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Under The Lights With Utah Gov. Gary Herbert

PROVO, Utah – As Utah embarks on a most unusual Independence Day weekend without parades, Stadium of Fire and other traditional celebrations, KSL-TV’s Dave McCann sat down in a very familiar place, LaVell Edwards Stadium, with Utah Gov. Gary Herbert to discuss these most unfamiliar times.

Dave: Do you remember where you were the first time you heard the word “coronavirus?”

Gov. Herbert: I probably saw it on television. Probably around February. It hadn’t come to Utah yet.

Dave: In your wildest dreams could you imagine what it was going to do to us?

Gov. Herbert: No. Absolutely no. Think about where we were in January and we had the best economy in America, the most diverse and healthy in America and we had just reached the all-time record low of unemployment at 2.3 percent, the lowest in state history. Things looked so rosy and healthy and optimistic then this pandemic sweeps into the country. By the end of March we are in a declared pandemic and the economy just dropped off the side of a cliff.

Dave: In the middle of that, George Floyd dies in Minneapolis and you have violent protests in your streets.

Gov. Herbert: We had a pandemic, protestors, economic free fall, fires. We’ve had a smorgasbord of challenges. 2020 is a year I was going to love.

Dave: This was going to be your victory lap?

Gov. Herbert: Well, at least my last dash to the finish line but it’s turned into be a real challenging time in Utah history. We’re gonna get through it, but it’s been a challenging year and it’s disrupted all of our lives. It’s just a unique time that nobody could have foretold.

Dave: Do you think COVID-19 played a role in the GOP Primary?

Gov. Herbert: I think it has from the standpoint that campaigns were different. I don’t know if it will change the outcome.

Dave: Do you think your lieutenant governor (Spencer Cox) can hang on to his lead into the weekend and next week? (Cox leads former Gov. John Huntsman, Jr. by approximately 12,000 votes with an estimated 50,000 ballots still to process.)

Gov. Herbert: We’ll have to wait and see for the votes to be counted, but it’s going to be a squeaker.

Dave: Do you feel good about it?

Gov. Herbert: I feel good that we’ve had a lot of participation in the state. We have to wait for the votes to come in and see what happens.

Dave: With so much discord an unrest in the country, how do we get through all of this stronger and better?

Gov. Herbert: We need to find ways to unite. I think we can unite around principles of freedom, liberty, equality under the law. We sometimes don’t communicate very well. It’s one of the biggest challenges in life. We sometimes talk past each other. We want lecture each other rather than listen. Whatever you are, be proud of it, but let’s be moderate in tone. If we listen and discuss with each other, 90 percent of the time we’ll come to the same conclusions going forward.

Dave: How do you balance emotions when you see Black Lives Matter and groups calling to defund the police and that they are the worst of all civil servants and a day later you are speaking at the funeral of an officer who was killed protecting the citizens that he served.

Gov. Herbert: It’s hard because you see the different ends of the spectrum. As I met with the Martin Luther King Commission at that same time and our multi-cultural commission, one thing we talked about was our lack of talking to each other. We sometimes don’t ask enough questions of why? Why do we have violence in the streets, particularly in the inner-cities? What is causing people to be impoverished? Is it racism? Is it the lack of education? Is it the lack of opportunity? The lack of initiative?

We should have those hard discussions in a respectful way to listen and to learn. We all have room for improvement. I think we can find out what the hurdles are that we have to overcome. I think people who feel like they have been discriminated against are sincere. Why are they feeling that way?

I remember when President Obama was elected who I consider a friend even though we disagree on policy but I think he’s a good man. And even though I didn’t support his election. I thought, what a great day for America. We finally have elected an African American to the highest office in the land and I enjoyed my association with the President and met with him on many occasions.

Dave: You and I have spent the last three July 3rds right here at LaVell Edwards Stadium. This year, the show is canceled and it’s just us here tonight. This is weird.

Gov. Herbert: It is weird. There is always so much excitement. It’s such a festival atmosphere.

Dave: Where do you go for your patriotism? Where did it come from?

Gov. Herbert: When I was five years old, my mom was single at the time and I was living with my grandma. She had a record player and a record that had Kate Smith singing “God Bless America” and the “Star-Spangled Banner.” I loved those songs! Something stirred inside me when I heard those songs.

Dave: I imagine your parents would tell you that you have done a good job?

Gov. Herbert: Well, I think so. When I first ran for county commissioner I called the family together and they supported me. Then I decided to run for Governor and my mother said to me, “Gary, do you think you can Governor?” She was a little skeptical. I told her, “If I can’t convince you I’m gonna have a hard time trying to convince the state.”

Dave: She came around?

Gov. Herbert: She came around and she was proud, but she was also more realistic about things. But it’s been a great run.

Dave: Do you think on September Third there will be a kickoff between BYU and Utah under these circumstances.

Gov. Herbert: I have tickets, if that means anything. Everybody hopes so.

Dave: If it were this week, you would probably say they wouldn’t be able to do it?

Gov. Herbert: It’s an iffy thing. As I’ve said before, with Covid 19, we have a great plan to get us through this pandemic and help re-open the economy. It’s already happening. But we have this spike and I think we’ve become complacent because of the success we had in the first few months. Now we have this surge. This plan will only work if all of us take on our own responsibility to do our part – wash our hands, have safe work environment, social distancing and wearing a mask.

Dave: If we want to see that football game, it will take two months of mask wearing?

Gov. Herbert: That’s right. It will help. I’m confident if everybody started wearing a mask and we do better contact tracing and we get testing better I think we can in two months get this turned around in two months dramatically and have a full football season and move into basketball season. We can do it if we will all follow these guidelines, we can have a sport season.

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