It’s not about you, Mr. President.

“When you get to be President, there are all those things, the honors, the twenty-one gun salutes, all those things. You have to remember it isn’t for you. It’s for the Presidency.” Harry S. Truman said those words and seemed to grasp something of great importance that is preventing our current president from hearing the call of his countrymen to meet this moment in history.

Screen Shot 2017-07-04 at 8.48.05 AMThe presidency is not about you, Mr. Trump. I know that may seem an odd thing to say. You are the president. But the presidency is not, in its purest and most American sense, about you as a person. It is about the United States of America, the American people. It is about our great nation and the freedoms we celebrate on this 4th of July.

That is why when you take criticism of you, or your actions as president, personally, you waste your, and therefore the nation’s, time.  Of course there will be criticism – some warranted – some harsh and unwarranted. As President Truman said, “The President is always abused. If he isn’t, he isn’t doing anything.” You have such precious little time while in office. You have none to spare worrying about such Screen Shot 2017-07-04 at 8.49.03 AMthings. Abraham Lincoln put it this way: “If I were to try to read, much less answer, all the attacks made on me, this shop might as well be closed for any other business.” Stop worrying about the criticism, the cable TV shows, the tweets, the news. All of these things are for those of us who are not president to spend time with. You must lead us.

I know this is easier said than done. As I look back over history, I believe every president has had a rough go in the press at one time or another. President Lyndon B. Johnson said, “If one morning I walked on top Screen Shot 2017-07-04 at 8.50.27 AMof the water across the Potomac River, the headline that afternoon would read: ‘President Can’t Swim.'” You are now a member of the most exclusive club on earth – those who have lead the greatest nation on earth. The one unfortunate aspect of that great honor is that you will be roundly and consistently criticized. It is the American way.

When you label every news organization that criticizes you as “fake news,” you waste your time and you dishonor the freedoms you are sworn to defend. As Theodore Roosevelt said, “To announce that there must be no criticism of the president… is morally treasonable to the American public.” You know these stories are not “made up,” as we understand the word “fake” to mean. They are just critical. And you must be strong enough to Screen Shot 2017-07-04 at 8.51.05 AMtake them and too busy to pay any attention.

Abraham Lincoln said, “We should be too big to take offense and too noble to give it.” Up until now, you have been neither too big nor noble, Mr. President. I won’t quote your tweets here. We have all read them Screen Shot 2017-07-04 at 8.49.52 AMenough. But I have faith in the inner strength of every man and woman to rise to the occasion. I have faith in you, President Trump, to allow the inspiration of the office you hold to blend with your considerable talent and result in a president we have not seen thus far – one without bitterness, one without one sidedness, one who is the president of all Americans, one who is quicker to encourage than criticize, one who realizes the great office he holds is not about him.

For the remainder of your time in office, you must put concern for Donald J. Trump aside. You must come last, after 326 million Americans, including thousands of members of the press. The journalists from CNN, and other organizations you castigate, are Americans. Their companies are American companies. And you cannot serve them while you are trying to discredit them and put them out of business.

On this 4th of July, I celebrate the freedoms I and millions of Americans cherish. The freedom to vote. The freedom to worship or not to worship. The freedom of speech. And separately and with deep gratitude for its role in keeping us free, the freeScreen Shot 2017-07-04 at 9.08.52 AMdom of the press. Forgive the self-serving nature of these lines (although I have never thought of myself as a journalist in the traditional sense) but I know that without a free press, we are less free.  As Thomas Jefferson wrote, “Where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe.”

 

 

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Little did that little girl know. . .

I saw Stevie Nicks in concert last night, and I was transported in time.

Music can do that for us. Suddenly we are in the place when we first fell in love with the songs we are hearing again. Suddenly we are the age we were when we first started singing them out loud to ourselves. I was 12 years old when I first started singing “Gold Dust Woman.” How ridiculous. 12 years old when I learned the words to “Landslide” and started singing to myself, “Well I’ve been afraid of changin’ ’cause I built my life around you. But time makes you bolder, even children get older, and I’m getting older, too.”

