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10/1/97 Arkansas governor’s new book highlights faith amid adversity

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (BP)–Few political observers will ever forget the tumultuous events surrounding Mike Huckabee’s inauguration as governor of Arkansas on July 15, 1996. In a new book published by the Baptist Sunday School Board’s Broadman & Holman division, Huckabee offers a firsthand account of that historic day and how it has impacted his personal and professional life.
The 190-page book, titled “Character Is the Issue,” is Huckabee’s first published book. The idea for the project began a year ago over lunch with BSSB President James T. Draper Jr. who invited Huckabee to write a book about his recent experiences.
“Broadman contacted me and it got under way last October,” Huckabee recalled. Calling the project “a great experience,” he said he was able to “focus on the message of the book” while BSSB editor John Perry coordinated production details.
Noting “a lot of it was written mostly late at night” to accommodate his hectic schedule as governor, the 42-year-old Huckabee joked, “How long did the book take? You might say 42 years.”
The book, presented in three sections, includes “Character in the Furnace,” which chronicles his rapid ascent from political novice to governor; “The Need for Character,” which highlights issues of faith and integrity; and an appendix of selected speeches and commentary. The appendix includes his initial acceptance speech as governor which was scrapped in favor of an impromptu address that was televised shortly before his delayed inauguration became reality.
Huckabee said a primary goal of the book is to encourage readers to “commit to be individuals of personal character and integrity and to try to instill that in others.”
“I would hope it would be an encouragement to people who think our society is beyond hope,” he shared. “I’d like them to be buoyed in their own conviction that the things they do to build character qualities are really worth doing — that it really does matter.”
Acknowledging some people are uncomfortable with his faith perspective, Huckabee pointed out, “I wanted the book to be an honest book. I can’t write an honest book without talking about faith, without talking about my personal relationship to Jesus Christ. That is the centerpiece of who I am.
“In our culture, we talk about diversity and acceptance and tolerance,” the former Arkansas Baptist pastor and president of the state Baptist convention emphasized. “I shouldn’t be restricted in my freedom of speech as well as freedom of religion to talk very candidly and openly about what makes me tick. To try to present myself other than that would be dishonest.”
In addition to Huckabee’s focus on faith, the book also contains such chapters as “Is God a Democrat?” and “Yellow Dogs Bite” that occasionally lapse into partisan politics.
By talking specifically about the events surrounding former Gov. Jim Guy Tucker’s resignation following conviction on Whitewater-related charges, Huckabee explained, “There’s no way I could tell the story of what happened on July 15 and prior to that and after that apart from telling what happened. By this book being as personal as it is and as simple, it will give some people ammunition.”
Despite that risk, Huckabee said the overarching message of the book is “the issues that affect character are important issues.” Noting the bulk of such social crises as drug abuse, teen pregnancy, juvenile delinquency and overcrowded prisons “comes from a lack of character,” he said the breakdown of character has “a spiraling kind of effect that you can measure in true economic impact.”
Explaining his emphasis on the issue of character, Huckabee wrote in the book’s introduction, “Our character defines the world we live in. Our government, welfare programs, schools and everything else in our lives are shaped and directed according to our character … . Every law in the country is a reflection of our moral values … . Your character makes a difference every day — in the work you do, the candidates you vote for, the people who look to you for leadership.”
Highlighting the impact of his Christian faith throughout the book, Huckabee wrote, “Character does count. Integrity does count. But if integrity and character are divorced from God, they don’t make sense … . Being governor has led me to depend on faith with a new sense of urgency. I face situations every day that would be insurmountable without using the faith God has given me to make decisions.”
As he continues to adjust from his role as local church pastor to governor of the state of Arkansas, Huckabee remarked, “The biblical definition of the highest calling is the calling we have in Jesus Christ, not the calling we have to a particular vocation … . The real goal in life is to be more Christlike.”

    About the Author

  • Trennis Henderson

    Trennis Henderson is the national correspondent for WMU (Woman’s Missionary Union). A Baptist journalist for more than 35 years, Henderson is a former editor of the Western Recorder of the Kentucky Baptist Convention and the Arkansas Baptist News state convention newsjournal.

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