Former Governor Governor Huckabee: Being able to undergird rather than undermine those basic Christian premises of our nation are absolutely crucial to keeping this nation and not seeing it fall completely.
End of Excerpt
John Fuller: Well, welcome to Focus on the Family with Focus on the Family president and author, Jim Daly. I’m John Fuller, and we have a special conversation for you today with former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee and his daughter, former White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. And Jim, we are on the road, and this room is just a little bit bigger than our normal studio.
Jim Daly: Slightly. It’s a big tent. And we are big tent people, right? (Laughter) So…
John: Absolutely. Totally.
Jim: And we have a large audience. We’re at Sea Island in Georgia, and we need to hear from the audience now.
Jim: And you know – you know what’s awesome, John? These are people who are pro family, pro-life, pro God, and I want to tell them thank you for what you do for Focus on the Family and for His kingdom. So, give another hand to yourselves.
Jim: (Laughter) All right, we’re going to get right into it. And, uh, it is great to have you, Governor Huckabee and Sarah, I got to tell you, my wife, Jean, just thinks you you’re awesome. She loves you.
Former White House Press Secretary Sarah: I think your wife sounds really smart and you should listen to her all the time.
Jim: And she actually is really smart. And I do listen to her. So, those are good things.
Jim: Governor, let me ask you. I don’t have daughters, so raising Sarah – tell us about your kids, first of all. How many kids do you have? And gender?
Governor Huckabee: We have three children, two boys and a girl. Sarah was the only girl and the youngest of the three. And people ask me all the time, how did Sarah get so tough? We’d see her go into that White House press room. And I would always say, “Have you met her mother?”
Governor Huckabee: But never when her mother was around.
Governor Huckabee: The truth is, her two older brothers had a whole lot to do with giving her a sense of security and toughness. When she was little, once they super glued her fingers together.
Jim: Oh, no.
Governor Huckabee: That required a trip to the emergency room. And another time they gave her a big glass of mud and told her it was a chocolate milkshake.
Governor Huckabee: And it wasn’t too many episodes like that before she decided she was going to fight back.
Governor Huckabee: And she was, over the course of her growing up, not taking anything off those two older brothers of hers.
Governor Huckabee: So, when she would walk into the press room, people would ask me, “Does it make you nervous when you see your daughter walk in there?” And I said, “Boy, it really does, but not for her.”
Jim: So, you didn’t know – you didn’t know God was preparing you as a child for that press secretary job, right?
Sarah: Not at all. I thought I just had an abusive older brothers, so…
Jim: Governor, let me ask you specifically about the state prison system. I think that was a story that I’ve read about the two of you. What was that about and what did you learn? Prisoners would work in the governor’s mansion. How old were you? What were you seeing in that relationship? Mike, let’s start with you.
Governor Huckabee: Okay.
Jim: You can set it up.
Governor Huckabee: Well, most of the staff at the governor’s mansion were actually inmates in the Arkansas Department of Correction. And more to your surprise, most all of them were there for murder, virtually every one of them. And I know that might make you think, well, that would be very dangerous. Actually, they were the least, uh, frightening people that we dealt with. And over the course of time, you realize that most of these people had committed a crime of passion when they were teenagers. By now they were in their 40s, 50s or 60s. They were long since mellowed out. They knew that the choice assignment in the entire Department of Corrections was to work at the governor’s mansion. They did not want to do anything that would cause them to lose that assignment to go back into the general population. And quite frankly, they were the best workers that we had. And, uh, you know, you learned that people who have done horrible things – and I’m not dismissing some of the things they did, because we had to read their files and we had to know who they were, and if we had any level of discomfort, we always had the option that they would not be there. But the truth is, you find out that people who have done terrible things are not beyond the redemption of God, nor are they beyond the need for love, affirmation and being treated with respect and dignity like any other human being. And it was not only, I think, important for them, but I believe it was important for us as a family. And I think my children benefitted by that as well, to the point that, you know, at times I was a little afraid that they would maybe forget these people are not here for singing in church too loud last Sunday…
Jim: (Laughter) Well, I was going to ask that of you, Sarah. So, how old were you, and how did that impact you, being in the mansion, the governor’s mansion, with people that were in the process of rehabilitating? Is that a fair way to say it? Um, how did that impact you?
