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When the new president of the United States takes office in January, he or she will have an inbox full of problems that need addressing.

Former U.S. ambassador Christopher R. Hill told attendees at a League of Women Voters of Salt Lake luncheon Tuesday that whoever ends up in the Oval Office will have to look over those important issues and decide where to focus first.

"Part of the problem with being president is that you can't look at one issue and say, 'I'm going to focus on this one,' " Hill said Tuesday during his keynote speech. "You have to juggle a lot of things at the same time."

The diplomat, who served as ambassador in Iraq from 2009 through 2010, said he wouldn't lend his support to any of the presidential candidates on Tuesday. But he did lay out what he felt were some of the most important issues that the new president — whoever he or she may be — should tackle first.

At the top of the list: Focusing on countries that want to build nuclear weapons, specifically North Korea. Next, he said the president should work to strengthen the United States' relationship with China.

"It's a relationship that's too big to fail," he said Tuesday, adding that he felt it would be beneficial for a vice president to be in China every six weeks or so in an effort to strengthen that relationship.

Finally, the diplomat said the future president needs to look at international terrorism, and develop broader policies for the Middle East.

Hill's remarks came Tuesday during the League of Women Voters' 24th Annual State of the Community Luncheon.

Salt Lake Tribune columnist Paul Rolly was also honored at the luncheon with the Making Democracy Work Award. Rolly, who has been a Tribune columnist for the last 20 years, told the several hundred people in attendance that he was proud of the newspaper and grateful for the "complete support" of his editors through the years.

"I'm proud to be a journalist," he said. "And I'm proud to work at the Salt Lake Tribune."

Rolly also emphasized that journalists like himself and members of the League of Women Voters have similar ideals: That democracy best works when the public is informed.

Also honored Tuesday was House Representative Rebecca Chavez-Houck, D-Salt Lake City, who was presented with the Community Service Award. She spoke of her upbringing, and how it shaped her into the person she is now. A daughter of an immigrant father who never sought full U.S. citizenship, Chavez-Houck said her mother voted and exercised her voice for the family.

"They taught me that words are hollow without action," she said. "And it was prudent for those of us with voice and power to work on behalf of the voiceless and powerless."