We can only imagine what kind of president Jon huntsman would have made if given the chance. His broad experience in both the private (Huntsman Corporation, director Ford Motor Co, Caterpillar) and public sector (governor of Utah two terms, Ambassador to Singapore, Ambassador to China), plus his moderate, inclusive views, would have served him well. However that last quality – moderate, inclusive views – doomed him as a presidential candidate in 2012.
His world and political views reflect the influence of Ronald Reagan, for whom he served as a staff assistant. As to how he would have handled the role of president, Huntsman says, “I had a very successful run as the two-time governor of Utah, and although there is no comparison in size, I learned the importance of leadership and leadership needs to come from the top. As Teddy Roosevelt said, you have a bully pulpit and with it you can call people to a higher level of self and service. Your job as president is to embody the aspirations of all Americans, right or left, Republican or Democrat and focus on the things this country needs to get right.”
One of the most important things we need to get right is something he learned in all the years serving in foreign countries. “I have lived in four countries in my life and all but one of them has a strategy, that one being us. Reagan is a good example. He wanted to restore the country, bring an end to the cold war, pass economic growth measure, promote freedom, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. With those goals he moved forward boldly and courageously.”
He adds, “I don’t think Reagan would like the way we’ve become so angry instead of fousing on the issues that bring us together. He had a complete lack of anger in political discourse.”
During his tenure as governor of Utah, his state received the PewCenter’s Best Managed State in America award. “I have had extensive experience in both the public and private sectors, but I do not agree with the observation that government should be run like a business. You can however, adapt business skills and traits to the public sector, like how to manage a cabinet, how to look at key economic ratios, how to deal with ratings agencies who determine your cost of capital and how to work with people who are investing or not investing in your state. If you can’t attract capital and talented people, they will end up going to some other state.”
As a Republican who does not currently see himself as a potential 2016 candidate, Huntsman would like to see a Republican in the White House. “For that to happen,it will take a reorientation by the American People toward the Republican Party, where they see it not just as the party of no, but the party of problem solving and solutions. We need a vision that we can relate to our voters. In other words, what does it plan to do to promote life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That needs to be the goal of every politician at every level of government, even local.”
Most people are not familiar with one aspect of Jon Huntsman’s life. He dropped out of high school just before graduating to pursue a music career as keyboardist for his progressive rock band, Wizard. Without bringing that up in our interview, I asked as a final question what advice would he give to teenagers thinking of dropping out of high school to play in a band. He laughed, and although the experience taught him he would follow a different path in life, he can understand why it would be such an exciting pursuit. “I still play once in a while, but renting a Hammond B-3 for one night costs more than I paid to buy a B-3 and Leslie speaker back in the day.”
His dream of a career in music ended within a year, so he and one of his bandmates decided to go on a Mormon mission trip to Taiwan. He would later finish high school, college and as they say, the rest is history.
Be sure to attend Huntsman’s lecture this coming Saturday at the Emerson Center, the last in the Celebrated Speaker series, Tickets are still available for the 6:30 presentation. Call 772-778-5249 or go online at www.theemersoncenter.org.