Sarah: I was 13 when we first moved into the Arkansas governor’s mansion. I was 23 when we moved out. So, I think it’s still the longest place our family has ever lived together as a family is in the governor’s mansion in Arkansas. And so, that’s shaped a lot of who we were in that timeframe. Certainly, I think one of the most important lessons that any of us can take, but certainly people of faith, is that we all need forgiveness and all of us need God’s grace. And to get to see that, um, work in the lives of these individuals and see them rehabilitate and almost become new people through that process is pretty remarkable to get to watch, particularly at a young age of 13, but certainly to watch that process continue as I became an adult. But it was such a good lesson in forgiveness and God’s grace and how every single one of us needs that. And without it, we can’t be where we are.
Governor Huckabee: I think – yeah. And there was another great, um, maybe side benefit, once Sarah locked her keys in her car.
Sarah: Five or six times.
Governor Huckabee: And before we could call – no, this is true. Before we could even call a locksmith, one of the inmates had that door wide open, I mean, like that.
Governor Huckabee: So, we learned these guys are good.
Governor Huckabee: That’s a true story.
Jim: That’s a good way to look at it.
Governor Huckabee: Yeah.
Jim: But they left the car.
Sarah: They did leave the car.
Jim: Okay. We just needed the end of that story.
Jim: So, Mike, let me point this question to you. I mean, you’ve got to be so proud of your daughter, and to see her on television at times being, you know, terribly mistreated. I mean, we’re both dads.
Governor Huckabee: Yeah.
Jim: I’m the dad of two sons. But what did you do? I mean, how do you manage that as a father of a daughter who really is being mistreated and poorly treated every day?
Governor Huckabee: I – I know people think that I just reacted with anger. There were times when I was very unhappy with the way she was treated because I thought it was treatment that was mean and hateful. And so, uh, you know, it would be easy to get angry, but that doesn’t change or help anything. And I truly believe that she’s tough enough to handle it. And I’m especially proud of Sarah. And the truth is, her brothers now are quite happy that she’s got all the notoriety and they don’t, because they realize all the attention she’s gotten, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.
Jim: Well, yeah, that’s fair. You opened up to this subject of civil discourse and the incivility that’s occurring. Maybe both of you, if you can address this. It’s hard, as Christians – I had lunch with, uh, oh, David…
John: David – yes.
Jim: David Horowitz. And he had written a book about how the left was killing Christianity in America.
Governor Huckabee: Yeah.
Jim: So, we’re out to lunch. And David, God bless him. He’s a Jewish, secular Jew. And we’re at lunch and he said, “Jim, don’t you realize you’re in an alley fight? And the other side has switchblades. You’ve got to bring a switchblade or a gun, emotionally.” And I said, “David, that’s the problem. We totally get it. We’re not stupid. But, you know, the weapons of our warfare are joy, love, peace, goodness, kindness,” and he went, “Wow, those are bad weapons.”
Jim: So, you know, I get it. And I feel like when we’re in that arena as believers, it’s so hard. And I really want to hear from both of you, because you’ve been in that arena, you have fought the good fight. But how do you balance fighting with the character of Christ when you want to fight with the sword of Peter?
Sarah: (Laughter) Well, and I’ll jump in here. I think for so many of us, there are days that can be very difficult, because you do feel like you are truly fighting for your life, and you’re fighting for everything that matters. But at the end of the day, if you aren’t willing to do it, who else will? And I think that was the attitude that certainly I went into the briefing room and into my job every single day. And one of the things that was so important for me growing up, and one of the lessons that I learned and had to learn a lot over and over again was to always be myself, that God had created me for a unique and special purpose. And I didn’t need CNN or The New York Times or The Washington Post, or anybody else to define me. I had a Creator who had already done that. And when you get to a place that you realize that that you were created for something special, that you were created for God’s unique plan, then that gives you all the confidence you need to attack and fight with joy, with love, with peace, because you aren’t worried about the distractions, and you never want to be like the people that you don’t like. And that’s what I always would remind myself. I never want to be like the people that I’m fighting against. And I think that we can be the light in the darkness. And that’s what we’re called to do. And if we can remember that, then I think it makes that job a lot easier. And despite the fact some days it was really, really hard to do that, when I looked at it from that perspective, it made it a whole lot easier.