I was a student at a private school in Fort Lauderdale, Florida called Pine Crest. FullSizeRender (3)My parents let me go to school so far away from my home in Pennsylvania because I was a good swimmer who hoped to be great someday. The coach at Pine Crest was the USA women’s Olympic coach known for developing young talent. I was hoping to be one of those “young talent.” So, off I went to live in a dorm with girls from all over the world, but mostly from South America. The girls at Pine Crest were either swimmers or from very wealthy parents who wanted their daughters to get an education in the United States.

How I came to be in the Miami Baseball Stadium on that spring day, unchaperoned but with a few friends, Screen Shot 2017-02-26 at 1.42.22 PMI don’t remember. I remember the smell of marijuana, not knowing what it was until told. I remember seeing people dancing and swaying with the music, some lying on blankets, none taking pictures and posting them on Facebook. It was a different time.

Stevie Nicks and I have aged 40 years, but she has stayed the same in so many ways. Her voice singing “Landslide” last night was clear, not resentful of having to sing the song again, but grateful for what it has given her and all of us.  Before she started, she said, “Little did that little girl know that that one song would take her to the top. So, always keep your eyes open. Here it is, Landslide.”  She still wore the long, flowing black sleeves, carried the tambourine and tied scares to the microphone, but she had the wisdom of years now. She knew better. She had given up drugs and knew to put friends before flatterers.

Screen Shot 2017-02-26 at 1.49.27 PMI had a lot of dreams back then, as I’m sure you all did, as Stevie did, when she wrote “Landslide” and had no idea it would “take her to the top.” I remember standing in the Miami Baseball Stadium taking it all in, loving the freedom of being away from the dorm, feeling like I could do absolutely anything without getting in trouble, worried about how late we would get back because I had homework to do. I think someone may have told me to “Chill out.” I was mesmerized by Stevie Nicks, as all of the 40,000 people in attendance were. When she twirled around, we moved too, and felt free.

Now, 40 years later, she has experienced pain and loss, written dozen of hits, recorded with Prince and Tom Petty, broken up with Fleetwood Mac and gotten back together again, and come back to Salt Lake City, where she once lived as a Screen Shot 2017-02-26 at 1.50.12 PMchild, to stand in front of a packed house at Energy Solutions Arena and play for a screaming crowd. And I, 40 years later, have come to feel genuinely free. No one tells me to “Chill out.” I am already chill. Whatever dreams I had of swimming the 200 butterfly died with a thyroid problem unknown to me at the time of the taking of that picture above, but I see it now as a blessing. All roads lead to here, and here is where I want to be.

Here is where I can stand next to a man I love so completely and who loves me so completely in return that when tears start to Screen Shot 2017-02-26 at 7.32.40 PMstream down my face at the beginning of “Landslide,” he pulls me close to him and puts his arm around me. He lets me sing out. We sway to the music together, and I cry without hiding it. If you had asked the little girl who went to the concert 40 years before what her dreams were of a happy life, she probably would have said something short-sighted about the Olympics, but if she had really thought about it might have said, “I want to be happy. I just want to fall in love with a good man who loves me as crazy all the way as I love him.”

 

 

 

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Words of Love for Hate Speakers

hate-speech

I met a man today in Ogden who said some pretty harsh things to me a decade ago.

“That was me,” he said as I was leaving a speech at the Convention Center.

I paused and noticed he was holding a copy of my books.

“I was the one who texted those mean things to you after you came back from maternity leave. I was going through a divorce.” He looked down at his feet. “And it was a really hard time for me.”

What a kind face he had. I remembered the texts. They told me I should stay home and take care of my baby, that he liked the woman who had been filling in for me on the radio better, that she was more professional.

“I’ve received a lot of texts like that,” I said, and patted the bench beside me to invite him to sit down. “How are you doing now?”

“I read your books,” he offered. “You’ve been through so much. I just wanted to thank you for what you said today, and ask you to sign my books.”

“Of course.” I reached out for them.

As I handed the signed books back to this extraordinary man, I lingered. “You’ve really taught me something today. Thank you.”

 

The men and 643463983-mlk-on-hate-and-lovewomen who send me hateful tweets, texts, Facebook posts and email this week may very well have a compassionate, brotherly conversation with me ten years in the future. (Hopefully it won’t take that long.) What I learned from this dear man today is that every person who reacts with anger and hate is my brother, my sister. When someone calls me an idiot, a fool, uses sexually degrading words to describe me – it’s not about me. There is pain in them, and I happen to be the target. They would not speak this way to their mothers, hopefully, not to their sisters or daughters. I don’t think their better natures would let them speak to me that way in person. Even when we disagree with each other, we can find a way to do so with kindness and mutual respect. I know we can. I can find a way to learn from you, and you may even be able to find a way to learn from me.

