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Guest opinion: Let’s tell more of Utah’s story with a new state flag

By Rep. Steve Handy - Special to the Standard-Examiner | Jun 11, 2022

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Rep. Steve Handy

This year, Utahns have a perfect opportunity to celebrate Flag Day on Tuesday. We can mark the holiday with Utah style — by generating enthusiasm for a design of a new Utah State Flag that we can all celebrate.

As a lawmaker attending meetings and sessions in the Utah State Capitol, I have often admired the terrazzo mosaic of the Utah seal that’s embedded in the floor of the Hall of Governors. As a fifth-generation Utahn, I appreciate the history of our current state flag, which features that seal on a royal blue background.

But for the past couple of years, I’ve been thinking about how a new state flag — with a simpler, more impactful design — might better represent Utah. This idea was sparked by several young people in my district when they asked what I thought about our flag. I told them I hadn’t spent much time thinking about it. They said I should.

I’ve come to realize, simply, our current state flag isn’t very distinctive. It looks like a lot of other state flags with seals set on blue backgrounds. And even while we celebrate the history of the flag that has flown over the Utah State Capitol since 1913, it’s significant to remember how it was adopted. The Utah governor adopted a flag in a rush before an event.

The state’s leader had too many other things to organize and accomplish to stop and take the time to talk to Utahns about what should represent them on the flag.

Utah has embraced a lot of changes to our population and economy over our state’s history. That’s why it makes sense to take the time now to have a conversation about who we are now, and what symbols might represent more of the state’s distinctive people.

That’s the background about why the Utah State Flag Task Force launched the More Than A Flag statewide initiative in January. With this effort, we aimed to have a statewide conversation. We reached out to students and library patrons, to cultural organizations and nonprofits, to business and tourism organizations, to the state’s eight sovereign Tribal governments and more.

By the end of April, the task force had received more than 5,000 digital design submissions. In the mail, we also received more than a thousand additional designs drawn by school kids.

This nonpartisan effort has crossed the political aisle, uniting lawmakers on the task force — and residents — from both parties. We’re particularly proud to have received flag design submissions from every county in Utah.

In the next phase of the process, we’re asking volunteers on our Design Review Subcommittee to look through the submissions and narrow them down through a thoughtful process to a group of top candidates. We’ll ask Utah residents to stay involved by visiting flag.utah.gov and providing feedback when those designs are posted on the website in August.

The final three designs will be sent to the Task Force with a top choice going to the Utah Legislature and the governor for approval.

We understand the loyalty some of our neighbors and friends feel toward the current flag. But this national holiday commemorating Old Glory gives Utahns an opportunity to think about our shared identity. It’s a chance to talk about a flag that would represent how Utah has changed over the years — and how we’re continuing to change. And that’s something to truly celebrate.

Steve Handy represents Utah Legislative District 16, which includes Layton, Clearfield and the Hill Air Force Base. After serving for eight years on the Layton City Council, he was appointed to the Legislature in 2010 and has been reelected five times. In the 2020 Utah legislative session, he was a co-sponsor of H.B. 250, which established the Utah State Flag Task Force.


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