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A message from Utah’s governor: ‘Let’s leave contempt at the door’

Gov. Spencer Cox speaks during his monthly news conference at PBS Utah in Salt Lake City on Thursday, March 18, 2021.
Gov. Spencer Cox speaks during his monthly news conference at PBS Utah in Salt Lake City on Thursday, March 18, 2021.
Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

Last weekend I spent part of a beautiful Saturday with about 2,000 fellow Republicans at the Maverik Center.

Those vying for leadership within the state’s GOP made their stump speeches, and elected officials like me talked about what we believe, what we’ve done and what we hope for the future of our party, this state and nation we all love.

There are certainly disagreements within the party. Some are upset about our efforts to fight the pandemic. Others for defending election results. And a few for our call to set aside rancor and work toward unity.

But what we’ve been able to do — together — over the past few months is truly remarkable.

Partnering our state efforts with local health departments, private pharmacies, health care workers and volunteers has resulted in more than 2 million doses of vaccine administered in the fight against COVID-19. So far, 86% of Utahns 65 and older have received at least one dose, 74% of this age group is fully vaccinated and we’ve drastically reduced cases, hospitalizations and deaths. This is an astonishing achievement and one we can all be proud of.

Unlike many other places, Utah schools and businesses have been able to stay open for many months. That means our children’s well-being and our overall economy has not taken the hit that many states are seeing.

Utah has been named the top economy in the nation by U.S. News and World Report, we’ve got the lowest unemployment rate at 2.9%, and Salt Lake City ranks No. 1 in a Wall Street Journal ranking of U.S. labor markets. And we did this while keeping people safe. In fact, when you average the mortality rate from COVID-19, the unemployment rate and number of days with kids in school, only one state comes out on top: Utah.

Working with state legislators, we boosted rainy day funds to $1 billion while still cutting taxes for Utah families, seniors and military veterans. We allocated record funding for education and gave teachers and school personnel bonuses. We consolidated five state agencies to make government more efficient and responsive to taxpayer needs. We protected Second Amendment rights by signing constitutional carry into law.

And for those who might have missed it, Utah was one of the first states to ban government required “vaccine passports,” while any restrictions on religious gatherings were removed eight months ago. Because of our success in vaccinations and driving down case counts, all other restrictions have ended as well. And when the school year finishes in a couple weeks, so will mask and testing requirements — and they won’t be coming back in the fall.

We’re keeping our commitment to the voters and there’s more to come.

As Aristotle rightly said, “There is only one way to avoid criticism: Do nothing, say nothing and be nothing.”

As leaders, we’re charged with making hard choices. We must not only represent our constituencies, but do our homework and follow our consciences. The job isn’t to please everyone, but to consult, to listen and to bring our best judgment to each and every crossroads.

The people at the GOP convention had every right to express their displeasure. It’s OK to disagree. But as we deliberate the future of our party, my hope is that we can find common ground and more productive ways to communicate differences of opinion.

Let’s leave contempt at the door. Let’s focus on solutions. Let’s work together to rebuild the Republican Party.

Spencer J. Cox is the governor of Utah.