 

One of the people who does this with real grace is Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey. He regularly receives tweets that say things like, “One word for you Booker – idiot.” He responds, “One word for you – love.” He actually takes the time to reply to these people, dozens and dozens of them. I have read some of the most hateful tweets directed at him, and he has turned the other cheek in a way that is humbling and inspiring.

 

As we approach the election next Tuesday, knowing that it is highly likely either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton will be our next president, I am calling upon all of our higher natures even as I am summoning my own. If you wake on the 9th of November to the result you dread, can you still love your neighbor? Can you still support your government? Can you find things to compliment and love in America? Of course you can. I know I can. The way I see it, I either have time to complain during the four years ahead, or I have time to serve my fellow man – not both. If I waste my time complaining about a Trump or Clinton presidency, I will have squandered the precious time I could have spent loving. learn-hate

 

If we take deep breaths now, today. . . if we hold our children and tell them we will be just fine under either president . . . if we reaffirm the values we hold dear, and then pivot to – how can we serve – we will be on the right track to a stronger nation.  If we listen to each other more than yell. If we think before we post on Facebook – am I posting in anger? Is the purpose of this post to put down or build up? Am I one who uses demeaning language or one who looks for what is good and praiseworthy in others? Which would I rather my children do – put down or build up? Every bit of energy I expend toward one effort cannot be offered to the other. That person who supported the other candidate – she is my sister, my brother, my mother, my friend. She is my neighbor. When her house catches fire, I come running with a hose. When her mother dies, I hold her hand in grief. When her son is sick, I watch her other children. Can I not show her enough respect to get through an election? Of course I can. We can.

 

I offer these words of love in support of those who have spoken to me, to anyone, with hateful words. It’s never too late to send another tweet, “I’m sorry. I never meant to speak in anger. I wish you well.” And if you cannot write those words, hold them in your heart.

It’s enough.

 

 

 

 

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The Loyal Opposition

I remember wondering at the end of the 2000 election, which never seemed to end, whether Al Gore would be able to let the Supreme Court’s decision against him stand with grace, even though he clearly believed it was incorrect? Would he be able to encourage the millions of Americans who voted for him, more than had voted for his opponent as it turned out, to be at peace with the Court’s decision and become what we refer to as “the loyal opposition”?bush-gore

In his concession speech, the Vice President said, “Just moments ago, I spoke with George W. Bush and congratulated him on becoming the 43rd president of the United States. And I promised him that I wouldn’t call him back this time. I offered to meet with him as soon as possible so that we can start to heal the divisions of the campaign and the contest through which we’ve just passed.”

If Donald Trump wins, I can picture Hillary Clinton saying these words, with great difficulty to be sure, but saying them. She as much as said them already when Zach Galifianakis asked her if she would move to Canada if Trump wins. Before admitting how much she regretted agreeing to do his show “Between Two Ferns,” she said, “I would try to keep him from destroying the United States.” Zach asked her if she would lead the civil war. With total deadpan she replied, “I wouldn’t take up arms. I think that would be a little extreme.”

But not for some Trump supporters. The Boston Globe reports that a 50-year-old contractor named Dan Bowman said, “If she’s in office, I hope we can start a coup. She should be in prison or shot. That’s how I feel about it. We’re going to have a revolution and take them out of office if that’s what it takes. There’s going to be a lot of bloodshed. But that’s what it’s going to take. . . . I would do whatever I can for my country.”

I am trying to picture Donald Trump saying something like Al Gore said 16 years ago when he said, “Each time, both the victor and the vanquished have accepted the result peacefully and in a spirit of reconciliation. So let it be with us.” I cannot picture it. I can only picture him saying the election was rigged and blaming the media. I can picture him saying that hers will be the worst presidency in history and that crooked Hillary will be the first president to go to jail while in office. I can picture him riling his supporters against her and the office of the president in a way that is not only dangerous to her as a person but to us as a nation.

