Editor’s Note: Members of the Salt Lake Chamber are visiting Washington, D.C., this week to interact with and learn from key thought leaders in our nation’s capital. Vice President for Business and Community Relations Ryan Evans is writing a three-day travelogue to share activities with other Chamber members. Learn more about the Chamber’s DC visit at www.slchamber.com/dc.
The final day of meetings in DC was a shortened day for travel purposes, but the content packed into it was outstanding.
Over breakfast, Senator Orrin Hatch spent time interacting with the group. He chose not to give a formal presentation but rather spend time with each person getting to know them and their company a bit better. Ultimately, Senator Hatch was gracious enough to talk a bit about the political landscape in DC, the fiscal cliff, his role on the Finance Committee, the aerospace industry and the elections.
Our first actual presenter of the day was William Kristol, founder and editor of The Weekly Standard and a regular political commentator on the Fox News Channel. Kristol engaged the group with a blunt discussion on partisanship, lack of action in DC, the elections and the economy. He maintains that instability is a huge issue, both at home and around the world and makes governing that much harder for politicians right now. The slow recovery of the economy and the attitude to wait for action on policy issues until after the election is a growing concern amongst Americans. He left us with a comment that was a breath of fresh air coming from a Washington analyst. He said, “I’m constantly impressed how strong our country is. We’ve overcome great adversity and challenges over the last several years where many others may have let conditions spiral out of control.”
The group then heard from Bruce Josten, executive vice president for Government Affairs, the second ranking officer at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the organization’s senior government and political affairs executive. Bruce talked about the current issues on the hill, including partisan politics, sequestration, Medicare reform, the economy and the how the elections will impact business. Josten commented that there is more polarization in DC now than there ever has been in his lifetime. The two parties are missing the fact that the views of Americans in general are as divided and polarized as Congress is, yet the middle becomes more and more disenfranchised.
The final speaker of the trip was former Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt. Leavitt, the chairman of Leavitt Partners and is also heading up Gov. Mitt Romney’s Readiness Project. Leavitt gave the group an intimate look at the preparations that go into planning a new administration. We all marveled at the thought that a Utahn was leading this effort. Each person in our group felt honored to have had him speak with us given the workload on his plate. The respect of our delegation for this man was tremendous and a statement made by one of our business leaders sums up the feeling in the room very well, “Gov. Leavitt is a great source of pride for Utahns and we were very fortunate to have him meet with us today.”
All in all, our annual Washington DC trip was a great experience. Many in our group of business leaders said this was the best trip they had been on with the Chamber, pledging that they will be back again next year. The meetings, tours, and meals were great but without a doubt, the relationships made and developed while on this trip were the most important and lasting benefit.