A Giant In Our City – Michael O. Leavitt

Friday, April 11th, 2014

On Thursday, April 10, the Salt Lake Chamber honored former Utah governor Michael O. Leavitt as A Giant In Our City, one of the most prestigious business awards in the state. You can learn more about the award here.

To a crowd of more than 1,500 people, from business and community leaders to politicians and more, former Massachusetts governor and former presidential nominee Mitt Romney shared a handful of personal memories, including those involving Gov. Leavitt’s love for practical jokes.

It was a wonderful evening as we honored such a great man. As Salt Lake Chamber President & CEO Lane Beattie said, “One of the best things about the Giant In Our City award is the inspiration these Giants give us all–to be better people and to do our part.”

See photos from the Giant in Our City event on Flickr.

Press release: http://slchamber.com/news-room/read/article/256

Media Coverage – Fox 13  |  Deseret News  |  Salt Lake Tribune 

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This was Gov. Leavitt’s acceptance speech at the Giant In Our City gala on April 10, 2014. 

Shortly after the 2008 election, Jackie and I joined Mitt and Ann, and some other friends for a short stay in a tiny Caribbean country. We were escorted to the customs office. It consisted of single desk in what looked like a warehouse building next to the airport.

While filling out the required papers Mitt came to the blank requiring occupation. He said, “Hmmm, occupation—how should I answer that?”

A member of the group made a suggestion. “Mitt, put—President, searching for a country.”

In about a year, our country will again be searching for a President. If you’re available, I, and countless others, will once again, be at your side.

A few years ago, I represented the United States at international meetings held in Russia. As part of the trip, I met with a member of the Russian Duma (their Congress). It turns out, he was a famous polar explorer. He regaled us with stories of his conquests, and displayed his awards. Let’s just say, he had a big personality.

As we stood to leave, we exchanged business cards. Underneath his name was listed his title: “Hero of the Russian People.” Now there’s a great title. Tomorrow, I’m going to order some new business cards. They will simply say, “Mike Leavitt, Giant In Our City.” How good is that?

So, thank you very much.

In all seriousness, this designation is far more than a great title. It is a singular honor. Being included on the same list as the true giants, who have previously received this honor, is among the most notable and kindest things ever expressed about me.

Your kindness is rightly shared by my wife and partner in everything, Jackie. She is the giant in my life. She is the North Star of our family. She is the person living at our address who most deserving of admiration.

I wish to recognize my children and extended family. They provide me unwavering love and support. A quick story captures a glimpse of their sacrifice.

I had been governor about for about a year. Often I sent the highway patrol security detail home when I had no public duties. An errand needed to be run, so I took our son Chase and we drove to the store in our family’s car. Chase was about eight years old at the time. When we reached the store, he looked around and said, “Daddy, what about the police?”
“The police?” I said.
“What if the police catch you not working?”

I realized he thought that the highway patrol traveled with his dad to make sure he never quit working. I knew at that moment, my life needed an adjustment.

For a young family, living in the governors’ mansion is an adventure. One day I called the family quarters at the mansion. Westin, who was about three, answered the phone. The conversation went something like this:

“Hello?”
“Can I talk to Mom?”
“She’s busy.”
“What about Anne Marie?”
“She’s busy too.”
“What are they busy doing?”
“Looking for me.”

One summer morning, our teenage sons, asked if it was okay to have a few friends over to the mansion on Friday night to see a boxing match on television. There is a large room in the basement and on nights like that, it was not uncommon to have a big group of their friends over to watch a sporting event of some sort. I would go down and enjoy it with them.

Just after dark, Jackie and drove down South Temple street, returning from an event at the University. From about 9th east I could see this very strange glow on the side of the governor’s mansion. As we got closer I could see that the entire east side of the mansion had been covered in white. The boys had used PVC pipe, rope, old bed sheets and masking tape to create a massive movie screen and draped it over the entire east side of the mansion. It looked like a drive-in movie. I could see boxers that we 30 feet tall all the way from 8th east. As I got closer I could see kids, lots and lots of kids, sitting on the lawn, noisily cheering the fighters.

As we walked up the drive way, I said to the head of the mansion security,
“What in the world is going on here?”
“Guv,” he said, “the boys said you were okay with this.”

Jackie, not a fight fan, said, “I think you need to handle this.” She retired to the house, only to find our bedroom was now covered by the backlit images of sweaty boxers.

As I got to the backyard, I noticed Mike and Taylor busily working the crowd, and their five year old brother Westin and sister, Anne Marie, at the back gate collecting admissions to cover the cost of pay-per-view. And the kids, well, they just kept coming. By the time the main event arrived, there were hundreds. To their credit, they were noisy but behaved.