John: Yeah. Governor, you, uh – you’ve written a lot about history and the Christian faith. And I’d like you to, if you would please, just share a little bit of a perspective about the Christian faith and the legacy that we have in this country that makes it so unique.
Governor Huckabee: Let me begin by saying that I think history is to a civilization what the memory is to an individual. If any of you here lost your memory, if, uh, you began to experience dementia, your life would be filled with chaos, uncertainty, confusion. And in the same way, if we lose our collective memory, which means we erase our history, we end up in chaos and confusion. What America is experiencing is a loss of its history. Most people are not aware of the fact that every single one of the Ivy League schools, with the exception of Cornell, were created to train Christian ministers. John Harvard was a 31-year-old pastor who at the age of 31, passed away, left his books to the formation of what became Harvard College. The statue of him in the middle of Harvard Yard is passed by the students every day. What they probably are unaware of, and I’m sure the faculty is, too, is that every student at Harvard was required to pray and read the Bible twice daily. Yale, Princeton, William and Mary, Columbia – every one of the Ivy League schools was created to train missionaries and pastors to take the gospel around the world. How many of them are even aware of their mission, much less carrying it out? So, it is unquestionable that the Judeo-Christian worldview was the foundation of the country. And what made us a unique country was that that meant that we were looked at as individuals rather than as a part of a group. And the fundamental thing about America that is so unique and that is so very biblical is the notion of individual liberty, individual freedom, individual responsibility, and individual accountability to God. Sarah is not going to get to heaven because she says, “I’m going with my dad.” It doesn’t work like that. God will hold her responsible and accountable, just like He will me and – and you. And this idea of statism, that we’re part of a state and our value is tied to the value of the larger state is not an American idea. And that’s why I find it so frightening today. So, I – I just can’t help but say that we have got to restore. And this is why Christian education has become no longer a luxury, but a necessity. Being able to undergird rather than undermine those basic Christian premises of our nation are absolutely crucial to keeping this nation and not seeing it fall completely. Before I finish, I got to answer one thing to what she said.
Governor Huckabee: But – I don’t want it to sound like that politics is an easy sport to play. I would like to just add this. This is not a game for the weak or the weary. And I would also say that I think we can be Christian, we can live within the context of our faith. We are there to take the battle to the other side, because we understand that the battle is not over power. It is over whether or not our children and our grandchildren are going to grow up in a country where we honor life, where we respect religious liberty, where we are free to worship without the state telling us that we can go to the casino, but we cannot go to church. And if we don’t understand that, we’re going to get our heads handed to us every single time. So, I want to be clear. Yes, we can be nice. I always say you can put some Novocaine on the needle and it makes the shot easier to take.
Governor Huckabee: But you still have to put the needle in the flesh. And I’m telling you, there are times when it’s not about being mean or hateful, but it is about playing the game as if you were playing the Super Bowl at the NFL. And that means you’ve got to play the game that’s being played. And it’s a tough game to play.
Jim: I really appreciate that. I think that’s really well said.
Jim: Let me – let me ask both of you, and Sarah, I’ll start with you. But when you – not in a political context, but when you look at what’s going on in the country over the past few months, all of the unrest, Portland, Chicago. What do you sense is happening? What is going on spiritually, more importantly? What’s – how is politics and the spiritual element colliding in this regard to tear down people?
Sarah: Well, I think one of the things is it goes in some ways to what you were saying, is so many people, conservatives and people of faith have frankly gotten scared and they stopped fighting. They stopped being vocal. They are so afraid of being bullied. They are so afraid of being shamed, of being marginalized, being called names, that we have retreated. And this is a time that that is the opposite of what we have to do. Instead of retreating, we have to charge full steam ahead as if our life depends on it, because it does. Our country depends on us standing up for what matters, and doing so not from a place of cowardice, but from a place of strength, and remembering that we have the ultimate Warrior on our side should help us and give us that confidence we need to go into battle. And I – what I was saying earlier, I don’t mean for that to get lost. Certainly, I completely agree. We – we should be nice. We should be respectful. But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be tough because that’s what we have to do. And everything, to me, is on the line, and we have to be prepared to go after it with everything that we have and not be afraid of being marginalized and persecuted and called names, because that’s what we’ve been called to do, and I think we have to be prepared for it.
Jim: That’s excellent, yeah. Sarah, I’m going to stick with you for a minute. You had – I think you did a missions trip as an 11-year-old to Israel, if I remember correctly. Is this right?
