Guest blogger: Candice Backus
Nine years ago, when I was in 8th grade, the PTSA club I was a member of took a field trip to the State Capitol. At the time, the Capitol was undergoing renovations and the House was meeting in the basement of the west building. After meeting with our district’s representative, he introduced our group of students to Representative Becky Lockhart; she was pleasant and spoke with us about our organization and asked what our experience had been like for the day. I don’t remember many of the people from that day but hers is a face I remember in my memory.
Later, in 2010 I had the opportunity to intern as a senior in high school for my district’s representative. It happened to be the same year that Representative Becky Lockhart was sworn in as the first woman speaker of the Utah House of Representatives. I was there when she took her seat and dropped her gavel for the first time, clapping my hands with the rest of the gallery onlookers. At the age of 17, I remember thinking how incredibly cool it would be to be Speaker of the House.
I could see myself in that position-sitting at the front of the body of legislators and guiding policy that would be brought to the floor. Looking back, because Becky Lockhart was younger and a woman, I was able to identify with her and picture myself leading in a similar capacity in the legislature. It became a possibility in my own mind that someday I too could follow in the path she started.
In her opening remarks of the 2014 Legislative session, Speaker Lockhart said, “When I sought this post, I promised no ambition to be the most powerful Speaker in Utah history … just the most empowering.” Speaker Lockhart fulfilled that promise to a young Utah citizen, still unable to vote, in the moment she stepped up to the speaker podium and opened up doors that had been closed for years. Empowered by her example, I could see myself there.