I thought—what’s a guy to do at this point? I found a place on the grass and enjoyed what turned out to be a great fight night.

To our son Taylor, a teenager, the mansion was an endless opportunity for practical jokes. He had a very realistic rubber arm he would occasionally use to startle someone. I was okay with that until a particular night when we were entertaining an arts group in the main parlor. A harpist played as people mingled. As I spoke with a rather prominent woman, I could tell from her eyes that she was a bit startled and distracted—eyes focused on the fireplace. As I turned around, there it was, the arm—dangling from chimney.

There’s not much to say at a moment like that. I said, “Do you have teenagers?” The good news was, she did.

It is a tribute to Jackie, that each of our five children weathered the experience and are productive and responsible adults, in whom we are enormously proud. Best of all, they are producing grandchildren, several of whom are here tonight. Likewise, my parents and several of my brothers are here.

Being governor is a wonderful experience. Being a member of the governor’s family sometimes isn’t. They have all endured moments of ironic unfairness and remained wonderfully supportive.

As many of you know, my father’s name is Dixie. He preceded me in Utah politics, representing southern Utah in the legislature for many years. St. George is known as Utah’s Dixie. Early Mormon pioneers thought the area reminded them of the south. The word Dixie has been written in giant white letters across the red rock mesa, visible to the entire town. Tonight, I am prepared to confession that I was 15 years old before I figured out that my Dad didn’t really write his name on that mountain.

Likewise, this audience is peppered with colleagues, legislators, business leaders, supporters and friends I worked side by side with. Thank you for yet another expression of support. I will acknowledge, for all of us, what a remarkable privilege public service is. The best rewards are a sense of accomplishment and friendships. Both last forever.

And of course, I wish to thank the SL Chamber of Commerce, the sponsor of this dinner for choosing to honor me in this way. Lane Beattie, President of the Chamber, requires a special and personal thank you. Over the years, Lane and I have served shoulder to shoulder. For the entire time I was governor, Lane was either majority leader or President of the Utah Senate. As you know, the relationship between governors and legislatures are designed to produce tension. However, in the end, things have to be done, agreement has to be reached. The process requires leaders who have the confidence of their colleagues and a knack for knowing when to facilitate the deal. Many of the things history will point to as shaping the state’s future, Lane Beattie was a major force in making it happen.

The Chamber of Commerce, under Lane’s leadership, and with the support of his remarkable board, has become a powerful influence for good in our state. The organization provides important leadership in this state and a voice of reason.

We have a great state with a proud tradition of success and prosperity. I have come to understand that public leadership is a generation relay.Many of the most profound problems are not ours to solve with finality, but rather to incrementally improve during our temporary stewardship.

The Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce is a part of the foundation of this great state. Thanks to them for honoring me. Thanks to all of you for attending.

Kem Gardner now officially among Giants

Thursday, March 1st, 2012

For the 32nd time in 42 years, the Salt Lake Chamber honored a member of the business community as A Giant In Our City. Kem Gardner, chairman of The Gardner Company and co-founder and former president of The Boyer Company, received the honor last night in an event that was part honor, part roast and part rock concert.

The Giant In Our City award is recognized as the most prestigious business award given in Utah. Gardner served as chairman of the Salt Lake Chamber Board of Governors in 2001.

“I have been greatly blessed and inspired in my small efforts through association with the numerous compassionate, caring people,” said Gardner. “I’ve learned two lessons: One, you don’t give very much until you give of your time; and, two, the most important political office is that of private citizen. You don’t need to hold public office to make a difference.”

“He has been willing to get involved and he has changed things for the better,” said Lane Beattie, president and CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber. “He has great influence because he gives of himself. There may be no higher compliment than this: Kem Gardner makes good things happen.”

During his 38 years in the real estate business, Gardner has been involved in the development of some 2,500 residential lots, and more than 23 million square feet of corporate office and medical buildings, retail shopping centers, life-style centers, hotels and industrial/manufacturing facilities.

But it is Gardner’s generosity of time and service that has made the largest impact. He has been a Trustee of Intermountain Healthcare since 1982 and currently chairs the Board. He chaired the successful fundraising campaign for the new Intermountain Medical Center.  Gardner has been a member of the board of Intermountain Healthcare for three decades and has chaired the United Way of Salt Lake and serves on the Board as well as the Board of the Utah Symphony.

“He has been a champion of the principle of providing health care that is measurably better in terms of both the clinical quality we can provide, and the sensitivity and compassion with which we strive to provide it,” said Dr. Charles Sorenson, president and CEO of Intermountain Healthcare. “Intermountain’s Board, under Kem’s leadership, has had the unrelenting expectation that we set rigorous quality and service goals, every year, in any economy.”

