For years, members of the Point of the Mountain Development Commission have been telling us they want a stunning and attractive architectural landmark near the site of the former state prison — prime, undeveloped state-owned land near the southern entrance to the Salt Lake Valley.

They have hinted at something akin to the Space Needle or the Eiffel Tower. 

A 300-foot Statue of Responsibility, meant as a complement or a symbol of an essential companion virtue to the Statue of Liberty in the New York Harbor, would certainly fit the bill.

The idea for such a monument originally was conceived by Austrian psychologist and holocaust concentration camp survivor Viktor Frankl. He envisioned this on the West Coast as a symbol that freedom, alone, can be a dangerous concept without a strong sense of responsibility.

Frankl’s friend, the late Stephen R. Covey, had promised to help make such a monument a reality. But California has dithered. The nonprofit organization behind the project now believes it would take several more decades to build it there, and so supporters of the statue are looking for another location.

Utah appears willing and able to step up, and that is a good thing.

University of Utah graduate and sculptor Gary Lee Price has built a miniature version of the statue, which he took to Vienna in 2004 and received support from Frankl’s widow and other family members. Now, the head of the Statue of Responsibility Foundation has pitched the idea of putting it at the former Utah prison site in Draper.

Not only is this a wonderful idea, it’s fitting.

Daniel Bolz stands with a scale-model of his Statue of Responsibility at his office in Spanish Fork on May 15, 2008. Bolz has a goal of building a 300-foot version of the interlocked arms on the West Coast that would bookend the country with the Statue of Liberty. | Jason Olson, Deseret News

The American West is a place in which the concepts of freedom and responsibility have been deeply ingrained in generations of pioneers and homesteaders. Utah, in particular, is a place originally populated by people yearning for the freedom to practice their religion and to responsibly cultivate a land many thought was uninhabitable. The very environment of the West, with its arid and fickle climate, demands a strong sense of stewardship and forward thinking.

Some may question an inland location for such a “twin” to the Statue of Liberty. We think the state of Utah, with aspirations to become a crossroads of the world, in a metropolitan area that embodies innovation and the spirit of volunteerism, would be the perfect site.

A 43-foot-tall sculpture of the Golden Spike, scheduled to be erected next year in Brigham City, is another reminder of the part Utah has played in the history of uniting the western and eastern ends of the North American continent. That history makes Utah the perfect site for a stunning symbol of the virtues that embody American freedom, liberty and responsibility.

The statue would be part of a planned community in Draper known as The Point. An agreement for the first phase of that development was signed Monday afternoon between the private Innovation Point Partners and the Point of the Mountain State Land Authority, which was commissioned by the state to develop the former prison site.

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Those plans call for office space, multifamily housing, shopping and entertainment venues. Organizers have hinted at sports facilities, which may include a future NHL arena. The development will tie into a regional recreational trail and a new FrontRunner station.

The proposed statue would attract tourism to the area, enhancing its ability to land high-profile events.

More than that, it would be a place for serious reflection.

Writing for The Economist two years ago, author Ryan Holiday explained that the Statue of Responsibility would represent “the flipside of America’s prized virtue, the inherent obligations that come with a free society.”

Holiday quoted Frankl saying, “Freedom is only part of the story and half of the truth. Freedom is but the negative aspect of the whole phenomenon whose positive aspect is responsibleness. In fact, freedom is in danger of degenerating into mere arbitrariness unless it is lived in terms of responsibleness.”

Holiday said the statue is needed because it would remind Americans that “liberty begets responsibility; that with freedom comes the need for self-control and an obligation to think of others, not just oneself.”

In its current design, the statue would feature two hands clasping at the wrists, which Holiday described as “a bond among individuals unshakably gripped together.”

Like the Statue of Liberty, it would have an observation deck near the top.  

The Statue of Responsibility Foundation is promoting the idea and would fund its $300 million construction cost through donations, holding Utah taxpayers harmless. The foundation also has planned an endowment to cover ongoing operational costs, once construction is finished. And because of the work previously done in California, the sculptor believes construction could begin as early as 2026.

The funding plans are reminiscent of the way the Statue of Liberty was funded in the 19th century. French people contributed $250,000 toward its cost. When that fell short of the money needed to erect the statue’s pedestal, newspaper owner Joseph Pulitzer made an impassioned plea to regular Americans to donate money.

“Let us not wait for the millionaires to give us this money,” he wrote in The World. “It is not a gift from the millionaires of France to the millionaires of America, but a gift of the whole people of France to the whole people of America.”

According to the National Park Service, his efforts succeeded in collecting more than $100,000 in donations, which was more than enough. Most donations were $1 or less.

A similar donation drive would unite the nation and state behind the Statue of Responsibility.

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox supports the statue, saying, “This is our opportunity to leave a legacy not just to our children and grandchildren but to the entire nation.”

Cox was one of the people, a few years ago, who envisioned something significant at The Point. Back then, he was lieutenant governor and co-chair of the commission. He told us people needed to think big.

The Statue of Responsibility certainly qualifies.