The former Salt Lake City mayor has a pronounced mission to bring about the sort of change he longs for in our country, and this is an endeavor which he pursues with a passion.
From being a tireless legal and social activist for those who might otherwise go unrepresented to serving as the most prominent elected official in one of the American West’s emerging metropolises to his current run for president, it seems that he has left few — if any — stones unturned.
What, exactly, inspired him to do lead such an incredibly demanding life?
Joseph F. Cotto: Now that our discussion is at its end, many readers are probably wondering how you not only came to be the mayor of Salt Lake City, but an outspoken activist for civil justice. What in your life led to such achievements?
Mayor Rocky Anderson: I have been motivated for as long as I remember to do what I can to protect against abuses of vulnerable people by powerful forces. Probably through lessons taught to me in Sunday School, by my parents, and by great teachers, I developed a passionate sense of justice — a sense that those of us who had extraordinary opportunities have an obligation to help those who have not. I also strongly believe in the rule of law — that no one is above the law, regardless of how rich or powerful he or she is.
Upon reflection, there are two principles, which are common to almost all religions and humanistic traditions, that have guided me: The Golden Rule, urging that we treat each other as we would want to be treated. And the concept that however we treat “the least of those among us” (e.g. prisoners, the hungry, the poor), that is how we treat Jesus. I am quite agnostic in my religious beliefs, honoring and in awe of the mysteries of it all, but regardless of the nature of Jesus, the concept that we should honor every person, including “the least among us,” in the same way as we would a holy figure has been a powerful influence in my life. (I don’t often talk about this, but I opened my home to a recently-released prisoner and, later, to a homeless man. They both ended up in prison some time later, but, as I told my son, at least we did what we could and should have done under the circumstances.) I try to incorporate my private values in my public service and vice versa.
Also contributing to my achievements is a work ethic driven by a sense that we can accomplish great things if we are committed and tenacious. I learned to work around people who did hard manual labor and came to value the rewards from that work. I built roof trusses, loaded lumber, delivered extremely heavy cabinets, shingled houses, drove cab, tended bar, waited tables, worked at a methadone clinic, and built buck fence at a ranch. I approached my work as a lawyer, as a community activist, as mayor, as Executive Director of a non-profit organization, and now as a candidate with the same commitment to quality and hard work.
There you have it.
While I, as any semi-regular reader of this column can probably tell, do not agree with most of Mayor Anderson’s political views, his walking the walk — rather than simply talking the talk — is commendable and worthy of tremendous respect.
Anderson’s deeply held and practiced convictions are, if nothing else, a rarity in today’s ever-devolving political circus. I strongly believe that history will judge him as one of the early 21st century’s few public servants of note.
The fact that he is so alone in this category is very telling of where we as a nation have come to.
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