Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson spoke at his alma mater, Bob Jones University, on Friday, Feb. 3 at 11 a.m. in the Founder’s Memorial Amphitorium. Speaking for the University’s Presidential Leadership Series, he discussed his time at BJU and principles for Christian leaders in public service.
He also spoke on his philosophy of leadership and potential 2024 campaign for president. “I will have to make a decision in the future about whether I’m going to be a candidate for president in 2024,” Hutchinson said in his speech.
Hutchinson served two terms as governor of Arkansas from 2015-23. He was reelected in 2018 in a landslide victory where he won 65% of the vote. Sarah Huckabee Sanders succeeded him as the new governor of Arkansas last month.
BJU’s Presidential Leadership Series events bring in outside speakers with personal experience in current issues facing students and faculty. Hutchinson’s speech, titled “A Time for Choosing,” recounted his experience growing up in Arkansas, lessons he learned at college and career in public service. Hutchinson also described his principles for good leadership, including humility, civil discourse and servant leadership.
To illustrate humility, Hutchinson shared the story of Bill Crawford, a WWII soldier and medal of honor recipient who later worked as a janitor at the U.S. Air Force Academy. A student at the Academy learned in a history book that the school janitor was a distinguished war hero and asked why he never mentioned it. “That was a long time ago and one day in my life,” Crawford said.
Hutchinson said that leaders must value civil discourse. “I believe the heart test is more important than the purity test,” he said. He explained that the Bible says the issues of life flow out of the heart (Proverbs 4:23) so Christians should value someone’s heart more than simply agreement on a checklist of issues.
The governor also referenced the 2024 presidential election. “I believe that America needs a servant-leader,” Hutchinson said. “I believe that a president of this United States is somebody who is responsible to bring out the best of America and not appealing to our worst instincts.”
“Here in South Carolina you’ve got some really great people, Tim Scott, a believer, who is looking at the president — Nikki Haley, former UN ambassador,” he said. He also mentioned his own potential bid.
Hutchinson said he began college majoring in accounting because it was top on the alphabetical list of options, but he found a passion for law in his senior year and went on to earn a Juris Doctor from the University of Arkansas School of Law in 1975.
After practicing law for several years, he was appointed by President Ronald Reagan as the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Arkansas. At only 31 years old, Hutchinson was the youngest U.S. attorney at the time.
In 1996, Hutchinson was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, where he served until 2001. President George W. Bush appointed him as director of the Drug Enforcement Administration and the first undersecretary for border and transportation security in the Department of Homeland Security.
“I’ve been blessed with a lot of opportunities and a lot of challenges in life, but at the same time, I hope that God finds me as a good steward of the opportunities He’s given,” Hutchinson said.
Hutchinson described how he built relationships through basketball. After becoming governor of Arkansas, he traveled to Cuba in October 2015. He was one of the first governors to do so after relations between the US and Cuba normalized in December 2014. While there, he joined a game of basketball with the local national team. He continued his tradition of playing basketball games while traveling in other countries including Japan, China, Israel, Switzerland and Germany.
Hutchinson closed with a challenge to the students attending. “Prepare yourself as you have this incredible opportunity at Bob Jones University, be ready for the challenges of life and be an encourager to the people you’re around,” he said. “Stand for your faith, and show love in your words and your action.”