WASHINGTON, D.C. (Catholic Online) – These are tough days on so many fronts - troubling to anyone who is concerned about the future of our Nation. Like some of our readers I am tired and discouraged. So, when I received a recent invitation to travel to Washington D.C. for a meeting of the steering committee of the “Freedom Federation”, I was reluctant. Please do not misunderstand. I am honored to stand with these men and women who have joined together at this critical time in our history. We stand in solidarity for the dignity of all life at every age and stage, for marriage and the family founded upon it and for authentic freedom, directed toward the truth about the human person, the family and the path to building an authentically just society.
I have made some inspiring new friendships with champions such as Rev. Sam Rodriquez and Bishop Harry Jackson. And, it is a joy after several years to renew old ones with my friends Ken Blackwell and Matt Staver. However, the drive to Washington D.C., even with good “beltway traffic” is at least four hours for me since I moved back to Chesapeake, Virginia. I am “swamped” these days, on every front of my life. So, let me be honest. I accepted the invitation because a special guest had promised to drop by and share his thoughts. That special guest is one of my favorite public servants, the former Governor of Arkansas and former Presidential candidate, Mike Huckabee.
I have long admired this genuinely good man. I had the privilege of interviewing him for Catholic Online during the last Presidential campaign. We have published those interviews as related stories under this article. When he entered the meeting, filled with dedicated people (mostly evangelical protestant leaders, though this time I was not the only Catholic) who themselves possess leadership gifts, he filled the room with his presence. Real leaders have a presence about them which just fills the room. His warm smile and attention to every person he greeted was impressive. His warmth toward me made the long drive worthwhile. However, it was his insights, shared over the course of a long and dynamic meeting which convinced me that this is a man who has not even begun to give his gifts to the service of his Nation.
I sat next to the Governor and, I must admit, I invited some of his responses through my own questions and observations. I could say he “had me” when he called my champion, the late Servant of God John Paul II, “one of the great spiritual and Christian leaders of our lifetime” and shared anecdotal stories from the late Pope’s life. However, there was much more to come in the rich content of his intelligent public policy positions. It was the substance of those deeply held positions on the issues which matter most which won the day and only deepened my admiration for the man. He breaks the molds of the empty political labels of “left/right”, “liberal/conservative.” He espouses truly human, just and concerned positions. I will be returning to them, I am sure, in future articles. However, permit me to share just one of his comments.
In the context of discussing the fundamental human rights issue of our age, the right to life from conception, to birth, throughout life and up to and including a natural death - what I call the “whole life/pro-life” position, which the Governor clearly embraces - he said these words: “To say that one person has value, but another does not, that one has human dignity but another does not, or somehow has less… that is the kind of thinking that slavery was built upon, and worse… . The dignity of every human person and the value of every human life must be the pole star of all public policy.” These words are not a slogan, they are a creed to the Governor, a deeply help vision of life and worldview. They flowed from the heart of a man who cares deeply about this nation and about our future together.
The meeting with Governor Huckabee came on the heels of another meeting I had in September. I had the privilege of attending the Catholic Leadership Conference and reconnecting with another good man whom I have known for quite a while and also deeply admire, Senator Rick Santorum. I was there years ago, in the Senate Chamber, when the Senator was defending our first neighbors in the womb against being partially delivered and having their heads crushed through what is called “partial birth abortion.” He spoke with passion that day, confronting the empty words of an opponent who was defending the brutal procedure. Pointing to a picture of a baby being delivered he proclaimed “This is a baby Senator!” At that very moment a baby cried, filling the chamber with the sounds of life and delivering a poignant defense of the truth about life.
Over the years I have known the Senator we have not always agreed on every issue but we have on the ones which matter most. His stalwart defense of life has been an inspiration, especially in the face of some other unfaithful Catholics in public service. I must admit, he has only improved with age. His plenary address that evening to the gathered Catholic Leaders from every segment of the Culture was inspired and outstanding. His willingness to take questions and answers added to the experience and to the quality of the content he gave all who had gathered. Senator Santorum is also a genuine public servant who, in my own shorthand “gets it”. I had the last question of the night and, needless to say, his honest answer caused some response the next day in the Press. Let’s put it this way, it had to do with his future plans.
So, the last few weeks have inspired me in what has otherwise been a long desert of political despair. Between Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum, the Political future looks Promising. Stay tuned….