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Matheson predicts good days ahead for the country
by Becky Ginos
Nov 24, 2017 | 760 views | 0 0 comments | 47 47 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Boyd Matheson president of the Sutherland Institute speaks at a recent United Women’s Forum meeting.
Boyd Matheson president of the Sutherland Institute speaks at a recent United Women’s Forum meeting.

BOUNTIFUL—Americans must shape the conversation if they expect to see a change in the country. That was the focus of keynote speaker Boyd Matheson, president of the Sutherland Institute at a recent United Women’s Forum meeting.

Matheson also served as Sen. Mike Lee’s chief of staff for four years. “I was shocked when I went back to Washington,” he said. “Most of the battles are not Democrats against Republicans, it’s people in power. The problem is as long as they can convince us we’re too divided it allows Congress to do nothing. We could solve the immigration problem on the floor of the Senate and House. If Disney knows where you are for three days in the park – we can figure something out.”

Citizens have been conditioned to respond positively to negative based issues, he said. “It’s like the instructions on a shampoo bottle – lather, rinse, repeat. People in power get everyone riled up so they can get a nice money contribution,” said Matheson. “We’re just shouting talking points. There are a host of uncomfortable conversations we need to get comfortable with like opioid abuse and homelessness.”

Congress voted against having a Mother’s Day 20 times, said Matheson. “A sweet lady from West Virginia wanted it to honor her mother but she finally gave up and went home. She got it passed in West Virginia then went to every state,” he said. “Then Congress boldly declared ‘We will have Mother’s Day.’ Sixty times they voted against the National Anthem.”

It’s the community and culture that lead. “Politicians will fall,” said Matheson. “The real work happens right here. A year ago we had an election. In the week leading up to it I had 17 interview requests about why Utah was rejecting both candidates. We took them to Welfare Square, BYU and into the business community. One woman said, ‘They’ve got it all, jobs, growth, opportunity, strong families and community groups. They’re not dependent on Washington.’”

Utah is a laboratory of democracy, he continued. “They can see what it really looks like here. I’m confident we can lead the country and the world. We’re upwardly mobile. Someone born into poverty has a better chance to move up in Utah.”

Anger, fear and frustration seem to be the mantra out there, said Matheson. “A vision of what we want out of our country needs to start in the home,” he said. “We need to have good policy, not politics. We’re so worried about politics we’re not starting from the principal conversation. It’s OK to disagree. Our country has always had big ideas and roiling debate – that’s good. But we can’t allow it to become divisive rhetoric to get things done.”

Matheson said the country needs to engage in a different kind of conversation. “Contempt is a problem in our country,” he said. “There’s a belief in the utter worthlessness of another person. If I can convince you you’re worthless I can blow you up on Facebook or Twitter and I can sleep at night because you’re worthless. That’s not who we are as a nation.”

A woman called into his office one day and started screaming at him over Bears Ears, he said. “She was ballistic about them building a golf course on it,” said Matheson. “I’m thinking, ‘where’s this coming from?’ She had mastered the art of circular breathing because she didn’t take a breath. She’d heard it from somewhere and believed it through confirmation bias. How often do we allow our own confirmation bias to not allow a higher conversation?”

The challenge today is figuring out what your space is, he said. “You shouldn’t let anybody frame the conversation for our country. The greatness of America has nothing to do with Washington, D.C. It’s an overworked teacher who stays late to help students. It’s standing up to a bully. It’s people and the community that makes this country great.”

Matheson said there are good days ahead for the country. “We have to do it for our children and our children’s children,” he said. “They’re counting on us. We need more shoulder squaring than shoulder shrugging. There are no small parts for players – everybody matters.”

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