A Brief Note on Stewart Udall

I recently had the opportunity to watch “The Politics of Beauty,” a new documentary (currently touring film festivals around the country) on Stewart Udall, who was the Secretary of the Interior from 1961 to 1969, under both Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, and one of the strongest voices in the U.S. government on behalf of environmental protection during the whole history of the Cold War. He was also a product of the politically influential Udall family out of Arizona; the movie’s brief references to Udall’s identity as a cultural Mormon, and his relationship to the Mormon church and its people, is one of the few elements of the film which I think miss the mark, however slightly. (Marc Bohn’s tribute to Udall on Times & Seasons back in 2010 remains excellent reading in that regard.) I’ve written a post diving into Udall’s ideas, and both how they went beyond the environmental thinking of his time, and how subsequent developments in our thinking about the natural world (particularly as driven by climate change) show their limitations; you can read it here, if you’re interested. In the meantime, here is a preview sample of the documentary; the movie is quite wonderful overall, and well worth watching. At a time when, unfortunately, a majority of Mormon voters in Utah continue to support, however reluctantly, a fascist-adjacent flunky, it’s nice to be reminded of the progressives our tradition has produced as well.

Udall Sampler 12 min from Greg Davis on Vimeo.


  1. Laurel Lee Pedersen says:

    was deeply touched by the film and the Times and Seasons article about the Udall family. My husband’s mother descends from Philip Klingonsmith, the bishop of Cedar City, who turned the state’s evidence at John D. Lee’s trial. The Mountain Meadows Massacre scarred so many southern Utah families, and I am grateful for everyone who has done such healing work in its aftermath. Everyone has their own talents and virtues in God’s kingdom, and I am grateful for all the Udalls who blessed our country and the church with theirs.

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