CEDAR CITY — Utah’s governor and lieutenant governor both spoke during the Cedar City Rotary Club’s luncheon Monday, primarily addressing the topics of volunteer service and the role of government.
Speaking to an audience of approximately 60 people gathered at the Courtyard Marriott, Gov. Spencer Cox and Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson commended the Rotarians for their reputation of volunteerism, as reflected in the organization’s motto: “Service above self.”
Henderson cited an example as she recalled personally touring all of the state’s 13 health departments starting shortly after she and Cox took office in January.
“After my visits with the local health departments, in the first few weeks of our mass vaccination efforts, we decided that we really couldn’t do all of this with just the people that we had already working,” she said. “We needed volunteers. We needed people.”
The ensuing call for volunteers resulted in a tremendous response, she said, adding that within a couple of days, “thousands of people” had signed up to volunteer.
Henderson said thanks to that “incredible” response, “we’ve slowed down the deaths, we’ve slowed down the case counts, and over 1.1 million Utahns are fully vaccinated now.”
“And I have to say, it’s absolutely incredible to see smiles in this room today,” she added.
Henderson noted that Utah is ranked No. 1 nationally in terms of volunteerism.
“I have personally experienced and witnessed over and over, that dedicated volunteer spirit in every Utahn,” she said. “It’s in our DNA; it’s who we are. And I’m grateful for that.”
Cox also spoke on that same theme, saying that those who engage in volunteer service play a crucial role in American society.
“I’m going to posit today that what you all are doing right now is the most important thing that can be done to preserve our democracy for future generations, and I don’t say that lightly,” he said.
Cox said that while Cedar City Rotary Club has seen its membership steadily increase over the past few years, many volunteer organizations, service groups, churches and similar institutions are seeing a decline in numbers nationwide.
“What is happening in our country, is that younger people aren’t getting involved in these institutions,” he said, referencing ideas and themes in analyst Yuval Levin’s book, “A Time to Build.”
“We’re seeing religious attendance decline at a precipitous rate; we’re seeing it fall apart.”
That, in turn, leads to lost connections, making people feel lonelier, Cox said.
“But we’re driven to connection, so we have to replace it with something,” he said, adding that for younger people, it seems to be phones and social media. “We need to belong to something, and now we don’t have anything to belong to. And so we find our tribe online.”
Cox encouraged the Rotarians to continue to reach out to the younger generation to get them more involved.
“We have to bring new people in and we have to get them rededicated to giving back and serving and helping.”
Cox said organizations with a rich history of service like the Rotary Club are much more effective in solving problems than the government. He added that although there are many who turn to the government for solutions, “government was never designed to solve those problems.”
“I believe that government is really bad at most of the things government tries to do,” he said, “but if nobody else is going to do it, then Joe Biden’s going to do it. And we can criticize him, and I do,” he said. “I mean, we’re spending obscene amounts of money and inflation is going to go up. And that’s going to hurt the poor. We’re doing it poorly. But, I have to be honest, I think for most of them, they’re not evil. Their hearts are in the right place. They want to help people, they’re just using the wrong institution to do it. They’re using an institution that isn’t good at it, and an institution that is going to fail in trying to do it.”
Cox then cited some encouraging statistics regarding Utah, including that it was recently named the No. 1 state for economic outlook for the 14th straight year by ALEC-Laffer’s annual “Rich States, Poor States” report.
Additionally, he noted Utah currently has the lowest unemployment rate in the nation at 2.9%, and the state is ranked first in number of days that its students were in school and has the lowest per-capita death rate from COVID-19.
Reiterating Henderson’s mention of Utah leading the nation in volunteers, Cox noted that Utah is also ranked No. 1 in charitable giving.
“If we can keep those things going, if you can keep bringing young people here, if you can help the next generation understand that this is America, this is what makes America so great. This is what we were founded on,” Cox said.
“I could go on and on and on about all the accolades that we’ve been given,” he said. “And it has absolutely nothing to do with me or the lieutenant governor or the Legislature. It has everything to do with this room and is what’s happening in this room.”
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