Location: Hucktown. Population: 1,000. Crime: none. Drugs: None. Domestic violence: none. Government: the moral compass.
Seem "mythical"? It is. But, according to Mike Huckabee, it is not too far fetched. In his speech in Bailey Hall Tuesday, Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas, painted a picture of Hucktown to offer the audience a glance of what life could be in a world where institutional government is second to the internal moral rule of a given populous.
Entitled "In God We Trust: The Role of Faith in Politics," Huckabee, a former 2008 Republican presidential candidate, outlined his political and religious convictions, some of which have been the subject of heated debate among the American constituency.
As a member of the evangelical Protestant community, a community that includes approximately 26 percent of the American population, many constituents question and even challenge the role of religious doctrine in Huckabee's political platform. "The separation of church and state is what makes our country so great," said Katie Doyle '08, who was one of approximately seven students who protested Huckabee's visit outside the auditorium. "The notion of tolerance is what allows our country to be free, and what he says is not tolerant of others."
Known for touting traditional values, Huckabee's conservative ideology is worrisome to students who question his consistent references to religion and personal religious experiences. "Our country enables all people to express their religion, not impose it on others," said Marissa Weiss grad. "When [Huckabee] starts using his prominence to talk about religious things, it is not appropriate."
In his hour-long speech, Huckabee confronted these issues and many more as he described in detail his career path that many consider to be taboo: one from priesthood to politics. Unlike jobs in medicine, law and business, he identified a stigma attached to individuals who work for the government with backgrounds in religious leadership. "It was difficult making the transition in some ways," he began his speech by saying. "Not for me, but for people to accept, that if you are a person of faith, that you should even think about getting into the realm of politics."
However, he assured that his 25 years of working as a Baptist priest complement his political career because an individual's religious values demonstrate personal character. Such knowledge of a person is especially important in the political realm, he said, because a clear understanding of a politician's viewpoints is crucial to all those casting ballots. "If a person has deep faith, it gives you a clue to how they would respond in different situations," he said.
Although he acknowledged that his views might alienate some American constituents, he emphasized his "responsibility to tell people what I believe and how it affects me when I make decisions."
Huckabee explained that while his religious convictions factor into his political views, his standpoints reflect more than religious beliefs. "Huckabee revealed what faith's role in politics should be by explaining what faith's role in politics should not be. Faith should not directly impact political decision-making, but rather provide an overall moral framework to which a politician might adhere," said Brett Greenberg '08. "Mike Huckabee was one of the most genuine and forthright candidates in the presidential race in either party, and it definitely showed in his speech tonight."
Although deeply devoted to the Christian faith, Huckabee challenged a common misconception that religion is his sole care. "There is a misconception about what it means to be a pastor," he said, and then described his devotion to addressing univeral issues such as the insufficient amount of music and arts in the American education system, as well as the high level of poverty in the U.S.
The key to addressing such issues, he claimed, is not in a "big, restraining government," but rather "self government," which he described to be "a moral framework" that would enable people to live according to principles of virtue and personal honor.
"The presence of a government is proportionate to how we live," he said. "If we were to live by self-government, we could restrain and regulate ourselves." However, he conceded that an uncontrolled society may cause undesirable results. The high rate of American obesity, for example, is a result of people's "reckless disregard for what is good to do for our bodies."
Following his speech, the audience engaged in a 45-minute question-and-answer session in which inquisitors delved into polarizing social and political issues on the forefront of today's social and political discourse. He addressed heated topics such as the right for college campuses to permit concealed carry of weapons, gay marriage and the sanctity of life.
Huckabee's pro-life, anti-gay marriage stance triggered some emotional responses in the room. "I respect Huckabee for his unwavering stance on nationally polarizing issues," said Amanda Soled '08, "but I found some of his descriptions of abortion, like comparing it to leaving a wounded solider in battle, offensive and inaccurate."
The event, coordinated by the Cornell College Republicans, "was by all measures a success," said College Republicans President Ahmed Salem '08. "Huckabee was well-received and articulated his arguments clearly. He addressed important issues for the conservative community without watering down the issues, which is important for us."
© 2008 Cornell Daily Sun via U-WIRE