Gardner contributed enormously to the success of the 2002 Olympic Winter Games. He was an original incorporator of the Salt Lake Olympic Bid Committee and chaired the 2002 Olympic Ambassadors responsible for fundraising for the games. He chaired the Salt Lake Board for Olympic Aid and currently serves on the Right to Play USA Advisory Committee.

“This is a truly unique and loveable man,” said Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “Kem Gardner has helped this community dwell in possibility.”

Elder Holland had the crowd laughing as he related a story of Gardner levying an early-morning church meeting to drive home and retrieve his then-16-year-old son Christian, who had opted to skip the meeting. Gardner ran “through the door, not through the doorway” and told his son, calmly, “you have two minutes to get dressed or you’ll be the first to attend church in your boxer shorts.”

The evening included a video (watch below) of Gardner’s family and friends sharing some of their favorite funny stories of our honoree.

Gardner is a big supporter of the Arts, particularly the Utah Symphony, so the a Beatles tribute band “Classical Mystery Tour” took the stage with 20 pieces from the symphony.

“Kem is more than just a successful businessman, and he is more than a generous philanthropist, he exemplifies success as a man,” said Beattie. “His ability to build and to give and his dedication to our community truly make him A Giant In Our City.”

“There is no greater honor the business community can bestow than to name one A Giant In Our City,” said David Golden, chair of the Salt Lake Chamber Board of Governors. “Kem’s contribution to our community is extraordinary and we are very excited to honor him with this distinction.”

Giants In Our City
1970: Eric C. Aaberg
1972: Clarence Bamberger
1974: E.M. Naughton
1977: John M. and Glenn Wallace
1978: N. Eldon Tanner
1981: John W. Gallivan
1982: George S. Eccles
1984: Richard A. Van Winkle
1985: Wendell J. Ashton
1986: Arch L. Madsen
1987: B.Z. Kastler
1990: S. Chris Johnson
1992: Gov. Calvin R. Rampton
1994: G. Frank Joklik
1995: Fred S. Ball
1998: Kenneth Y. Knight
1999: Scott S. Parker
2000: Verl Topham
2001: Spencer Eccles
2002: W. Mitt Romney
2003: Don Cash
2003: Nick Rose
2003: President Gordon B. Hinckley
2005: Jon M. Huntsman
2006: James LeVoy Sorenson
2007: Larry H. Miller
2008: William H. (Bill) Nelson
2009: Roger Boyer
2009: Ellis Ivory
2010: Bishop Carolyn Tanner Irish
2011: Bishop H. David Burton
2012: Kem Gardner

Past Giants welcome Bishop H. David Burton to the club

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

Past Giants In Our City honor Bishop H. David Burton from Salt Lake Chamber on Vimeo.

We’re less than six hours away from the Giant In Our City award banquet, being held tonight at 7 p.m. at the Grand America Hotel. We’re honoring Bishop H. David Burton, Presiding Bishop of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He will become the 31st person to receive the award in the 41 years since it was first presented.

We sat down with a few of the past recipients of the award to hear what they think of the newest member of the club.

Bishop Irish becomes first female Giant In Our City

Friday, May 21st, 2010

The Rt. Rev. Carolyn Tanner Irish delivers her acceptance speech after being named A Giant In Our City

Last night, the Rt. Rev. Carolyn Tanner Irish officially became the first woman honored as a Giant In Our City. As she pointed out in her acceptance speech, she isn’t the first woman to be a Giant In Our City, she’s just the first to be so honored.

The Giant In Our City award is presented by the Salt Lake Chamber Board of Governors and is recognized as the most prestigious business award given in Utah. Bishop Irish is the first woman to be honored so honored in the 40-year history of the award.

Chamber President and CEO Lane Beattie said: “Those who have been named as A Giant In Our City are more than just successful business people. Bishop Irish has overseen a remarkable business, served as a spiritual leader and greatly enhanced our community. She is the very definition of A Giant In Our City.”

Bishop Irish has succeeded in the business, she’s the chair of the board of directors of the O.C. Tanner Company, which was founded by her father, Obert Tanner. But succeeding in business isn’t by itself enough to be named a Giant In Our City. Bishop Irish has contributed to the community as a spiritual leader. She is the 10th Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Utah, the first female leader of a major denomination in the state.

‘The real Giant is the enormous community that forms and sustains our lives, and we are all a part of it,” said Bishop Irish. “There is a whole network of relationships in this gigantic community to which we belong—mutually giving and receiving for the common good.  Each of us does our part, often in critical times or in hidden ways.”

Bishop Irish’s ability to reach out and build a sense of oneness between the religious and the secular, commerce and community, makes her A Giant In Our City.

