September 29, 2013 – During our Sunday worship these past several Sunday School sessions, we’ve been studying the history of our church. Two weeks ago, the subject was the Latter-day Saints entry into the Salt Lake Valley in July 1847. Last week, we talked about the saints who, in October 1856, left to rescue the two handcart companies stranded on the Wyoming plains during an early-season snowstorm. And today we talked about how, in the words of the prophet from ancient Israel in Isaiah 35:1, “The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose.”
These lessons have spoken to us in our circumstances right now. In the 25 years of my career in journalism, law and technology, Utah was the last place that I expected we would locate ourselves. And yet, early last month, my family and I, and our dog Pokey, packed up and made our own Great Trek back to the land of my ancestors.
We spent the last three and a half years of our lives in Springfield, Illinois. There, I had a wonderful opportunity to lead a state effort designed to enhance the role of technology’s power to make an impact in people’s lives. I believe in Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn’s personal motto, “everybody in, and nobody left out.” At Broadband Illinois, we helped unite the Land of Lincoln around a vision of Better Broadband, Better Lives. Illinois’ State Broadband Initiative became the national model for public-private collaboration — providing the tools that citizens, communities and businesses need to get online and to get more out of their internet use.
Having lived in Washington for most of my professional career, the opportunity to get outside of the beltway was important for our progress. Although I’ve commuted back to Washington to participate in our monthly Broadband Breakfast Club discussions, it has been a real plus for my family to be outside the pressure cooker of McLean, Virginia.
So when the time came to move from Springfield, what attracted my family and I to Utah? It may well be that this desert, having blossomed as the rose, speaks still to our people. When we visited the Provo/Orem area four year ago, this area seemed provincial compared to Washington. More recent visits during ski vacations have left us marveling at the vibrancy and economic growth of the Utah — consistently one of the fastest-growing states in the country.
From the day we arrived, we have been blessed. We now have a comfortable house in Orem, Utah, where a wonderful view of Mount Timpanogos and Mount Cascade greets us upon stepping out of our front door. There are mountain trails for running, hiking and bicycling, and soon, skiing. For nearly a full week upon our arrival, our neighbors — who make up our local congregation — brought food, bread and peaches as welcoming gifts. For the first time in our lives, we can walk a block and a half to our local church.
We’ve also been so impressed by the educational opportunities here. We feel that each of our children have what they need to challenge themselves academically. How vital it is that charter schools here provide a competitive alternative to public schools!
And as for my efforts in offering consulting services around broadband internet services, I’m finding that the Salt Lake Valley is an excellent place from which to operate. I’ve already begun a new webinar series. This collection of Broadband Breakfast Club Virtual Events kicked off last week with an event on advancing Gigabit Networks through high-bandwidth applications. (Our next event is October 15.) The Salt Lake and Utah Valleys are home to two significant fiber-optic networks, the iProvo network recently purchased by Google, and UTOPIA, the Utah Telecommunications Open Internet Agency. I’ll continue to expand on my work nation-wide in promoting broadband from Salt Lake, from Chicago, from Washington, D.C., and elsewhere.
Also, earlier this month, I began an additional engagement: working as Senior Contributing Editor for Deseret News. The newspaper is the oldest publication in the Salt Lake Valley, having launched on June 15, 1850, and is rapidly remaking itself for the digital age. In fact, last week we launched national.deseretnews.com, which fills a void in the American media landscape through rigorous journalism on core issues of interest to many Americans: the state of the family, how faith is lived, education opportunity, financial responsibility, care for the poor, and the culture of media. I’m enjoying the opportunity to combine my journalistic, legal and technological skills in working with the Deseret News, and I invite each of you to begin following it more closely.