‘Cougars in Congress’ share how BYU taught them to serve

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, poses questions during a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, Thursday, Nov. 4, 2021, in Washington. Out of the 535 current members of the U.S. Congress, six of them started their journey at BYU.  (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Out of the 535 current members of the U.S. Congress, six of them started their journey at BYU. 

BYU’s motto “Enter to learn; go forth to serve” guides students past and present. As representatives of the people and states, members of Congress are dedicated to a life of service. This love of service is the intersection where BYU and Congress meet. 

Six members of Congress who graduated from BYU have referenced appreciation for their time at the university. (Logan Kauai)

“I look back at my time at BYU with immense gratitude,” Rep. John Curtis, R-Utah, said. “A philosophy of service guided by a set of standards at BYU has helped lead me in the direction I was supposed to go.”  

Curtis said the fond memories he has of BYU are some of many life experiences that led him to his current position as a representative in Congress. He shared that specifically at BYU, learning to serve others was one of the most important things he took with him.

Curtis, 61, is the U.S. Representative for Utah’s 3rd Congressional District, a position he has had since 2017. He was previously well-known as the mayor of Provo from 2010 to 2017.

Several of the BYU graduates in Congress have visited BYU to speak in discussions or to give speeches. In 2020, the International Center for Law and Religion Studies hosted a discussion between Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Arizona, and Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah as part of its Religious Freedom Annual Review.

In this discussion, Sinema explained she received her bachelor’s degree in social work at BYU which put her in the best position to help others.

According to a Y Magazine article, Lee has several family connections to BYU. In Lee’s time at BYU, he served as the student body president at the same time his father, Rex E. Lee, served as BYU president. His brother, Thomas Lee, graduated from BYU in 1988 with a bachelor’s degree in economics, and has served as an associate chief justice of the Utah Supreme Court since 2010.

While some of the graduates now serving in Congress studied political science, several had little idea of where they wanted to go. Curtis said that after his time at BYU he only wanted to help people. Graduating with a business management degree, Curtis said it was life experiences that led him to where he is now. 

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, shared a similar outlook in a speech given at BYU. He said graduating with a degree in English, he wasn’t really sure where he wanted to go and hardly expected a career in politics. 

In his speech, Romney shared a strong appreciation for his time at BYU and the connections he made while there.

Romney, 74, was the Republican presidential nominee in 2012 as well as the governor of Massachusetts from 2003 to 2007. He has been a U.S. senator since January 2019. 

In his political career, knowledge and strong values weren’t the only things he held onto from BYU. On one occasion, Romney brought J. Dawgs hot dogs and BYU Creamery ice cream for lunch to Congress.

Sen. Mitt Romney shares lunch in Congress with J. Dawgs founder Jayson Edwards (right). J. Dawgs is a popular hot dog restaurant in Utah and is similar in popularity to BYU Creamery ice cream. (Mitt Romney’s Instagram)

Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Arizona, was also a member of Congress who did not study political science. After serving a mission for the Church in Japan, Biggs went on to earn his bachelor’s degree in Asian studies in 1982.

Biggs served as a member of the Arizona House of Representatives in 2003 and then as a member of the Arizona Senate in 2011. Since 2017 he has served in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, was elected to the Idaho State Senate for the first time in 1984, making him the first member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to take this position. Crapo currently serves as the senior U.S. Senator from Idaho, according to his congressional website.

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