Sunday, July 25, 2010

That Pioneering Spirit

When the Mormon pioneers arrived in the Salt Lake Valley in 1847, they had been through the ringer. Utah history teaches of their suffering: a past tainted with persecution, intolerance, and murder; a harrowing winter across the plains from Illinois; more sickness and death. Many had left everything they owned and loved behind because they were looking for a place to live and practice their religion in peace. So, in the summer of 1847, they arrived in the great Salt Lake Valley to create a better life for their families and future generations.

Their prophets had taught them to work together for the common good. Each participant was to bring something that would benefit the entire community: a talent, a resource, or a skill. It was in this spirit they built up their new community in the desert, planting crops and trees, building homes, businesses, schools and churches, and planning a community that would be their own Utopia in the west where they would live and work together in harmony.

In the 160 plus years since those first pioneers arrived, there have been many other pioneers from different religions, races, cultures and countries who have come to Utah for a better life, each bringing something that enriches the community. Today we celebrate all of them - whether they came here by handcart, covered wagon, airplane or automobile. We celebrate the pioneering spirit of every person who lives here, who work hard every day to make their faith in the things that are important to them come to fruition.

Those of us who have chosen to work in politics do so because we want to see every person's dreams become realities. As Democrats in Utah, we believe that everyone deserves the basic of human freedoms: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We choose to serve because we believe in the greater common good. We believe that every child in our state deserves a top notch education, a loving home, good food to eat, clean water to drink, and good health. We understand that every aging citizen of our state deserves to live out the last years of his or her life with dignity, and that veterans who have served our country so bravely deserve to be honored for their sacrifice, not only with medals and accolades, but with good health care, shelter, and assistance.

All Utah families have the right to pursue happiness through gainful employment that pays a fair wage. Utah students who work hard have every right to attend college and be able to afford tuition, regardless of decisions made by their parents. Those who come here legally from other nations seeking a better life deserve to be treated with respect regardless of religious beliefs, the color of their skin, or language barriers. And Utah's non-traditional families should be allowed to live in peace, hold jobs, and not be discriminated against because of personal lifestyle choices or sexual preferences.

That's what Utah's history teaches us - that we all have the right to live and work and worship and provide and create and pursue a better life. That's our pioneering spirit, and that's what we are celebrating this week.

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Emily Bingham Hollingshead is a political consultant and Democratic Party activist in Utah. She serves as the Communications Director for the Utah House Democrats and has worked on several winning legislative campaigns.

In 2006, she was the Democratic candidate for Senate District 28, a 6 county seat that encompasses much of the 2nd Congressional district. (No, she didn't win and credits the race for giving her broader insight into the minds of Utah voters).

Emily lives with her very patient husband Mark, and two sons in Cedar City, Utah.

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