My family still lives on the small family farm in the Uinta Basin, where my parents taught in public schools and where my siblings and I were born and carefully nurtured and taught with kindness wisdom and love.
Like most Utahn’s past and present, my ancestors came to Utah seeking refuge among the Mountains.
I use all three of my names, as given to me by tradition, with my first name uniquely representing me and all that I stand for and do, my middle name reminding me of my mother’s heritage and my last name reminding me of my father’s heritage.
My Hamblin ancestors came here with the Latter-day Saint pioneers. My great uncle Jacob Hamblin spent his entire life here as an emissary negotiating peace between the resident tribes and the Latter-day Saints, as he traveled nearly every day on horseback throughout southern Utah and the surrounding states, often in harsh and dire conditions, meeting with Navajo, Hopi, Piute, and Havasupi. One of his nick names was “Peacemaker.” He was renowned for his honesty and integrity.
My Fetzer ancestors came here from Germany to join the Latter-day Saints. My grandfather and great grandfather were architects, working in the design of many buildings in Utah, including the Park Building at the top of President’s Circle at the University of Utah, the Eyring Chemistry building there, which I attended class in as a student, the Clark Law Building at BYU, and the historical Chapel at G-street and 1st Ave. They also designed and assisted in the design of temples for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. My grandfather, Henry Fetzer, and his brother, Emil, regaled me with marvelous stories of faith and miracles occurring during their work designing these temples.
My mother and father met when they were each attending the University of Utah, where they were both earning biology degrees with teaching certification.
My father taught at public elementary, middle and junior high schools in the nearby town of Roosevelt, Utah. My mother taught briefly, before dedicating her life to the rearing of myself, my three brothers and three sisters. She also played violin in local orchestras and volunteered many years with the Girl Scouts. Dad and Mom worked diligently for many years with the Boy and Cub Scouts, teaching scouting values, leading district camps. Their lives have been filled with instilling young boys and girls with hope in a world where they could make a difference.
I attended elementary in the little community of Neola, Utah, where dedicated public school teachers endeavored each day to teach us critical life skills, usually doing very well in their efforts. The librarian in that little country school was a kind wise mentor, who ensured that each child was safe and nurtured every day. Well written, superbly illustrated books in rhyme, which I found in that little school library, kindled the fire my parents had ignited within me of reading, writing and illustrating.
Life on the farm taught me the importance of fine work, the importance of self, family and neighbors to accomplish any task, great or small, and an appreciation for the fragility, resilience and beauty of nature.
I served with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on a mission in South Africa, where I saw the disparity of cultures at odds and the hope of that conflict being resolved, where I saw poverty and wealth, and the troubles inherent when resources and opportunities are not equally distributed, and hope in the youth in making the changes necessary for people to thrive together.
My hope in youth everywhere, to make wonderful changes for the better, is increased with each child I meet. I see their potential to evaluate present and past things, discarding old ideas which limited life and holding on to what is good, helpful and uplifting. I realize that some may discard the good and hold onto detrimental things, but I have hope that most will choose well if we take the time to teach them and learn from them.
Each generation has the opportunity and obligation to evaluate and critique the values and actions of their parents, then discard what is wrong and hold on to all that is good and true. Each generation has the opportunity and obligation to consider and learn from the evaluation and critique of their children, then give up what is needed and grasp what is grand and new.
With a biology degree from Utah State University, including three years at the University of Utah, I’ve studied birds in the Uinta Mountains, cactus and prairie dogs in the Uinta Basin, native fish in southeastern Utah, marbled murrelets in the Pacific Northwest and western sandpipers on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta in Alaska.
I have also studied the remote wildlands of Utah and worked to preserve them for future generations in ways which will allow all to partake of their beauty and wonder.
I appreciate that wise persons set aside for all people marvelous places such as Arches and Zion’s National Parks, keeping them from becoming secluded resorts and dwelling places for wealthy to reside behind fences. I appreciate the tremendous compromise and sacrifice of the locals who relinquished their exclusive use of these areas so that future generations could be inspired by God’s grand artistry and nature’s beautiful diversity.
Inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s, has redirected the course of my life in many ways. I appreciate modern medicine and the need for everyone to have access to it. The biologic, ustekinumab/Stelara which allows me to fully pursue life, is nearly $24,000 per shot! At one injection per month, the yearly cost is as much as $288,000. This, and so many necessary prescriptions are only available by limited charity programs with the pharmaceutical companies or insurance. The outrageous pricing of prescription drugs needs to be curtailed. Insurance, which is also ludicrously priced, needs to be eliminated, and replaced by a system which allows everyone equal access to healthcare. If we work together, I believe we can create such a system.
I write song-rhymes to teach, inspire and uplift children and families. I meticulously create them in precise rhyme, carefully teaching about animals and teaching life lessons. I create tunes for each song and illustrate them for children. I then place them on my website, lettersbylaird.com, where families can access them for free.
I comfort infants in the NICU at Primary Children’s Hospital, calming their fears as I sing my lullabies to them rocking them to sleep in my arms. These tiny infants with all their potential, so recently arrived from another realm, are the hope in what the future may hold. A future of love and kindness, if we will choose it.
It has been my observation in life that it is the inherent nature of everyone to care about and help each other. Anything otherwise has to be taught with lies that cause fear, hatred and violence. I see infants empathizing with each other’s cries and joining with each other’s smiles and laughter. I see kindergartners helping each other to learn, joining together in play, sympathizing with sadness and sorrow, delighting with each others accomplishments, filling the lives of all near them with kindness, charity, love and hope.
Wisdom is a choice. Wisdom is not just a consequence of age or experience. Some live an entire lifetime of experience and never acquire wisdom. Some arrive as infants already possessing great perspective and wonderful wisdom. I choose to constantly search for truth and the wisdom to apply it well.
In a world where both hatred and love exist, I prefer to promote love and kindness in all I do. Even in politics, a place great things are only accomplished through cloaked deception or decided compromise, I choose love and compassion to make the human connections to accomplish the great things.
Even at times when some choose to hate their neighbor, many still choose kindness. I choose kindness! And I, with the innocence of a child, and the wisdom of experience, still hope happiness for everyone today and each day.
As I campaign to become your US Senator, I often feel like “Mr Smith,” played by Jimmy Stewart in the classic film. “Mr Smith Goes To Washington.”