Sunday, November 29, 2015

Utah's first woman Governor Dies

Olene S. Walker, Utah's first ever female governor, has died at age 85. Walker had served for 11 years. In office, Walker focused her agenda on education and even created a institute to help students with public service career training(  Olene S. Walker Institute of Politics and Public Service  click this link to find out more) Although Walker was a Republican, she disagreed with fellow Republicans on many issues, including those relating to schools and education. For example, Walker vetoed a bill about vouchers for private schools because she was opposed to cutting spending for public schools. Walker also created a housing loan fund program for people with low incomes, something somewhat uncharacteristic of a republican.

Additionally, Walker created the Read with a Child Early Literacy Initiative which encouraged parents to read for 20 minutes a day with their children. Aside from education, Walker was also passionate about preserving the wildlife of Utah.

As the first woman to serve as a Utah governor, Walker was described with the quote "Wherever she went, she broke down barriers so future generations could follow her lead." Additionally, Walker was known for collaborating with other parties in office, rather than arguing with them. Someone even stated that "When the legislative process was breaking down on a bill, I often asked Olene to walk upstairs to the Legislature and see what she could do. Inevitably, when she came back, the problem was solved."

Although this story may have sounded somewhat like an obituary, I think there are definitely interesting things to take note of about Walker's career. 

Do you think it is important for one to stick strongly to their party's ideals? Or is it ideal for politicians to take Walker's approach and not be afraid to differ in opinion with your party?

Why do you think it took Utah, and so many other states, so long to have a woman governor? 

Do you think Walker's legacy will influence the politics in Utah for a long time?



Jeffrey Song said...

Regarding your first question, I think that politicians in general should lean with their party on most issues, especially concerning those that they aren't that informed or feel strongly about, but they should also have a certain degree of independence as well to ensure that they are doing what's best for their constituents specifically (as is their job's purpose) rather than what is good for the party as a whole (even though those two goals may coincide more often than not). This is kind of what we have in Congress already liked we talked about in class: there's logrolling and other similar behavior in which politicians may not vote their conscience or the way they feel because of some external factor such as party pressure or securing a vote from someone else for a future issue. Ultimately, I don't either extremity is efficient or smart; there's definitely a delicate balance that needs to be struck for the system to function ideally for the constituents' benefits.

Your second question is rather simply answered I think by the issue of gender inequality. Just as we haven't had a female U.S president to date, (though there is a strong possibility of that changing in the near future), many important political positions have long been occupied by men simply because of the gender divide in the country. It's not that women are incompetent or not fit for the positions, it's simply that they are perceived by some of the public as being such and thus have been less likely to get voted into office.

Finally, I do think that Walker's legacy will influence politics in Utah, just as most governor's policies affect their home states even after their deaths. It may not have a significant impact persay, but her efforts and contributions to the state will definitely be felt when the next governor comes in. By your wording of a "long time", I'm not sure how long you mean, but I suppose it would be however long the legislation and policies she's established will last.

Jessica Yeh said...

I partially agree with Jeffrey on the first question; politicians do have an obligation to lean with their party, but I think this applies much more to, for example, Congress (and especially the House). In Congress, voting along party lines is crucial as it takes a combined effort and combined votes to pass or vote against a bill. However, when it comes to a politician's role as a governor, there is more freedom to independently make decisions and not be limited by constrains of overall party opinion, and this can be good for constituents. Even if the majority of voters in Utah are Republican, many do not have views that completely align with the overall Republican Party's, so by making not-so-Republican decisions, this could potentially align with both the governor's (like Walker) and the constituents' views more.

Christopher Duan said...
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Alton Olson said...

Responding to Jeffrey's comment, I think the presence of women in politics will continue to increase over time. In terms of generations, it's only been about 3 generations since women's suffrage was passed at a national level. That's not a lot of time for massive cultural change, especially after centuries of the role of women being to take care of children and stay in the home. Of course, even though we haven't had a woman as president yet, many female politicians occupying high-up positions exist, like Walker, Feinstein, Boxer, Pelosi, Clinton, etc.