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Historical Narrative of the Statue of Responsibility

Upon his arrival at Dachau, a Nazi concentration camp in Bavaria, Dr. Viktor E. Frankl watched in horror and despair as the manuscript he had secretly penned at Auschwitz and sewn into the lining of his coat was ripped from him and destroyed. Viktor’s mother, father, his wife, and unborn child had already been lost to starvation, disease and the horrors of the Third Reich’s gas chambers. Along with the draft of his book, his captors also hoped to destroy his spirit.

Little did they know Frankl’s was a spirit that would not only rise from these ashes, but would also become a powerful, radiant light to the world. His later manuscript entitled, Man’s Search for Meaning spoke powerfully and plainly about enduring loss and facing pain, while finding true meaning and purpose in our existence—even in the worst of circumstances in humanity. He knew these well.

Day after day, as Viktor watched the atrocities that were inflicted upon him and his fellow captives, particularly at Auschwitz and Dachau, he realized a poignant truth: that there was one thing that no one could take away from any other person— the ability to choose how they would respond to adversity in any given situation. This awareness and the consequent examples that played out during his captivity allowed Frankl to redraft (in just nine short days after his release and return to Vienna) what would become one of “the top ten most influential books ever written”, according to the Library of Congress.

Later, in the 1960’s, as Viktor was lecturing across America, he initiated a passionate dialog about freedom at a time when a generation of Americans were focused on free love and casual sex, as well as LSD and other drugs. Though seemingly harmless to many, Viktor was often quick to caution students and audiences with great passion, taking thoughts on freedom many levels deeper: “America,” he warned, “we in Vienna had our freedoms; those freedoms were taken from us,” and “America, you must guard your freedoms and honor them.” One of his most profound quotes that he later added to Man’s Search for Meaning was: “Freedom, however, is not the last word. Freedom is only part of the story and half of the truth. Freedom is but the negative aspect of the whole phenomenon whose positive aspect is responsibleness.”

Responsibleness. That is why Viktor recommended that the Statue of Liberty in the East be supplemented by a Statue of Responsibility in the West. He thought of these principles as philosophical bookends to each other—and vital to America.

As Viktor’s message of Responsibility began to spread, so did the groundswell of support for such an idea. One of his colleagues on the American lecture circuit was thought leader Stephen R. Covey from Utah, the author of another highly acclaimed book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.The two became friends, and some years later, Covey helped organize a group, with the hope of bringing Viktor’s passionate hope to fruition on America’s West coast—a Statue of Responsibility, comparable to the Statue of Liberty.

When Viktor’s health began to fade in the 1990s, his friend Stephen made a promise to him, to help create this monument to remind America of the price that had been paid for her freedom–a price that he knew might well be required of her in the future as well. Stephen tasked one of his Franklin-Covey team members, Kevin Hall, to find a sculptor who could create an image that would embody and inspire “Responsibility”. Kevin found renowned international sculptor Gary Lee Price at his foundry in Springville, Utah where he presented the opportunity.

Gary, a renowned sculptor and former art student from the University of Utah, had never heard of Dr. Frankl. Though busy with commissioned projects worldwide, he took some time to think about the concept and do some research on Viktor, this interesting man from Vienna. Soon he became captivated.

 As Gary’s heart was set on fire, he was filled with deep emotions in his research of Viktor. The sculptor realized that finding the right concept of responsibility would be far more than a business opportunity. To Gary, it had already become a spiritual quest.

Over time, this sculptor had discovered in his very best works a theme of connectedness. He had recently completed what became one of his most popular lifetime pieces: The Ascent. It depicted two Native Americans hanging from a sheer cliff, one reaching up in desperation as the second reaches down to lift his companion out of danger. One of the most remarkable aspects of this piece is the strong hand clasp above the wrist between the two Natives—and the life-saving trust inherent in it.

Gary gave his new piece the subtitle: “They rise highest who lift as they go!” And, as quickly as Gary and his team could create them in the foundry, this piece continued to sell. While that was remarkable in itself, gallery owners shared with observations with Gary regarding the statue’s emotional impact on their clients. It moved Gary the most as they said they would catch their customers staring at the piece in awe, often moved to tears.

