The United States finds itself at a crossroads of hate and terror, and it’s up to Americans to stand together and support one another, Utah Lt. Governor Spencer Cox said during a vigil Monday night in Salt Lake City to honor the victims of the Orlando shooting, according to a transcript of his speech on Medium.com.
“Today, we need fewer Republicans and fewer Democrats,” he said. “Today, we need more Americans.”
Cox, a Mormon who described himself to the crowd as a “balding, youngish, middle-aged straight, white, male, Republican politician,” said he recognized the privilege that comes with those titles, and that he may not be the person many expected to hear from at the vigil.
“I’m here because, yesterday morning, 49 Americans were brutally murdered. And it made me sad. And it made me angry. And it made me confused. I’m here because those 49 people were gay. I’m here because it shouldn’t matter. But I’m here because it does,” he said.
Cox recounted growing up in rural Utah and recognizing that some of his classmates were “different.” He later realized they were gay, and he apologized for “not treating them with the kindness, dignity, and respect — the love — that they deserved.”
He said his heart changed because of the kindness the LGBTQ community showed him, even when he wasn’t deserving.
He addressed the straight community, asking them first how they felt when they learned 49 people were gunned down in an act of hate and terrorism. And then he asked how they felt when they found out that it happened at a gay dance club at 2 a.m.
“If that feeling changed, then we are doing something wrong,” he said.
He called on people to put aside their political differences and unite on a personal level.
“And so may we leave today with a resolve to be a little kinder. May we try to listen more and talk less. May we forgive someone that has wronged us. And perhaps, most importantly, try to love someone that is different than us,” he said. “For my straight friends, might I suggest starting with someone who is gay.”
Read Cox’s full remarks and watch a video of the entire vigil on Medium.com.
Sheena McFarland has worked in the communication field for more than a decade. She currently is a communications specialist for The University of Utah David Eccles School of Business, telling the stories of students, faculty and staff through traditional and new media. She continues to freelance for The Salt Lake Tribune, where she was a reporter and editor, covering topics ranging from education to government to astronomy. She graduated from the University of Utah with a communication degree and minors in French and biology teaching.