On Tuesday evening, Utah Valley’s leaders, movers and shakers gathered at the annual Pillar of the Valley awards hosted by the Utah Valley Chamber of Commerce to honor members of our community who have made longstanding sacrifices for the betterment of many.
This year, Ray and Janette Beckham, as well as John Valentine, were recognized for their years of service across multiple areas.
For those who might not be familiar with the individuals, we’ll give you a brief, and likely insufficient, summary of the empires they created.
John Valentine has served as a state representative and senator stretching across decades working to solve the state’s most complex issues, while also helping found the Utah County Search and Rescue operations with the county sheriff’s department — participating in at least 1,000 rescues. He currently serves on the governor’s cabinet as chair of the Utah State Tax Commission.
Ray and Janette Beckham have been involved with BYU’s growth, in Utah politics, LDS Church service and community development to put it broadly for more than half a century. Married later in life after their respective spouses died, the Beckhams were both bosses and together built an empire based on service. Ray died in 2017.
As Janette addressed the full room Tuesday, full of life as ever, some of her words stuck with us in relation to some of the issues we talked about at our table with fellow gala attendees about the future of Utah Valley and what that needs to look like — and how do we achieve those needs successfully?
Janette, referring to a talk she gave after being called as the Young Women’s general president for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1992, had more wisdom to bestow to the valley’s leaders and award attendees.
In her speech in 1992, she said, “Now, to every adult member of the Church, may I suggest that you learn the names of the young people in your ward or branch and call them by name. Encourage them in their work efforts. Recognize them for the good things they do. They need our support, and we need theirs.”
This week, she adapted these same words in relation to our Utah Valley community as a whole.
We need the youth and young adults here, we need to get to know their names, because they need us and we need them.
There is a generational divide here in Utah County. It is not often that we hear millennials praised for the good things they do and contribute; more often are words heard complaining about their different habits and lifestyles that challenge the older generations’ way of life. So many speak derogatorily about our younger generations; we’ve heard it ourselves among community and business leaders time and again. But, millennials are aging now (with the eldest being 37), they are making progress in their careers and becoming established in their neighborhoods.
But, they need mentors, examples and support. And more importantly, we need them. We not only need them as the lifeblood of our booming workforce — we need them in our city councils, our neighborhood committees, as county and state delegates, on nonprofit boards and as a part of strategic plans for the future.
We need their input and ideas as we work to solve our most pressing issues: affordable housing, transit, the opioid epidemic and the crisis of depression and suicide plaguing all demographics.
So, we echo Janette’s words and challenge leaders and managers, neighbors and friends, to learn about the young people around you. How can you help them? And what underutilized skills do they have that our community’s hives need to further feed innovation?
For businesses, we challenge you to bring them into your boards (where not only are the young, successful missing but women and people of color, too); for governments, we challenge you to find a way to involve them in the public, political process and create a pathway for them to learn how to join the ranks; organizations planning and researching the future of cities and corridors would benefit by including our young adults in these efforts.
Utah Valley has plenty of good problems to solve, and if we involve young and old with varied opinions, we have a much better likelihood of getting it right.