Darl Andersen, Golden Rule Man

What Makes a “Golden Life?” Ask the “Golden Rule Man.” What made Darl Andersen Arizona’s Golden Rule Man? What motivates any person to choose to ‘do the hard thing because it is right?’ Why do people make financial sacrifices to help worthy causes? Why do people stand up to peer pressure to defend people who are mistreated? Why do people even risk personal safety, running into dangerous situations to help those in need? Stanford University Professor of Neurosurgery, Dr. Robert Sapolsky, identifies those actions as functions of the section of our brain ‘which makes us uniquely human.’ The Prefrontal Cortex, located right behind our forehead, is the section that allows us to analyze, to make judgments about our actions, and to set goals which may require a long time to achieve. It allows us to choose to “do the hard thing because it is right.”

Mesa resident, Darl Andersen, may never have known the science behind his actions, but he was an expert at recognizing the right thing to do. His tombstone is inscribed with the word “BRIDGEBUILDER.” The bridges he built during his eighty-three years of life were bridges of understanding and respect.

As recently as thirty years ago, relationships between Mormon faith leaders and the leaders of other Christian denominations were strained. Realizing that this was not good for the advancement of Mesa, Andersen decided that someone needed to develop personal connections of respect and goodwill. He began to pursue his new “hobby.” As Mesa’s “Ambassador of Goodwill,” he would open his phonebook, select a minister of another faith, and offer to take them out to lunch. Not all of the invitations were accepted right away, but Darl Andersen was a man with strong ideas—and even stronger enthusiasm and power! Over lunch, he would reach out with respect, patience, and his simple guide to life…”Live the Golden Rule, treat others the way you would like to be treated.” More and more people began to see his approach as a way to improve the community.
With wisdom, love for others, and determination, Andersen devoted great amounts of time to efforts which would make Mesa a place where people could love and respect their neighbors and find joy in both their similarities and differences. As the President of the Mesa School Board, he advocated for quality schools and strengthening opportunities for the city’s young people. He also served on the City Council and added his voice and talents to the Building a Better Mesa initiative.

He had a ready smile and a sense of humor, too. At one time, he had a block-making plant. He carved his beard to look like mortar and bricks. Clothing for men was pretty plain at the time…usually dark pants and a white shirt. How could he focus people’s attention on the Golden Rule? Andersen ordered bright yellow suspenders that were made to look like rulers. He had “Live the Golden Rule” printed on them and proudly wore them as his trademark. And he also had thousands of small yellow rulers printed with the same advice. He always had a few with him to pass out. Andersen was not a wealthy man, but he believed it was important to not only pass out the Golden Rulers, but also to give away bumper stickers with same words. Cardboard picture frames were another Andersen gift. At the top of the space for a family picture were the words “The Golden Rule Makes a Happy Family.” He also wrote, published and distributed several small booklets. One that is still available is “Soft Answers to Hard Feelings.”

The pages affirm that Darl Andersen understood the importance of giving “soft answers to hard feelings.” With a much more divergent population in the valley, there were many faiths brought from other parts of the world. His next effort in reaching out to others was to become involved in what is now a group composed of many faiths and secular beliefs, who all acknowledge that to “treat others the way you want to be treated” is the way to forge positive, fair and civil interactions in our communities.

In May of 2000, just three months after his eighty-third birthday, Darl Andersen died. None of the many mourners were surprised to see that his family had placed one of his “Live the Golden Rule” rulers on top of his casket.

Several cities have since become Golden Rule Cities. Before his death in 2000, Darl Andersen helped to advance the resolution that Arizona would become the first official Golden Rule State.

The resolution was passed by the legislature, and signed just four days before his death in May of 2003. He did not live to see the “Live the Golden Rule” license plate become available. But, if he had, you can be sure that one of those beautiful plates would be on his vehicle. Each year, Arizona InterFaith Movement hosts a banquet honoring Arizonans whose lives demonstrate Golden Rule conduct. The highest award given is the Darl Andersen Award.

But the greatest tribute validating his conduct and beliefs had come earlier. His oldest grandson remembers the story of his grandfather inviting a certain minister to lunch. This pastor was not just reluctant to meet; he was antagonistic to Andersen. It took some time, but Andersen’s genuine kindness and respect won him over. As time went by, they became closer and closer. The pastor and his wife were raising their grandchildren and had some concerns that they might die before the children reached adulthood. In that event, he and his wife asked Darl and Erma Andersen to accept the position of legal guardians and raise their grandchildren. Fortunately, it did not become necessary. But minister’s move from antagonism and distrust to trusting their family to the Andersens shows their knowledge that Darl Andersen was truly “as good as gold.”

  1. Give an example of a time when you know someone did the hard thing because it was the right thing.
  2. Giving a soft answer to hard feelings sounds pretty difficult. Explain why, or why not, you think it is worth trying.
  3. If you could interview Darl Andersen, or someone who knew him well, what two questions would you ask?