Initiative Aims for Civility

UCCC Urges Compassion and Widespread Adoption of Golden Rule

The Golden Rule says we should treat others as we want to be treated.

But in a society full of polarizing political views, combative religious differences and heated social media soapboxes, the basic tenants of the Golden Rule have been lost. The Utah Civil and Compassionate Communities initiative hopes to bring it back by encouraging Utahns to be more welcoming, inclusive and caring of others.

By Amelia Nielson-Stowell


“We need to create more civility and compassion in our civic and public spaces,” says John Kesler, a Salt Lake City attorney. Kesler founded the UCCC as a nonprofit in 2011 after helping organize a similar undertaking for students at Utah’s schools, called the Utah 3R’s Project. It encouraged kids to follow the three “R’s” when dealing with their peers: rights, responsibilities and respect. The tolerance-promoting project was eventually adopted by the state Office of Education.

“After years of doing that, we thought, ‘What if we challenged the adult community to start behaving like they want their children to behave?’” Kesler adds.

Kesler relaunched UCCC in 2015, with the support of co-chairs Utah’s Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams and Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski.


‘My Heart Has Changed’

Cox made headlines this summer after the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, where 49 people were murdered. During a candlelight vigil in Salt Lake City, Cox said he “sincerely and humbly apologized” for the way he treated gay classmates while growing up in rural Utah, adding “my heart has changed.”

Cox’s speech garnered national attention. California’s Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom said it is “exactly what we need more of in our world and politics.”


Helping Those in Need

The initiative is incredibly important for Salt Lake County, McAdams says. The county is the largest and most diverse in the state, with nearly 15 percent of residents claiming a race other than white. And though the area rules national polls in terms of residents with religious affiliations, barely half of the county population identifies itself as Latter-day Saint, the dominant religion in Utah.

The county has committed to various compassionate causes like minimizing homelessness, providing access to high-quality preschool for low-income children and supporting elderly residents who want to remain in their homes as they age, McAdams adds.

“Showing compassion for those in need contributes to building a healthy community for everyone in the county,” he says.

In September, UCCC will host its first Citizens Summit, an event to highlight the nonpartisan collaborative approaches in the state. UCCC will also award individuals and groups who have been examples of contributing to an uplifting community.

“Civility and compassion are directly linked to human happiness and flourishing,” Kesler says. “They create a richer, more vibrant community. And everybody recognizes we need to work on that.”

For more information on UCCC, email Kesler at