Lots of folks are busy these days trying to find a word of the year. Merriam-Webster picked “authentic,” because it was among the words people looked up most often during 2023. 

Oxford University Press picked the obscure slang expression “rizz,” which some people apparently use to mean attractive or charming, perhaps as shorthand for charisma. 

Our choice would be “resilient.” Of all the words to describe Americans in a tumultuous year, that one sums it up best. 

War continued to rage in Ukraine, while a new one started in Israel and Gaza. Each conflict taxed Americans’ resolve to remain a force for freedom and liberty worldwide. Interest rates rose to levels that made homeownership impossible for many. Politics became nastier than ever as Americans began to cringe at the thought of a rematch between former president Donald Trump, who faces criminal charges in three states and Washington, D.C., and President Joe Biden, an octogenarian whose age and competency has become an issue even among some Democrats, and who is facing an impeachment inquiry. 

Republican leadership in the House spent weeks in 2023 trying to find a speaker. And artificial intelligence continued to force its way into many aspects of life, as experts warned it might eventually destroy mankind (we don’t agree with that last part).

Why is Merriam-Webster’s 2023 word of the year ‘authentic’?
‘Rizz’ is the word of the year for the Oxford University Press. Here’s what the Gen Z term means

And through it all, a resilient nation prospered. In March, The Wall Street Journal wondered out loud why a recession always seems to be six months away. People have been anticipating it ever since the pandemic began to ease.

It didn’t come despite an inflation rate that peaked at 9.1% in June of 2022. This has made, and continues to make, life difficult for many Americans. Those challenges persist, particularly in the housing sector. In many metropolitan areas, homeownership is out of reach for average earners.

While inflation has receded somewhat, its effects will continue to require sacrifices and challenge the resiliency of Americans.

However, real growth came in at an annual rate of 5.2% in the third quarter of the year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.

And when the Federal Reserve announced this month that it intends to reduce interest rates in 2024, the result was a stock market boom that set new record highs. It was as if markets had been revving their engines, waiting for the first piece of good news.

Resilience can describe conditions locally in Utah, as well. Only we would add to that, “faith.” 

In June 2021, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox called on Utahns to pray for relief from a record-setting drought that was threatening the existence of the Great Salt Lake. Critics assailed him, but many people humbly answered the call, and the result was a record-breaking year for snow. Was there cause and effect? There certainly was focus on water conservation and the Great Salt Lake.

Utahns didn’t just pray, they took action. The state has committed nearly $1 billion toward projects designed to save the Great Salt Lake. Others joined in the efforts. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which owns this news organization, announced it would permanently donate 5,700 water shares, or 20,000 acre feet, in perpetuity to the lake. 

Those who have settled in the American West have, from the start, relied on hard work and faith to tame the land and make the cities they founded thrive. Little has changed, and that is as big a reason as any for optimism going forward.

The many generations that struggled to make the state blossom were honored this year as the International Olympic Committee named Salt Lake City the preferred host city for the 2034 Winter Olympics. If those games are awarded in the new year, it would be the state’s second go-around as Olympic host, an honor shared with few other locations on the planet.

The Olympics wasn’t the only big sports story of the year. An impressive group of business and political leaders launched a bid in 2023 to bring a Major League Baseball franchise to Salt Lake City, going so far as to name a potential stadium site along North Temple. Others talked of bringing a National Hockey League franchise to the area.

And in the realm of politics, the University of Utah was chosen as the site for the third presidential debate in 2024.

Each of these is a signal that Utah, the fastest growing state over the decade ending in 2020 and still among the fastest growing today, is beginning to change in exciting ways and make good on its desire to be not just the crossroads of the West, but of the World.

That will bring challenges, as well. The state’s political leaders are grappling with homelessness and the need for more housing. Utah voters will be asked in November whether to change how schools are funded and whether to remove the state’s sales tax on groceries. Highway and mass transit construction must keep pace. Local governments must adjust zoning laws to allow for more high-density and moderately priced housing. And a growing homeless population will require long-range, compassionate solutions.

Each challenge will require strong and visionary leadership, as well as a resilience that can endure hardships with an optimism grounded in a past filled with hard work and steady progress.

We have faith in the resilience of Utahns and all other Americans to make 2024 and all subsequent years stepping stones to a better future.