As we enter the summer months, it is natural for us to reflect on our freedoms and the beauty of this land we call home. Most people did not expect to spend 2020 confronting a pandemic, economic challenges, civic unrest, the restructuring of our social lives and a few earthquakes thrown in for good measure. The challenges associated with adversity can be troubling and even demoralizing. However, like a muscle that must first be broken down to become more powerful, adversity can also become a blessing. The exceptional challenges of 2020 can strengthen us — as individuals, families, communities and citizens of a nation whose birthday we celebrate this month.
Benjamin Franklin’s words carry greater meaning this year than perhaps in any other in recent history. When asked by Elizabeth Willing Powel what kind of government the Founders had given us in 1787, following their summer-long private meetings to frame the Constitution, he famously answered: “A republic, if you can keep it.” Though known as an optimist, Franklin was also a realist, and at 81 years of age, he recognized that there would be adversity, that it would be necessary for the new nation to grow and thrive. He also knew that personal responsibility would be key to its success.
In many ways, our world has changed this year. The challenges we confront are not necessarily greater than they were during the Civil War, World War I, the Great Depression, and World War II. They don’t bring the possibility of imminent destruction presented by the Cold War. If our history in dealing with adversity teaches us anything, it is that all of our current challenges can be overcome. The real question is whether or not we will have the resolve and action to turn those current adversities into strength. Do we have the collective will as a nation to rise above divisive politics and self-interest to embrace the responsibilities of Liberty?
I believe we do. And in a very pragmatic way, I believe we can showcase those responsibilities doing the things within our power to overcome the effects of the pandemic that is influencing everything from our economic well-being, to political rancor, to our national conversation about equality and social justice — a conversation that would be easier to have with a strong economy marked by job creation and financial security.
So we begin with the things we can control. We can exercise responsibility within our personal spheres of influence. For example, recent spikes in COVID-19 cases raise legitimate alarms, and business leaders throughout Utah can be examples of responsible action, along with their employees and community leaders. Toward this end, the Salt Lake Chamber has officially launched the “Stay Safe to Stay Open” campaign.
The health imperative will rise or fall on our collective efforts to protect each other and look out for our neighbors, and we can have a powerfully positive influence not only through our example, but by educating employees and inculcating best practices at work that will inform our clients and customers and carry over into society. We encourage you to participate in Stay Safe to Stay Open. Take the pledge and share it with employees. Post the campaign signage in your windows, on your tables and counters. Let your consumers know how they can participate with you by abiding the seven simple practices that are a part of the pledge:
- Conduct temperature checks before work and stay home when sick.
- Wash hands frequently and avoid touching the face and eyes.
- Practice social distancing including wearing face coverings in close common areas.
- Learn about high-risk groups and help protect them.
- Cover mouths when coughing or sneezing.
- Clean high touch surfaces frequently.
- Follow public health guidance as updated.
These practices demonstrate our collective responsibility to maintain the freedom of commerce and business as we engage with one another. They are something each of us can do immediately, small changes in behavior that will go a long way toward protecting one another and ensuring our economy does not need to revert back to measures that threaten our economic well-being.
For a republic of freedom-loving citizens to succeed, Franklin understood that its citizens must give more than they take as part of an unwritten social contract, or what I call deference to the unenforceable. Within that spirit, the “Stay Safe to Stay Home” campaign and pledge are available to each of us. We have the ability to engage, interact and celebrate our land, and I remain optimistic about our economic and collective health, particularly if during this season when we celebrate independence we reflect on the reasons for that freedom and the responsibilities it requires.