It was The Ascent that suddenly held the answer to Gary’s question of what “Responsibility” could look like in three-dimensional sculpture. The very essence of the piece captured that moment of true connection, in the care and responsibility for one another. The moment the two hands connected, holding tight to one another, was the epitome of human responsibility for Gary.

The needed symbol was the clasp.

The clasp – this powerful symbol of human connection – held a sacred place in Gary’s heart. He felt incredible compassion for Viktor Frankl and his experiences. What Stephen Covey and his team did not know about Gary, was that so much of the sculptor’s empathy came from the loss of his own family when his mother and stepfather were taken from him as a six-year-old child in a tragic murder-suicide, on a U.S. Army base in Mannheim, Germany.

Stephen also didn’t know that upon Gary’s subsequent relocation to relatives in Montpelier, Idaho, there he endured brutal psychological, physical and sexual abuse, under the oppressive, demeaning control of an older relative who sought to take away the young boy’s freedom, and with that, any vestige of dignity or self-respect.

Starved, beaten and threatened daily with his life, Gary had been forced to steal from neighbors and do many other unconscionable things. Even as a third grader, he wished to die. Gary had been that desperate hand reaching painfully up to God or someone to help him. Years later, after his own “liberation day”, Gary realized he could become bitter…or better…for having survived such circumstances. After his freedom was restored and his career later took off, he committed to be the one reaching down to lift another, as certain elementary teachers, friends and mentors had lifted him—and literally saved his life.

Stephen Covey loved the symbol Gary created and a team began to form. Among others, Bill Fillmore, the attorney originally engaged for the project (and the current Foundation’s general counsel and board member), felt strongly about the next step. Having served a church mission in his youth in Austria, he felt strongly that the group should seek the formal approval of Viktor Frankl’s widow in Vienna, Dr. Eleanore Frankl. She was the only living person able to give Gary’s design a full and proper “stamp of approval”. Gary, Bill, Kevin and a small team subsequently flew from Utah to Vienna in hopes of securing Dr. Elly’s endorsement. Upon meeting her, they found full of life and enjoying her extended family in Vienna.

Little did they know the miracle that was about to happen.

As Gary unveiled his version of the Statue of Responsibility for Elly and her family, he revealed to her the two hands vertically clasped firmly together in a vision of one lifting another. Viktor’s wife immediately became a bit emotional. She insisted that Gary and his colleagues accompany her to the Frankls’ apartment, where they had lived happily married for many years–she a Catholic and he a Jew. Everyone had said they would never make it, but they loved each other until Viktor’s last breath and beyond.

It was here in their flat that Elly showed Gary and his group into Viktor’s study, saying she wanted to share something very sacred with them. In this hallowed room, Gary was in awe at the number of books that lined all four walls. Elly pointed to a beautiful alcove centered in the far wall—a niche that had been carefully lined with white leather. Sitting within it was a wood carving. Elly proceeded to tell the group that this carving was Viktor’s favorite piece of art. He had cherished it from the very day he had discovered it in the Viennese bazaar, shortly after his release from the notorious concentration camp, Dachau. Viktor had no money, but determinedly placed it on “lay away” until he had enough to purchase it for 250 shillings.

With an artist’s eye, Gary looked at the carving closely and held it in his hands. It depicted a man, naked from the waist up, dirty and bloodied, staring up in great anguish as his arm reached upward in supplication. Viktor had titled the piece, The Suffering Man.

Great emotion filled Elly’s eyes. “My husband, Viktor, would often ask the question, “Where is the hand reaching down?” Tearfully, she added, “and you, my American friend, have brought to me a sculpture that answers my husband’s very question!”

We are all meant to be that lifting hand for one another. Now the vital task: to share the symbol with the world, both children and adults, so that they will not have to endure the same mistakes of history, but can learn from it.

The Final Placement in Utah:
While the concept was very well received in San Diego among selected leaders, California’s land authorities conceded little traction. Around the time the SoRF concluded that it would likely take them decades in California just to get the permits to even begin to build, Utah’s governor announced his vision for the former prison grounds in Draper, Utah. He wanted something iconic, like the Seattle Space Needle or the Eiffel Tower. People in Utah who knew Gary and Leesa and had been following their story told Cox, “You need the Statue of Responsibility!”

