Students had the opportunity to ask Utah Governor Gary R. Herbert and Commissioner of Public Safety Jess Anderson questions on politics and education during an assembly at Delta High School on Oct. 30.
Herbert took the oath of office as Utah’s seventeenth governor on Aug. 11, 2009. He also served as Lt. Governor under Jon Huntsman Jr. for four years, and as chair of the National Governors Association for one year.
A self-described introvert, Herbert said he never anticipated he would go into politics, or become a state leader.
“If I was going to write a book about Gary Herbert, and how he became governor, I would call it ‘Gary Herbert and the Improbable Journey,’” he said. “I never would have thought I would be governor of the state of Utah. I never had any aspirations, and it may surprise you I was very shy and bashful. I hardly ever raised my hand in class—that’s how shy I was.”
Herbert said he would go on to grow out of his timid nature after he went to serve an LDS mission, serve in the military and begin his own real estate business.
“The teachers in my high school would probably be very surprised to see me as governor. Which just says to you, there is opportunity for you to be whatever you want to be. There is no limit on your opportunities to be successful and what you choose to be.”
The foundation for those opportunities, Herbert said is a continued education. “As you get more and more education, you will get more opportunities and choices for you to make in life. I’ll summarize that statement; if you want a good job, get a good education.”
After graduating high school, Herbert encourages Utah’s youth to attend college or other institutions for education. “High school isn’t enough anymore in the marketplace of today,” he said. “You’ve got to have skills that line up with today’s demands.”
Herbert emphasized the importance of the right to vote, especially to younger generations.
“You have a responsibility as an American and as a Utahan to be involved,” Herbert said. “Some of you will have the opportunity to vote—it’s a simple thing, but it’s a significantly important, simple thing. There is no reason you cannot vote.”
Herbert described his experience in the United States Army during the Vietnam War when he was 18. “We had a slogan, ‘if you’re old enough to fight and die for your country, you ought to be able to vote for those who would send you into harm’s way.’”
Herbert said the demographic in Utah least likely to vote are ages 18 to 25. “I hope you will change that. We need to hear your voices, you need to be involved. You need to be informed and vote. I made the commitment when I was 21, I would always vote. I have never missed the opportunity to vote—I know it can be done. Let me encourage you to get registered and vote for the rest of your days.”
Enjoying and remembering school years were among Herbert’s final words to students.
“I hope you all take the opportunity to appreciate your school years. I went to my fiftieth reunion a few years ago and we talked about the good times, and we had a great camaraderie. I hope you have that same camaraderie as Delta Rabbits,” he said.
Commissioner Jess Adams, a Delta High graduate, spoke to students about the important influence teachers and school counselors have during their school years.
Anderson has served as Commissioner of Public Safety since Aug. 2018 and has an 18- year career in law enforcement. Anderson serves as Herbert’s advisor for Homeland Security, as well as a bodyguard.
“I wanted to take a moment and build upon the governor’s words,” Anderson said. Like Herbert, Anderson said he was a quiet, reserved student that avoided the limelight as much as possible.
“When I was a senior in high school, my school counselor asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I had an enthusiastic response to be a police officer,” Anderson said. “And as I relayed that to my counselor, he looked at me and asked ‘are you sure that’s what you really want to do? I’ll tell you now, I don’t think you’d amount to anything.’”
“As devastating as that was, especially at that age, what I realized later in life is that it was motivation for me that I was going to do the best I could; two, understand that there are adults in life that do see the potential in you, and they are going to push you to be the very best people you can be.”
Anderson urged students to listen to their counselors and teachers and take the advice they give in order to “become the very best people they can be.”
Students then had the chance to ask Herbert and Anderson anonymous questions.
Herbert was asked what the state can do to make college more affordable for middle-class students who don’t qualify for financial aid.
“The cost of education is a concern for all of us,” Herbert said. “The Department of Education has been working with all of our superintendents, principals and legislature to see if there are ways to see the cost remains affordable.”
Herbert said Utah spends the least amount of money than anywhere else in America and remains one of the most affordable places to attend school in the nation, and receive “remarkable results because of good teachers, parents and students who take education seriously.”
“Higher education, particularly tuition aspects is a concern,” he said. “Affordability equals access, so keeping the cost down is a quest. We’re looking for different things and different options outside the box.”
Reducing the time to obtain a degree is a goal, Herbert said. Southern Utah University recently implemented three-year degrees, he said, which cuts down on cost and time.
Anderson and Herbert were both asked for advice for seniors about to graduate and attend college and careers.
“First and foremost, I would say you need to be determined,” Anderson said. “Don’t ever give up. In my experience, going to college out of high school was a very positive experience. Life happens, and I happened to step away from school for a time. I would tell you this; as you become determined on what you want to do, or have some form of idea, keep with it. The secret is to get your education done as soon as possible. Establish goals and pursue them into success.”
“It’s an improbable journey, but it’s one we can all take,” Herbert said. “It does take commitment, dedication and hard work. My father, who was the hardest working person I knew, did not have a lot of education, but went on to gain a lot of success as a building contractor. He had a phrase given to him by my grandfather, called the Eight W’s: Work will win, when wishy-washy wishing won’t.’”
It’s easy to wish, Herbert said, but it is harder to work to achieve goals.
“Dream big and work hard, and you can achieve what many people would think to be impossible,” Herbert said.
“Understand that in order to receive the career you want, you have to be able to market yourself,” Anderson said. “What you said today reflects on you tomorrow. What you think happens in high school doesn’t matter does.”
Anderson and Herbert were both asked what the state of Utah was doing to ensure student safety amongst recent school shootings.
“School safety is an area that we are greatly concerned, and we are taking the measures to keep our schools, private, public and higher education safe,” Anderson said.
Utah has been working with the state of Virginia and its own legislature to create legislation to facilitate better safety measures, Anderson said. Eliminating miscommunication, thereby getting rid of misinformation is another measure Utah is taking.
“School safety also begins with you,” Anderson told students. “If you see something, report it to a higher authority. If you see your friends not acting how they should, or behaving oddly, report it to the authorities. As you see something and say something, all of us benefit from that.”
“I want to emphasize there are no jokes or games when it comes to school safety,” Anderson said that. “If you think its funny or it’s a hoax and want to play a prank on your friends, there are severe consequences that come from playing those games. We take this very seriously.”
“As a state we are very concerned with public safety,” Herbert said. “Every student has the right to go to school, and not have to worry for safety or any aspect of public safety.” Herbert said anti-bullying efforts are an aspect of promoting public safety.
“We are going to be putting more money in the budget in the upcoming legislature to encourage more counseling to help with mental health issues. Every life is wanted and desired,” Herbert said. “You can be the first line of defense.”
Herbert encouraged students to download the SafeUt app, which allows users to anonymously leave tips concerning public safety or the welfare of fellow students, or to seek private counseling.
“We say to our children and grandchildren, and I’ll say it to you: when you go to school, first go to learn something, and make a new friend. Make a larger circle and bring people in. It’s okay to have diversity,” Herbert said.