Last week, the world watched in shock as a group of violent, angry people attacked the beating heart of our republic: the United States Capitol. It was a pathetic attempt — not supported by the vast majority of those disappointed by the election results — to disrupt the remarkable process established by our wise founders to ensure a peaceful transfer of power. At the Olene S. Walker Institute of Politics & Public Service at Weber State University, we call on all citizens to emulate the example of founders: those who build vs. destroy.
As Gilgamesh learned in ancient times, the path to immortality lies in founding a great city. His work was the foundation of the city of Uruk. You may know his name if you play Sid Meier’s game, “Civilization.” Gilgamesh is in that game because he founded an ancient city, demonstrating that at every point in history people make contributions that outlast them. We remember them because they created something that mattered, made the world a better place and continued to exist long after they were gone.
You may be able to name Alexander Hamilton only because you have heard of Lin Manuel Miranda’s hip hop musical. But that musical was written about him because, like Gilgamesh, Hamilton was a founder, alongside George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and many others. We remember Hamilton specifically this month because he was born on Jan. 11. He served America in the Revolutionary War and then served New York state in the Constitutional Convention, staying until the very end — even when New York recalled its delegation. Washington wrote that the Constitution was signed by “11 states and Colonel Hamilton.” Then Hamilton spent months writing essays to persuade people to ratify the Constitution and create a new nation. Now, 245 years after America declared its independence and 234 years after Hamilton signed the United States Constitution, we are living in the country he helped to make possible. We remember his name because America exists.
Utah became a state 125 years ago after decades of work by early Utahns to become part of the nation. We celebrated that anniversary on Statehood Day, Jan. 4. President Grover Cleveland signed the proclamation declaring Utah the 45th state, and 125 years later, we are here enjoying the benefits. Our lives are possible because those early pioneers and public servants sought to make the world a better place.
Weber State University, originally known as Weber Stake Academy, was also founded in January, back in 1889. Louis F. Moench was the first principal, hiring all the faculty and staff and organizing spaces for classes. His work made it possible for learning to happen, and Weber State has been serving the local community ever since. Now, 132 years later, we get to work with our students because of that educational space he created.
In 2012, Gov. Olene S. Walker founded the institute that bears her name. She wanted to foster community and public service. Gov. Walker, like Gilgamesh, Hamilton, Moench and all those early pioneers and patriots, understood that to achieve immortality one must create something that lasts. She passed away in 2015, but here we are still sending Walker interns to the state capitol, creating a robust, politically engaged campus and teaching our students ways to make their voices heard without resorting to the violence we saw last week at the Capitol. We remember Gov. Walker because, among other notable accomplishments, she founded a place for young people to learn about politics, and long after we are gone, her name will still be synonymous with political education and engagement.
As we get past the tragedy at the Capitol, think of the ideals originally espoused in our nation’s preamble to “secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.” Think of the work we do together as a community to solve problems that matter. The work we do to secure the blessings of our liberty for our posterity matters. We remember and celebrate Gilgamesh, Hamilton, Moench and Walker because they founded greatness.
This new year, we all must find ways to follow their examples.