Inquiries were made to Gary and Leesa by certain officials about their possible interest in re-locating the Statue to Utah. Governor Cox became so impassioned with the idea that he subsequently walked into the middle of the Point of the Mountain State Land Authority’s November 2023 meeting, where Gary, Leesa and the SoRF Board were making their initial presentation. Governor Cox asked to say a few words, which moved everyone in the room.

“We used to be a nation of architects and now we’re a nation of arsonists,” Cox said. “We destroy, we tear down, and there’s so little left to inspire us. I believe Utah is still a state of architects, a state of builders. I still believe that we believe in big things. I can think of no other emblem that better represents who we are as a people in this state than the Statue of Responsibility. This is our opportunity to leave a legacy…not just to our children and grandchildren, but to the entire nation. You have, I think, a unique opportunity, singular in the history of our great state, to do something big—to do something monumental; literally, to change the face of this place and the world forever, and I hope that we will take that opportunity.”

Making a Commitment to Our Legacy

Our board and grassroots supporters feel strongly that it is time to build The Statue of Responsibility and to engage in the most critical conversations around this Monument and movement being constructed. It seems there has never been time when Liberty needed Responsibility as much as she needs it now—in America and beyond.

In many ways, this endeavor has not been so different from “Lady Liberty’s” journey. It is often said that the more significant and important something is, the more challenging the path can be. This was surely the case in the late 19th century for Frederic Auguste Bartholdi as he gave birth to The Statue of Liberty. It took him 20 years to see his dream, his passion and his destiny come to fruition, but he was relentless. Though he was sometimes ridiculed, and frequently disappointed by would-be supporters, though he was often tired and alone, he was a man on a mission and not afraid to stay the course.

John Kenneth Galbraith once quoted, “All of the great leaders have had one characteristic in common: it was the willingness to confront unequivocally the major anxiety of their people in their time. This, and not much else, is the essence of leadership.” This is what Bartholdi instinctively knew as he pushed for completion. While it remains unknown if Bartholdi recognized the worldwide significance his colossal statue would one day hold. When we visit her and look upon her and consider what she stands for today, the SoR Foundation hopes that we will no longer take for granted the immense effort and treasure, including the support of everyday people that required to bring her to our nation’s eastern shore.

As our planet has reeled these past several years from a global pandemic, war, economic trauma, rising homelessness, substance abuse and addiction, cultural divisions and economic crises that besets us, may we all take a closer look at our freedoms in the hopes that this Statue may be the window through which we view a more responsible world…a world where we all take greater responsibility for our own lives and work together to better our communities. A world where the message that we are all connected is more powerful than the messages of division that have created such intense pain and suffering. A planet where the abuses inflicted upon her find both healing influences and solutions. In short, a more responsible world, populated by more responsible citizens, maximizing greater freedom and opportunity for all.

It is our fervent hope that Responsibility will stand side by side with Liberty as a fellow lighthouse for generations to come, leading to greater peace, freedom, prosperity, and humanity. The irony is not lost on us in the fact that this monument could be built on the old Utah prison grounds. Along with Responsibility comes empowerment and possibility for redemption – the belief that we can rise above past mistakes, abuse, poverty, strife, disease, and corruption, together. 

Collaboration, cooperation and vision are the driving forces of this community legacy project. As we work together with the Point of the Mountain State Land Authority, The Point Partners, FFKR Architects, Okland Construction, and many other committed parties at the Point of the Mountain in beautiful Utah, we believe that this is an opportunity to do something truly great, truly inspiring. We believe together we can find solutions to challenges under the influences of such courageous, bold and visionary leadership. After all, it feels like this extraordinary project goes “hand in hand” with what is known as “the Utah way”—finding ways to work together when it matters most.

We invite you to be a part of this rich legacy, a most enduring symbol of hope for our generation, our children, our children’s children and beyond.

The time is now.

As Victor Hugo passionately expressed about such great human endeavors: “Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come.”

767 North Main, Springville Utah 84663 • (801) 489-6852