ST. GEORGE – Last night, Governor Gary Herbert took the stage at Dixie State University’s Eccles auditorium and waxed poetic about the people of Utah. Herbert was invited to be the keynote speaker for Washington County Republican Party’s November Freedom Forum, a monthly event organized by the party to inspire greater political engagement in the community.
Although the event was sponsored by the Washington County Republican Party, Herbert said that he wanted the audience to forget about their party affiliations during his speech.
“Whether you are Republicans, Democrats, or Independents, I am going to speak to us as Americans and as Utahns,” Herbert said.
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Videocast by Michael Flynn, St. George News
The tone of Herbert’s speech was proud and patriotic, not only of his nation, but also of the state of Utah. He extolled the virtues of the state and its people, and attributed the economic successes of the state to the values and principles of the people who live there.
“Collectively, we’ve been high achievers,” Herbert said. “Forbes magazine named us the best place in America for the last three years.”
One of his proudest moments as Governor, he said, was when the Wall Street Journal named Utah, “the brightest star on the flag.”
“What’s the secret?” Herbert said. He went on to cite low taxes, sensible regulations, and efficient government as the “the secret sauce of Utah’s success.”
Utah has one of the lowest tax rates in the nation. “With the help of the Legislature, we’ve created a very good (business) environment by lowering taxes, flattening out the tax rates, and being competitive,” Herbert said. “We have a good tax environment and a smaller tax liability than any other state in America.”
Another factor in Utah’s economic success was that the government does not overregulate, Herbert said, adding that Utah recently removed many laws that were unnecessary or too burdensome. While he recognizes that the rule of law is needed in a functioning society, unnecessary laws are burdensome.
“I’m not anti-regulation, per se. I believe we should have rules and laws,” he said. “It protects the public. It also ensures that we have a level playing field.”
However, too many laws can create an oppressive environment for people and businesses alike. “We actually went through and counted our regulations and we found we had 1,156,” he said, “we found out that 358 of them had no public purpose.”
Unnecessary laws are a drag on the economy, he said, so he and the Legislature decided to get rid of them.
“We eliminated or modified all 358 rules and regulations,” he said. “Now we have a chance to keep the ditch clear of weeds.”
The final ingredient to Utah’s success, Herbert said, is the people. He related an experience he had with people from the Pew Charitable Trusts, a nonpartisan think tank that studies public policy. They were visiting Utah to determine why the economy was doing so well during the recession.
“After observing all we were doing,” he said, “they said: ‘Well, you’re having success in Utah because you have really good people.’” They talked about the high rate of volunteerism, he said, and charitable giving in the state.
“They said, you know, we just have better people. Well who is going to dispute that?” Herbert said. “Certainly, not me.”
Herbert closed his speech with a nod towards history. Tuesday, will be the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg address.
“Abe Lincoln was a very unpopular president at the time,” he said. Recently visiting Lincoln’s hometown in Springfield, Ill., he said that he came away with a new appreciation for the 16th president.
“Lincoln was a great statesman and leader in a very difficult position,” he said.
The address was given at the consecration ceremony of the Gettysburg battlefield, which became a cemetery out of necessity after the famous Civil War battle that claimed the lives of over 20,000 American soldiers in a single afternoon. Lincoln did not think he succeeded in reaching the audience, Herbert said. When he returned to his seat, Lincoln reportedly leaned over to his wife Mary, and said “that speech did not scour.”
The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library foundation invited Herbert to submit his own Gettysburg address, asking him to submit a 272 word essay. Herbert read his speech for the audience at the Freedom Forum, stopping several times to choke back tears.
He closed by reminding the audience that we are all inheritors of the sacrifices made by Lincoln and those who gave their lives at Gettysburg.
“We are the last, best hope for this country,” Herbert said. “I believe will succeed. I believe we will succeed because of you. Because that’s what we do – that’s our legacy, that’s our heritage in Utah.”
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