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Washington, D.C.—Today, Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), the senior Republican in the United States Senate, paid special tribute to Pioneer Day in a speech on the Senate floor. Senator Hatch had initially planned to celebrate Pioneer Day in Utah but was forced to stay in Washington due to Senate votes on healthcare.

[Video Via Youtube]

Mme. President, July 24 marks a significant milestone in the history of my home state of Utah. On this day, 170 years ago, Brigham Young and the Mormon pioneers first entered the Salt Lake Valley. Facing violence and discrimination at every turn, Utah’s early settlers crossed the nation in search of a land where they could practice their religion free from prejudice and abuse. In the cradle of the Rocky Mountains, they found a home.

Each year, we remember the sacrifice of these courageous men and women and the miraculous events that led to the founding of our state by observing Pioneer Day. This special holiday is a celebration of the pioneer spirit—that unique mix of industry, ingenuity, and innovation that transformed an arid desert plain into one of the most prosperous states in the nation.

Mme. President, Pioneer Day is a perennial reminder of how a people—left to their own devices and empowered to follow their dreams—can accomplish incredible things. It’s a testament to what Westerners can achieve when the government steps out of the way and allows the human spirit to flourish.