Also during the award ceremony, Beattie took time to honor former Giant In Our City B.Z. “Bud” Kastler who passed away in November. Kastler served as Chamber president in 1977, a position now equal to chair of the Salt Lake Chamber Board of Governors. A decade later, in 1987, he was awarded the Chamber’s highest honor, being named a Giant In Our City.  Kastler was director and former chairman, president and CEO of Questar Corp., Mountain Fuels Supply Co. and its subsidiaries.

Beattie also took a moment to honor Fred Ball, who served as Chamber president for 26 years and was also named A Giant In Our City in 1995. Ball recently retired from Zions Bank where he was the voice of the popular “Speaking on Business” segments.

The Salt Lake Chamber Board of Governors established the Giant In Our City award in 1969. The award was created to honor the lives of exceptional and distinguished public service and extraordinary professional achievement. It is considered the Chamber’s most prestigious award and is given periodically by the Chamber Board of Governors. Bishop Irish is the first individual woman to be named A Giant In Our City.

The Epitome of a Giant In Our City

Friday, May 21st, 2010

Prepared remarks given by Lane Beattie at the Giant In Our City awards May 20, 2010

Since 1970, when Eric C. Aaberg was named the first Giant In Our City, we’ve honored many remarkable business leaders.

In recent years, we’ve honored President Gordon B. Hinckley, Jon Huntsman, James Sorenson, Larry H. Miller and Bill Nelson. Just last year, we honored both Ellis Ivory and Roger Boyer.

Each of these names represents more than just a person; it represents a contribution that will outlive the individual.

Since we last met to honor A Giant In Our City, our community lost one of its Giants. B.Z. ”Bud” Kastler, passed away in November. He was 89 years old. Bud was director and former chairman, president and CEO of Questar Corp., Mountain Fuels Supply Co. and its subsidiaries. Bud was a great businessman and a stellar individual and he is greatly missed. Born in Billings, Montana, Kastler came to Utah to pursue his education and became a pillar of the community.

Another of our Giants, Fred Ball, recalls that “Bud was very knowledgeable, very capable and a champion of the free enterprise system.”

Bud served as Chamber president in 1977, a position now equal to chair of the Board of Governors. A decade later, in 1987, he was awarded the Chamber’s highest honor, being named a Giant In Our City.  He was a giant in our community and a major force for good and growth for our state.

We are also honored to have several “Giants” here tonight.

Would you please stand and be recognized as I read your name?

G. Frank Joklik
Verl Topham
Roger Boyer
Spence Eccles
and Fred Ball

It is wonderful to have all our Giants with us this evening— but if I may, I want to say it is particularly nice to have former Chamber President Fred Ball with us.

Fred was the president of the Salt Lake Chamber from 1971 until 1995 when he was named a Giant In Our City.

You may have noticed something about the honorees we just recognized… they all have something in common.

Tonight we add to our esteemed group of Giants, the first female honoree.

The Giant In Our City award was created in 1969 to honor lives of exceptional and distinguished public service and extraordinary professional achievement.

It is the Chamber’s most prestigious award and is given periodically by the Chamber’s Board of Governors.

To say the Right Reverend Carolyn Tanner Irish is a deserving recipient of this award would be an understatement.

She is the epitome of all that the Giant In Our City Award was created to honor.

Civic engagement, service to the community and a love for our great state are all qualities that distinguish a successful individual from a one worthy to be counted as A Giant In Our City.

Honoring our newest Giant In Our City

Friday, May 14th, 2010

I’m looking forward to an historic evening this Thursday as we honor Bishop Carolyn Tanner Irish as a Giant In Our City.

Bishop Irish will be the 30th person honored by the Chamber Board of Governors as A Giant In Our City, and she will be the first woman.

The 29 previous recipients, as well as Bishop Irish, constitute a remarkable group of individuals who have been presented the most prestigious business award given in Utah for their success as business leaders and for something more.

Those who have been named as A Giant In Our City are more than just successful business people. Just in the past decade we’ve named Giants including Spencer Eccles, Mitt Romney, Don Cash, Nick Rose, President Gordon B. Hinckley, Jon M. Huntsman, James LeVoy Sorenson, Larry H. Miller, William H. Nelson, Ellis Ivory and Roger Boyer. Going through that list you can see these names are all synonymous with business leadership. They are also the business leaders who have made contributions to our community that transcend the ledger sheets of their organizations.

The work of A Giant In Our City is to make our community better, to improve lives and to help others succeed.

Bishop Irish is a perfect example of everything A Giant In Our City should be. As the chair of the board of directors at O.C. Tanner, she has overseen a remarkable business; as the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Utah she has served as a spiritual leader and greatly enhanced our community.

The Chamber is proud to honor Bishop Irish as A Giant In Our City. We’re looking forward to a wonderful event this week.