Sarah: Partially. Not quite a mission trip, but I think we probably did some missions along the way. But I… (laughter).
Jim: Was it a secret mission?
Sarah: It was not a secret mission.
Jim: (Laughter) But what happened in that context? What went on? What did you learn in that experience?
Sarah: My first trip to Israel was when I was 11. I went with my parents and, you know, before, I had read Bible stories, you know, grown up in the church. And so, I’d heard about all of these different places and moments. And my dad explained it, as “Before you take this trip, before you see it in real life. It’s like reading the Bible in black and white your whole life. And when you step foot there, it’s like reading it in color and seeing it really come to life.” And so, that’s what we went with. That was the expectation, and we certainly had that. The close of the trip and probably one of the more impactful moments not of that trip, but of my life and a lesson that I’ve been reminded of every day since was the stop where we went to Yad Vashem, which is the Holocaust Remembrance Museum in Israel. And at the age of 11, that’s a lot to take in. And it wasn’t something I was familiar with at the time. I knew that this was a significant stop on the trip. My parents had been talking about it. They had debated whether or not they should take me at all. Some of the images and the visuals are very graphic. It’s probably one of the darkest, most horrific moments in our world’s history. And this is a museum that walks you through each of those moments. Um, my parents decided that they didn’t know when I would have the chance to be there again and wanted me to see how important it is for people to stand up for what’s right. So, they walked me through that museum. My dad stayed with me the entire time, and I didn’t speak for about an hour and a half, which is for me a pretty big feat, particularly as an 11-year-old girl, and going through that museum and taking in those images and listening to the stories of the survivors recount and listen to their voices, tell how they fought with everything they had to survive that brutal time. And we came to the end of the museum, and my dad was looking over my shoulder wondering if I had taken anything from it, wondering if I understood why they wanted me to come through this museum. And I got to the guest book and I wrote the words, “Why didn’t somebody do something?” And in that moment, my dad knew that I understood the lesson that he wanted me to take from there. And that was that when good people don’t stand up for what’s right, bad things happen.
Sarah: And it is something that I think about every day as we go into that battle, is that we have to be the somebodies who do something, who stand up for what’s right.
Jim: That is awesome. Yeah. Wow.
Jim: You actually answered the next question I wanted to ask, but I want your dad to fill this in as a father. This is parenting advice from Focus on the Family now.
Jim: So, we’re asking you to step up. I mean, it’s obvious that the two of you have a great relationship and a wonderful bond. And I think many people would say, you know, “I don’t have that with my daughter, my adult daughter, my adult son.” And you’re a Baptist pastor. You know how this works. What would you say to that parent of an adult child, 20-something, where their relationship is not what we see tonight with the two of you? What advice do you have for those parents who are missing that kind of rich relationship that we see in you tonight?
Governor Huckabee: It begins with unconditional love, that you recognize your children aren’t perfect. They may have perfect parents like my children did.
Governor Huckabee: But – no, you recognize it just because they’re your children. They’re going to make mistakes, and they’ll do things differently and you love them unconditionally. But I think that the capacity to have that sort of bond when the child is an adult is really shaped when the child is 2- and 3- and 5- and 6- and 10-years-old. And one of the things that I didn’t think about at the time very much, and I read where Sarah was actually interviewed. I think it was The New York Times. It was back in the 2008 campaign. And she was being interviewed about me and my relationship with her dad and all this stuff. And I was reading the article, and something really jumped out at me, because I’d never thought about it as a big deal. But when the kids were little, every week on one of the days, I would take each of the children by themselves, just me and one of the kids to go to breakfast. And even when I became governor and Sarah was in that transition period of going through junior high and a tough time, I still did that. And that meant sometimes I would say no to meetings and no to events. But that was special time. I didn’t think that was – I did it for me, to be honest with you, you know, probably way more so than because I thought she enjoyed it. But in that article, they ask her something about the relationship and what she remembered as a kid growing up. And she said that, “No matter how busy my dad was, and I knew that there were so many people wanting his time, wanting his attention, he never failed to take me to breakfast once a week throughout all of my high school years.” And it just hit me that it was not something that was so much planned as it was that it was the – the gift that is, I think, the single most important gift a parent can give. And that’s time. And I once heard somebody say, you spell love, T-I-M-E. And you can’t substitute for that. And it was later that I realized that that was something God had led me to do, because I was too stupid to have figured this out about myself.
