Governor speaks to Rotary Club membersNov 01, 2022 07:28PM ● By Sarah Morton Taggart
By Sarah Morton Taggart | [email protected]
“One of the reasons I wanted to speak to Rotarians is because I believe that you are the best and most important thing happening in our country, and I’m devastated that we are in such a small room right now,” said Utah Gov. Spencer Cox.
On Aug. 25, Cox spoke to a group of 100 members of local Rotary Clubs and Chambers of Commerce at the Hilton Garden Inn in Sandy.
“Essentially, the governor spoke to us about increasing our community service by working more closely with local government and business leaders,” said Mike Peterson, public image chair of the South Valley Rotary Club. “He’s concerned that service-based institutions like Rotary are decaying.”
Rotary International is a worldwide, charitable society of business and professional people.
“I told my staff I have to talk about Rotarians because it’s so important to me,” Cox said. “And they looked at me and said, ‘Is that still a thing?’ I said, ‘Yeah, it’s still a thing and it needs to be a bigger thing.’”
Even those not familiar with Rotary Clubs might have heard of the Four-Way Test, a set of ethical questions to guide interactions in relationships. The test asks that before you think, say or do something, consider: Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build goodwill and better friendships? Will it be beneficial to all concerned?
“That Four-Way Test is the secret to everything,” Cox said. “Can you imagine if every politician, myself included, every time we had a decision to make, or a press conference to hold, or a tweet to send out if we went through that Four-Way Test how different would our country be right now?”
Cox went on to say that he no longer pays attention to what part of the political spectrum people subscribe to, whether it be far left, far right or moderate. Instead, he notices if a person is a builder or a destroyer. The governor made it clear he believes Rotarians fall solidly in the “builder” category.
“We felt honored that he wanted to meet Rotarians,” said Steve Schoonover, president of the South Valley Rotary Club. “He was just down to earth, like a regular guy in your neighborhood.”
Cox wanted to speak to a large group. So the South Valley Club, which has 22 members from Draper, Riverton, Herriman and Bluffdale, worked quickly to invite 12 other local clubs and three chambers of commerce.
The governor’s remarks were preceded by a video introduction made by a former Rotarian that was a humorous mix of satire and biography. For example, it poked fun at Cox’s commute from Fairview to Salt Lake City when he was lieutenant governor by suggesting that he drove the Mormon Meteor III, an historic race car that was used to set speed records on the Bonneville Salt Flats.
“The next day we were asked if we could forward (the video),” Schoonover said. “Spencer showed it to his staff and they really got a kick out of it. He literally was laughing, just chuckling the whole time.”
Rotarians like to have fun, but they also get a lot done. Service projects can be as small as having lunch with a special needs teen or as large as partnering with Rotarians in Kenya to provide life-changing access to water. They also award scholarships to high school students, sponsor a scout troop and organize an annual roadside cleanup at Rotary Park, which they built.
“We’ll collaborate with other clubs and other entities,” Schoonover said. “Some projects happen on a recurring basis. Some are things on the fly that we find out about.”
When a nonprofit in Riverton called Bear-O Care had the catalytic converters stolen from their vans, South Valley Rotary stepped up to raise the money to replace them.
An upcoming collaboration is Thanksgiving Heroes, which provides full Thanksgiving meals to Utah families in need.
“People can contribute money, nominate a family or participate on the day,” Schoonover said. “Last year we made thousands of deliveries.”
Those interested in helping out can go to www.thanksgivingsheroes.org/svrotary.
“Since I’ve been in it, I can tell you: government was never designed to solve all of our problems,” Cox said. “It was designed to solve some of our problems, like protecting us from outside forces. It’s designed to help us build roads because if you had to build your own road to your house, that doesn’t make sense.”
Cox recommended a book called “A Time to Build” and summarized a main idea that “We are a nation built on institutions: government, higher education, the media, faith-based institutions, and the family as an institution. There is concern that our institutions are breaking down and failing us because we’ve lost trust in them, and both the right and left are actively breaking them down in different ways. If we’re going to survive as a nation, we need to build up institutions like Rotary and other service-based institutions. Institutions are made to bring us together and hold us accountable.”
“As a nation, we know that the best solutions are when you come together with your neighbors,” Cox said. “It’s cheaper, it’s more meaningful, and it’s much more lasting.”
At the end of his remarks, Cox opened the meeting for questions and answers. Topics ranged from air pollution to mental health to geriatrics to water to school funding, which shows the concern and care Rotarians feel for their community.
“We are dedicated to the youth in our community,” Schoonover said. “They are our future leaders.”