff Crimmins, For the Deseret News

Jill and Matt McCluskey, parents of Lauren McCluskey, discussed their daughter’s murder while a student at the University of Utah in 2018 and why they believe she was failed by the institutions charged with protecting her.

Our goals for the Lauren McCluskey Foundation are to build it to a larger scale, so it can have greater impact in Utah and throughout the United States. With expert input and research, we hope to establish best practices for campus policing as well as for integrated campus safety systems. There is too much variation across the United States that threatens the safety of college students. We hope to change this.

Our lawsuit was a last resort for us, but now we intend to pursue it vigorously. Any funds that are awarded will be used for the Lauren McCluskey Foundation and its goals will include providing support and scholarships for women athletes. We also hope to initiate construction of an indoor track facility on campus at the University of Utah.

We have formed the Lauren McCluskey Foundation to create positive change in her name to enhance campus safety and increase support of women on our campuses. We hope that her light can shine brightly through this work.

Michael Montgomery, adjunct faculty at University of Michigan-Dearborn and fundraising consultant for nonprofits, explained how income inequality changes charitable giving.

I resolved to become more political in 2020 — the stakes have become much too high to remain quiet. After years of working with nonprofits primarily on internal issues, I will be moving back toward some of the broader questions of politics and public policy, where I began my career 30-plus years ago, in 2020. 

Esther Wojcicki, author of “How to Raise Successful People,” shared the child-rearing strategies that helped her raise the CEOs of 23 and Me and YouTube. 

I’m going to promote T.R.I.C.K. (trust, respect, independence, collaboration and kindness ) in all situations worldwide. No matter where we live, we all want to be treated with trust and respect, encouraged to be independent thinkers, work together collaboratively, and be treated with kindness, no matter our race, religion or politics. The goal: a peaceful, better world.

Contributing: Ethan Bauer, Lois M. Collins, Kelsey Dallas, Erica Evans, Gillian Friedman, Jennifer Graham