Jim: No, it’s good. That is so – that is great advice, actually. Sarah, did you like those breakfasts?
Sarah: I did. And, you know, at the time, as he said, he didn’t realize how impactful it was. And frankly, I didn’t either, until I was older and not home and not getting to go to that breakfast every week. So, my day was Wednesday. I went to Wednesday morning breakfast. And that was a time that I knew was special. And I knew my dad was prioritizing me. And that was something that was really important for me, particularly for somebody like him who was so busy, who had so many demands, and so many people wanting something from him, knowing I had that, and it was protected, and it was mine was really meaningful. And frankly, I kind of miss it. I wish he’d make breakfast for me now.
Jim: Well, that might be coming.
Jim: I’ve heard he’s talking about pancakes.
Governor Huckabee: Yeah. Yeah.
Jim: But, uh, man, this has been…
Sarah: I don’t matter anymore, actually.
Sarah: I used to be a really big deal, and I used to think that I was pretty special. And then I had kids.
Sarah: And now I realize I’m nothing more than a vehicle…
Governor Huckabee: Yeah. That’s right.
Sarah: …To bring the grandkids.
Governor Huckabee: Very true.
Sarah: And on one particular day, we’re sitting – I’m sitting in the living room at my parents’ house, and I hear my dad come in and my back’s sort of to him and my daughter’s there, and I hear him go, “Where’s my girl?” And I turn around, thinking he’s reaching for me.
Sarah: I don’t even know if he knew I was in the room…
Sarah: …And he was going for my daughter, Scarlett.
Sarah: But if you’re gonna get picked over, get picked over for your own kid. So, it’s not – I was pretty okay with it.
(LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE)
Jim: That’s awesome. That’s awesome. (laughter) Well, Sarah, we do have counseling at Focus on the Family if you need it.
Sarah: Thank you.
Sarah: I’m clearly – I’m clearly getting over it well.
Jim: (Laughter) But anyway, this has been so great. Sea Island crowd, let’s give the Huckabees a great hand for being with us.
Jim: That was awesome. Thank you so much.
Sarah: Thank you very much. Thank you.
Jim: All right. Oh, standing O.
John: What a special time with Former White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee as they joined us for a Focus on the Family broadcast recording at Sea Island, Georgia, just a few days ago.
Jim: Yeah, John, that was so much fun and what a memorable evening, and I so appreciated the banter between Sarah and the former governor. You know, it’s always healthy to see that. That they have a good loving relationship. They can tease each other. And I hope you’ve been inspired by this conversation to love our country, to appreciate our Judeo-Christian heritage, and to champion the family, while standing up for godly values. There are several things we can do to influence our families and communities to protect religious freedoms. First, we need to be in prayer for our country. The Bible says to “pray without ceasing” and we need to continually be in prayer for our families, our churches and for our leaders in government. Second, stay informed on issues that directly affect families and the future of our country.
John: Yeah. One way you can do that is by signing up for our Daily Citizen, which is a news resource that offers a Biblical perspective on what’s happening out there. It’s tremendously informative and you can sign up for the Daily Citizen at our website.
Jim: The third thing you can do to make a difference is to volunteer in your church and community. And fourth, there’s a big election tomorrow. And I know that millions of people have already voted early, but most will cast their vote for President – and other candidates on the issues tomorrow. Elections have consequences and I hope you’ll take that opportunity to vote tomorrow. And when you think about it, people have laid their lives down to ensure you’re freedom and you’re right to vote.
John: And we’ve got a link to a Presidential Voter Guide and also to the Daily Citizen at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.
Jim: And, finally, let me thank you for supporting Focus on the Family, so we can bring you the broadcasts like the one today. If you can make a gift of any amount, we’ll send you a CD of this conversation, including additional content, as our way of saying thank you.
John: Yeah. We had probably another 10 minutes or so with Governor Huckabee and Sarah Huckabee Sanders. And that really was fun stuff. Make a contribution today, as Jim said, and we’ll send you the entire discussion. Once more – focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. Or 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for joining us today for Focus on the Family. I’m John Fuller, inviting you back tomorrow and we once more help you and your family thrive in Christ.