We often get to talk about what we do, but we get far fewer opportunities to talk about why each of us behind Better Utah does the work we do. So this is my story.
I am 56 years old. Maybe you’re older, maybe you’re younger. I believe that each of us comes at this life with a perspective that is very much influenced by the circumstances in which we were born and raised. When was I born? Was I born into great wealth or poverty? Was I raised by two loving parents or was I beaten by an angry drunk? Was I born in suburbia, the inner city, a rural community? Was my childhood shaped by war, depression, economic expansion, etc.? These circumstances create for each of us a narrow lens through which we see the world, and I believe that it is difficult to fully see beyond that life experience, or to broaden that lens.
For me–I was born in the early 1960s, to white, Jewish, middle-class parents, who would soon achieve great success. It means that my teenage years saw Vietnam in the rearview mirror, Iraq in the distant future, and little in between.
It means in many ways I grew up soft, or maybe just fortunate. It means I grew up knowing that I would have the opportunity to go to college and then to law school. It means that I grew up with the luxury of learning how to play golf or ski.
But for me it also means that I grew up with parents who had a direct history with the great depression, with World War II, with understanding what emigrating from Eastern Europe to the United States as Jews really meant. And those parents, who left me way too early, raised me with a moral compass and a set of values that, at the time, I did not even know they were giving me.They are values steeped in the idea that we are a great nation; that we were created out of great ideals, but we are not flawless. We have many moments of our own dark history, and we can always be better. These values my parents instilled in me as I grew up are, I believe, truly American.
Like many of my age, I often wondered what I would have done if I had been born 10 years earlier and the Vietnam war faced me directly–if I’d been drafted? What would I have done if I were born 20 years earlier and the civil rights movement faced me directly–if I’d had the opportunity to protest in solidarity? But maybe I don’t have to wonder. In fact, I was amused recently to see a Facebook post that said “if you wonder what you would have done during the civil rights movement, you’re doing it now.”
I have tried to live my life in a way that I can look back and be proud of. I would like to finish my life in a way that my children will be proud of.
It may not be a march on Selma, or years held captive as a prisoner of war, but I will continue to find my own ways to fight for a better America, a better future for our children, and a better Utah. What I’ve come to realize is that, while founding and working these past several years to build the Alliance for a Better Utah may not rise to the level of those historic events, it has been one effort in my small corner of the world to expand my lens and my world view; to speak up and to fight injustice. I’m spending my time making this place where I am so fortunate to live even better for the generations to come, just as previous generations have done, and hopefully future generations will continue to do.
So, however you choose to impact our world and express your own values, I commend you. This is my story and why I embarked on this journey. If you’d like to join this journey alongside us at Alliance for a Better Utah, we’ll be here with open arms.
Josh Kanter is the founder and board chair of Alliance for a Better Utah