SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Is political discourse in Utah lacking civility and compassion? Some community leaders say yes, and Wednesday they gathered at the Salt Lake County City Building to launch what they call a “Compassionate Communities Initiative.”
Two people on opposite ends of the political spectrum are heading up this effort, Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker and Lt. Governor Spencer Cox. They’re urging Utahns to follow the Golden Rule, but when it comes to politics, the gloves come off.
Various community groups joined forces with Mayor Becker and Lt. Governor Cox to sign a “Charter of Compassion.” It’s a declaration to treat others as we wish to be treated in all aspects of life.
Dr. David Parker is a member of the advisory council for the Utah Civil & Compassionate Communities Advisory Council. He urges all Utahns to take the challenge.
“I've been living in Utah since 2010," Parker said. "One of the things I've learned about Utah is there are zillions and zillions of compassionate, caring people here but sometimes we just forget and need to be reminded."
Leaders reinforced their commitment to supporting the homeless, welcoming refugees, caring for the elderly, and promoting volunteerism.
“The average Utahn spends about 76 hours a year volunteering in their communities,” said Lt. Gov. Cox.
One area Utah could improve upon is injecting more civility and compassion into politics. While some say Utah’s political landscape isn’t as cutthroat as what we’re seeing nationally, Mayor Becker, who is running for re-election, is concerned about a new trend.
“I have to say this is the first election that I have been part of where the discourse has so deteriorated that at times I feel embarrassed for our campaigning and election efforts,” Mayor Becker said.
Both Becker and his challenger, Jackie Biskupski, are pointing fingers over negative campaigning, but the heated political rhetoric may backfire with voters.
“It doesn't make them any more appealing,” said Lisa Gibb, a Salt Lake City resident.
Becky Gledhill, another Salt Lake City resident, is tired of all the bickering.
“It's become so partisan," Gledhill said. "It shouldn't be. It's going to take a big national calamity when we have to work together and that's sad."
Community leaders are looking forward to the World Parliament of Religions held in Salt Lake City next week. They’ll hear from Karen Armstrong, the creator of the Charter for Compassion.