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Governor Cox Visits MHS

May 15, 2023 08:17AM ● By Gwen Romero

Gov. Spencer Cox speaks to students at Morgan High on Monday. Cox talked about his concerns for the state and aspirations for the future. Courtesy photo

Governor Spencer Cox visited with Morgan High School students and local leaders on Monday to share his concerns for the state, aspirations for the future of Utah, and achievements during his administration.

Opening his address to the student body, Cox recounted growing up in Fairview, a community in North Sanpete, and joked that "You guys always beat us" when it came to sports. 

He also addressed several of his priority concerns for teens, including suicide prevention, mental health, and the impacts of social media. Cox recently signed legislation restricting access to social media for teens. He continued by outlining positive steps the state is taking to support education by increasing funding overall and teacher compensation specifically, emphasizing that teaching is a profession that he hopes more students will pursue.

He then shifted gears to focus on how people can solve problems together. As an example, he celebrated the "people who came before us [who] understood there would be drought cycles" and designed our reservoir system and that Utahns have conserved almost twenty billion gallons of water over the past two years. Together, "we're surviving and thriving", Cox said.

Cox then invited five MHS students to join him onstage for a Q&A segment. Senior Hannah Cantrall asked the Governor what programs he would prioritize if budget limits were not an issue. He responded with his desire to focus more on education, acknowledging that while Utah is forty-ninth in per pupil spending and has tax revenue limits because seventy percent of Utah lands are controlled by the Federal Government, "We do more with less than any other state in the nation" and commending Utah's teachers, students, and parents.

Senior Ben Poll referenced President Washington's warning about partisanship in his farewell speech, then asked the Governor how he has created unity in a divided world. Cox reasserted steps that he and the Legislature have taken to address the negative influence of social media, emphasizing that social media is "designed to tear us apart", how easy it is to attack people anonymously online, and the need for people to have healthy disagreements and to work together to solve problems.

Cox then turned the table on the students, asking them what they like most and least about school. While Poll had high praise for the chicken entries at lunch, the consensus was in favor of the social aspects and experiences at school with concern for stress and student burnout. 

Cox followed up by asking the students what they worry about and how they would describe our country right now. They replied with a range of issues from social media, global warming, national debt, and the need to do more than recognize when there is a problem, that there needs to be action. They described the country as "confused", "unresolved", "feuding", "learning", and "in the process of healing".

From this point, the Governor segued to a couple of recent surveys in which U.S. citizens described the nation as "divided", "chaotic", and "weak", while they themselves feel "frustrated", "disappointed", and "exhausted".

Here, Cox pivoted to a more positive message that "there is hope out there." Those same surveys found that seventy percent of Americans want us to be less divided. He sees this as an opportunity for us to return to healthy conflict, in which people can disagree, have discourse, and work together to find solutions to the problems we face. He asserted that we don't change minds by attacking people but by learning to "listen with concern and understanding".

He also said that he sees Utah as a place of opportunities, where businesses can thrive. He cited a recently published study on Wallet Hub that found four of the top five "best small cities for starting a business" in the Beehive state; the State placed second overall for best states to start a business.

Cox ended his remarks by returning to George Washington to reassert that we are "Americans first; partisans second" and that "There are problems in our society but they can be solved.

After Cox's remarks, he stayed to meet and take photos with students.

Cox spent time before the school-wide assembly meeting with student leaders, school board members, and district administration.

School board members also attended the assembly, along with Utah State Representative Kera Birkeland, Superintendent Jacobs, incoming superintendent Andy Jensen, various Community Council members, and a few parents.λ

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