An inside look at the rally
on Capitol Hill
AN INVESTMENT: Jackson Olsen addresses the crowd
from the Capitol steps. / Photo by Megan Wiseman
Editor's note: Jackson Olsen is student body vice
president and government relations director at Utah
By Jackson Olsen
February 2, 2009 | SALT LAKE CITY -- By the time 10:30
finally rolled around, I was still missing all of my
five speakers. By this time I had already done four
interviews with different media outlets and more than
400 students had gathered on the steps of the State
Capitol. The masses were getting restless and my heart
rate was quickening.
Thank God the weather was nice.
Finally, at 10:32 a.m., state Rep. Jack Draxler from
North Logan arrived, and the show was under way. The
sun beamed down on the south steps of the Capitol, as
the students responded to the preachers at the pulpit:
"We know that higher education is one of the most
valuable things we can invest in for this state, and
that's why we're here today," I said to supporting cheers.
"You're doing the right thing, and you're doing it
the right way," proclaimed Draxler.
"Students are the solution, not the problem. Your
education is an investment, not a cost," added Snow
College President and former state legislator Scott
We three were only half the show. We were joined by
state Reps. Brian King, Christine Johnson, David Litvack
and state Sen. John Valentine. All the remarks shared
by the speakers focused on the long-term impacts the
proposed budget cuts would have on the state.
What followed after the speeches could best be compared
to the clogged security line at O'Hare International.
The nearly 500 students made their way into the building,
up three flights of stairs and into the viewing balconies
of the House and Senate chambers, clogging the hallways
as they went. The moving was slow, but the impact was
undeniable. When both viewing balconies were full to
capacity, hundreds of students remained in the halls
unable to be seated. Even without the official recognitions
that took place on the floors of both the House and
Senate, every legislator knew we were there.
While I answered questions for The Standard-Examiner,
I saw a number of students meeting with their legislators.
State Rep. Sheryl Allen from Bountiful met with just
a handful of students from her district while state
Rep. Bradley Winn from Ephraim met with a busload of
students who had driven up to represent Snow College.
Many students told me before or after the event that
this was their first experience talking to their legislator.
I just hope it's not their last.
As the morning conceded into the afternoon, I knew
our time was running out, and that our rally and lobbying
efforts would soon be over for the day. This event had
consumed my life for the majority of the last month,
and I was glad to see it come to an end. And as I looked
around at the crowded hallways and the students meeting
with lawmakers and the media consuming the story like
a feeding frenzy, I couldn't help but think that we
made a difference. That's for time to tell, not me.