I remember reading a book written by a secret service agent shortly after President Obama was elected that described the number of threats made against him, both while he was campaigning for the office and after elected, and how they had gone up over 400% over any other president before him. I never would have thought that a woman in that office could be more personally at risk that, and yet it may be so under these present circumstances.

Where is the voice that will teach us how to be the loyal opposition if our candidate does not win this hotly and cruelly contested election? Will we listen? Will our blood cool and our spirit remember the words Mitt Romney offered so beautifully in his concession speech: “I so wish — I so wish that I had been able to fulfill your hopes to lead the country in a different direction, but the nation chose another leader. And so Ann and I join with you to earnestly pray for him and for this great nation.”

I pray for the next president, for our nation, and for the one who is not chosen and his or her followers perhaps even more, for the strength and peace of the loyal opposition.

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Room Full of Heroes

neff-and-centerville-boyI spent the evening in a room full of heroes this week. It was the Department of Public Safety Awards banquet. I was surrounded by men and women who serve all of us, every day, in extraordinary ways. I listened and watched as the awards were given for saving lives. One driver drove into oncoming traffic in an apparent suicide attempt with her 8 year old and 18 month infant in the car. A trooper got there, applied a tourniquet to the 8 year old who was losing significant blood, got the child airlifted to Primary Children’s, and saved the child’s life. Another officer in the St. George police 14572829_1153450934702470_1671469341188840649_n

One after another they came onto the stage to receive their award. They stood next to Lieutenant Governor Spencer Cox, Commissioner Keith Squires, Deputy Commissioner Nannette Rolfe and Colonel Michel Rapich. They looked humble, slightly awkward even, as if they didn’t want to be there. This is the “Trooper of the Year” Stephen Matthews pictured here, a leader in many ways in the Utah Highway Patrol. He was like so many of the wonderful men and women I admired that night. There was no strutting onto the stage. There was only humility. They looked happy to shake the hands of their superiors, proud of their work, but uncomfortable being singled out when they would be the first to tell you that they were just doing their job.

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_mg_0106I was there as part of the Beyond the Badge program at KSL Newsradio, to accept an award on its behalf, to thank the Larry H. and Gail Miller Foundation who makes the program possible, and to see our officers honored. I am so proud of the officers who we have the opportunity to feature each week on KSL, officers from every jurisdiction in the state. It was a real pleasure to watch them walk, one by one, onto the stage and be recognized in front of their peers. Their acts of service, large and small, have such a profound effect on the communities they serve.

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I had not anticipated the surge of emotion I would feel when Colonel Rapich described the “Table for One.” Are you familiar with this ritual? Law enforcement families likely are, but I was not. I had seen the ceremony once before, but it was not at the front of my mind until I felt the powerful emotion in the Colonel’s description of the Table and noticed it set off to the side of the dining hall. table-for-one

The Colonel spoke, “We set the Table to honor and to remember them for they are not with us.

The white tablecloth, which stands for purity and their willingness to answer the call to duty, so that all communities will remain safe.

The single rose reminds us of loved ones and families of our comrades, who are keeping the faith. The yellow ribbon on the vase, just like the ones worn by thousands who admire them and who demand justice and safety for all.

The slice of lemon is on the plate to remind us of their bitter fate.

The salt on the table which symbolizes the families tears.

The Bible represents strength achieved from faith, helping to sustain those while in the line of duty, founded as one nation under God.

The faded picture on the table serves as a reminder to their families that they are loved and missed very much.

The candle will be lit to symbolize the upward reach of their unequaled spirit. With complete disregard for their own safety, and despite the extreme hazards associated with their duties, they entered into danger to protect and rescue with exemplary courage. We honor them, to bring great credit upon themselves, their families and friends. Also, we as a community, honor and respects our heroes.

Please join us now as we bow our heads in a moment of silence.”

I was close enough to the stage to see the tears in the Colonel’s eyes. I know he has lost men he served with and loved. I felt the tears on my own cheeks as I sat silently, thinking of their sacrifice and of their families.

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The evening ended when the family of Officer Doug Barney, shot down in the line of duty, came onto the stage. We stood up immediately and clapped with love and support in our hearts for widow Erika Barney, son Jack Barney and daughter Meredith Barney. Jack reached up and gave the Colonel a full body hug that lasted for so long I knew they had hugged before. The boy then turned, saw nearly a thousand people clapping for him, his sister and mother, and smiled.

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