Spike 150 - 21

Two men pretend to hit a copper spike during the Spike 150 on Friday, May 10, 2019, at the Golden Spike National Historical Park in Promontory Summit. Spike 150 was held to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad.

Utah has had the honor of hosting the sesquicentennial celebrations this week remembering the historic feat of completing the transcontinental railroad.

There has been no shortage of events, from those held Friday at the newly designated Golden Spike National Historical Park in Box Elder County, to the Heritage Festival 150th Anniversary in Ogden, to other events in surrounding Northern Utah cities.

Our community, bolstered in the 1800s and early 1900s by the railroad, has an immense amount of history intertwined with the industry and all that it brought. 

As said in a column in the Standard-Examiner's 150th Anniversary of the Golden Spike magazine by Weber State University Special Collections curator Sarah Singh, Ogden would not be Ogden without the railroad.

In 2019, we've had the opportunity to remember and honor those who made sacrifices for this immense 19th century infrastructure development who in the past 150 years had been intentionally overlooked. 

Our community has learned more about the Chinese railroad workers who labored under unfair conditions, but persisted nonetheless, to complete this marvelous challenge that forever connected the United States, from coast to coast. While we have failed in the past to give credit where it was due, we have confidence that the future will memorialize their stories. 

Of course, the Chinese railroad workers were not the only labor: Native Americans, Irish immigrants, Mormon settlers, and blacks (many of which were former slaves) contributed to the great sacrifice of constructing the transcontinental railroad during a tumultuous period of U.S. history.

There is much to gain from studying the stories and legacy surrounding the wedding of the rails, and it is not all history.

During Friday's ceremonies at Promontory Summit, both state and national leaders reiterated a mindset in 1969 that we can learn from today in 2019.

Read on one of the spikes by Union Pacific CEO Lance Fritz was the prayer, "May God continue to unite this country as this railroad unites the two great oceans of the world."

The wise words beg how we can unite together in our communities despite differences in political ideologies, race or religion, like the diverse craftsmen that built the transcontinental railroad. 

"It is a reminder of our awesome responsibility as stewards to continue to build this great nation and this great state," Fritz said.

Americans today have much to learn from those in 1869; they persevered despite great difficulties and differences, and not at all because it was simple or easy. But when they came together, they created something amazing that changed the landscape of the U.S. and world forever by connecting people.

Like the railroad connected and unified the people from the east to the west, in our current era of political divisiveness we must find ways to connect with one another. Forging connections with those that are different from us is the only way we will be able to unite to solve our greatest issues: health care, immigration, future transportation, addiction.

Solutions to these issues may seem far out of reach or even impossible, as voters and politicians increasingly view talking across the aisle as traitorous. But the longest lasting policies and landmarks of history exist because our ancestors delivered. They transcended tumult, as keynote speaker Jon Meacham said Friday. Refusing to connect based on any sort of label will surely produce a divided community and divided nation. We cannot transcend our differences and connect if we continue to embrace broad stereotypes, be it based on the labels of Republican or Democrat; Muslim, LDS or atheist; baby boomer or millennial. 

Celebrating the 150th anniversary of the driving of the Golden Spike is all about honoring big ideas and big dreams.

So, we urge Utah's public servants, politicians, business leaders and residents to dream big. Are compromises difficult? Yes. Are projects solving critical issues, involving people with diverse perspectives, easy? No. But as the people in 1869 showed us, it's worth doing; 150 years from now will our descendants celebrate what we build?

See what people are talking about at The Community Table!