Family stories are the flame that lights up the world, said Michael O. Leavitt, founder and chairman of Leavitt Partners, former three times Governor of Utah, and cabinet member for George Bush serving as chairman of Environmental Protection Agency and Secretary of Health and Human Services. Doris Kearns Goodwin American storyteller and author of six critically acclaimed best-selling books and Pulitzer Prize, echoed Leavitt’s sentiment that our families’ legacies will live on through the stories we share with our families.
Governor Michael O. Leavitt led out in the Thursday morning opening session of RootsTech 2016, the largest family history technology conference in the world. Allowing the audience to vote via cell phone on which stories he told, Leavitt shared behind-the-scenes stories of his family’s life in the Utah Governor’s mansion, the fire that destroyed their belongings during his tenure as Governor, the wild enthusiasm on the day that Utah won the Olympic bid in 2002, and his life as a cabinet member in George W. Bush’s administration.
As part of the opening ceremony the Olympic flame is carried by runner through towns and cities along its route to the site of the games. Tens of thousands of people gathered to watch as the Olympic Torch passed through the communities.
“Why is it that tens of thousands of people gather to see someone run by carrying fire on a stick?” Leavitt asked one of the organizers who responded with a story of an undersized 5th grader who took the flame and ran down the street of his town in front of the crowd that included his schoolmates. It changed forever his self esteem and his life among his classmates.
“The torch,” she explained “is a symbol of what we value most and aspire to be – courage, aspirations for virtue and strength.”
“We are here [at this conference] for the fire on the stick – and it is family. I say to you God bless you and God bless our families,” Leavitt said.
Goodwin shared stories that shaped the lives of Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt and his wife Eleanor. Goodwin’s writing career has produced in-depth biographies of all these people.
In her own life, she knew almost none of her relatives – most of who died before she was born or when she was a young child. However, as she has learned about them, she has developed connections through their stories. “I felt an invisible loyalty and love linking her to a grandfather whose face I cannot see,” she said.
Our stories may not be in big name books, on Mount Rushmore or in a movie. But who we are and what we’ve learned in life will be shared with our posterity in the stories we pass down to our children.
To view the YouTube video of Michael Leavitt and Doris Kearns Goodwin, click the video links below.