His identity was shaped by his faith

Activity in Church prepared him for life of public service

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Addressing students at the BYU Washington Seminar Oct. 25, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Michael O. Leavitt said both his personal faith and his upbringing in the Church have affected his life and public service.

The event was part of the Milton A. Barlow Center Speaker Series, which brings leaders in government, business, and various organizations together with student interns in the nation's capital. Recognized for their achievements and public service, these leaders examine ways their secular life is infused by their spiritual life.

Secretary Leavitt drew upon his experiences as a businessman, three-term governor of Utah, head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and head of HHS to demonstrate how his faith and activity in the Church shaped his identity and readied him for public service. He noted that family, Church leaders, and Church programs such as the Young Men organization and its partnership with Scouting were the linchpin that sent him off into the world with confidence and leadership experience.

He noted how this positive social network — which held him "accountable for a certain type of social behavior" — was also the foundation for building his character and defining his values. From the faith-promoting experiences of these early years, he also learned the value and rewards of service to others.

Still, he said, he is amazed that a young boy from "700 West in Cedar City, Utah" could now be sitting as a member of the Cabinet of the President of the United States.

In his career as a state and national leader committed to better health care, welfare reform, and homeland security, he said he continues to apply the lessons of his youth to his decision making. He said he relies on "the power of prayer" and scripture reading.

He said the church "is well-respected" among the international organizations that handle social service efforts, and that he takes pride in the volunteer efforts of individual Church members.

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