Utah faces more difficult challenges — all at once — than at any time in many decades. The COVID-19 pandemic is the most serious health crisis in more than 100 years. The associated economic meltdown produced the most precipitous jobs losses since the Great Depression. And the long-needed national reckoning on race has produced tensions boiling over into widespread protests and rioting not seen since the 1960s.

Our state and nation haven’t had to deal with such great tests since World War II. These challenges are impacting all Utahns in many aspects of life. And they are added on top of Utah’s ongoing challenges: education funding, tax reform, transportation infrastructure, air quality, housing, rapid growth and rural development.

So what can the average citizen do about these big challenges? Certainly, one way to amplify one’s voice is to join protest marches. Protest is a venerable and important way to push for change. But there’s another tried and true — and very fundamental — way to address the problems. It is to choose excellent leaders who are prepared and wise enough to address these problems, find solutions and emerge even better than before.

In other words — vote! All qualified Utahns have an opportunity be part of selecting our next generation of leaders by voting in next Tuesday’s primary election. Many Utahns have already voted by mail and they should be proud to have made their voices heard at the ballot box.

Leadership matters greatly, and the primary election is a key step in choosing our next governor, state legislators, members of Congress, county leaders, school boards and so forth. Often, the difference between excellence and mediocrity is leadership.

We can influence our various branches and levels of government in many ways, but the simple act of voting is a most effective and fundamental means to produce change and maintain the principle that we, the people, control government and not the other way around. 

It is critical to be an informed voter. We need to study the candidates and look at their platforms on their websites. We should review their performances at various forums and debates. As we consider who to vote for, we should ask, who can best help Utah overcome the big challenges we face? Who do I trust? Who can take Utah to the next level? Who has the experience, demeanor and empathy to bring Utahns together and build on Utah’s collaborative problem-solving approach?

I was touched by the recent testimony of Angela Underwood-Jacobs at a congressional hearing on police reform. She is a regional manager and senior vice president for one of Zions Bank’s sister banks in California and was the first African American woman elected to the city council of Lancaster, California. She also is a former congressional candidate.

Angela’s brother, David Patrick Underwood, an employee of the federal Department of Homeland Security, was recently ambushed and killed by a gunman during a night of protests and unrest in Oakland, California. 

Besides paying tribute to her brother during her emotional congressional testimony, Angela Underwood said four things are needed to reduce racial tensions and improve the lives of minority citizens. They are: education, jobs, housing and listening. Those are all things our elected leaders can focus on. And all of us need to be part of the solution by listening more and talking less.

If we want to effect real change we need to be involved in the political process. Anyone who agrees with Angela Underwood, as I do, can make a difference by voting for good leaders.

A. Scott Anderson is CEO and president of Zions Bank.