Former presidential candidate Jon Huntsman spoke in the Hyman Forum on Monday, November 19. The name of his speech was, “Election 2012 and the Challenges Facing America Today;” however, the former Utah governor strayed from the prompt and simply summarized it, saying, “The Republicans lost.” Huntsman then went on to analyze the current political landscape. Noting the landmark polarization of the past election cycles, he was optimistic about the country’s ability to reconnect politically. Said the former ambassador; this process ought to be the primary concern for the nation, its citizens, and most importantly, its students.
According to Goucher President Sanford Ungar, the college scheduled Jon Huntsman—who was elected twice to the state office, but resigned to become ambassador to China, a position he then resigned in order to run for U.S. President– using an alumni grant which contributes to the scheduling of yearly prominent conservative speakers in the President’s Forum speaker series. This grant contributed to the payment of past conservative speakers such as Newt Gingrich and Karl Rove. The fund is used to create political diversity in the speaking schedule.
But, any different perspective Governor Huntsman offered was marked more by optimism than any form of partisanship, as partisanship is one of Governor Huntsman’s greatest fears for this nation. The Salt Lake Tribune reported in June that Governor Huntsman planned to not attend the past Republican National Convention because of the party’s exclusive qualities.
The specter of Governor Huntsman’s failed presidential campaign, a campaign that was, in his view, ended by partisanship, loomed throughout the speech. The former governor referred to it multiple times, viewing it as an important learning experience during which he formulated many of his political theories.
Likewise, Governor Huntsman’s experiences as ambassador to China, from 2009 until 2011, and Singapore, from 1992 to 1993, greatly influenced his view of the United States. From his outside perspective, the U.S. is still blessed with great economic and military power, great ingenuity, and a striking ability for social assimilation. Responding to a student question about the US/China economic relationship, Governor Huntsman stressed that we are the “only act in town” that can handle the large influx of Chinese investment capital. He also views the United States as an example of cultural diversity, and our army as a “pretty remarkable volunteer military.” To Governor Huntsman, the U.S. is still the dominant power of the world.
But this country, even in his view, is a power with many challenges. He stated multiple times that our enormous economic debt and deficit will soon improve, but that it is “as much a national security problem … as a debt problem.”
Governor Huntsman also spoke of a “trust deficit” in which the citizens of the US no longer trust our government. This lack of trust stems primarily, in his view, from our corrupt campaign financing, incumbency and redistricting laws. According to Governor Huntsman, these laws are holding the nation back from change and creating the dramatic partisan split. He believes they are hindering citizens’ trust in the government, and it is this trust that truly makes this country great.
Some students’ expectations of election analysis overshadowed their appreciation for Governor Huntsman’s political analysis. However, his moderate political positions, especially his support for civil unions and his dedication to state’s rights, pleased many.
“I think if he were to run in the future … I wouldn’t blink an eye voting for him,” stated SGA president and senor political science major Dashell Fittry, a self-professed Democrat.
Zach Byrum, a sophomore political science and economics double major, found Governor Huntsman’s “moderate stances to be very, very attractive.”
Junior Bradley Wright felt that Governor Huntsman was “definitely a Republican I can agree with on a lot of things,” but that he “did dodge a few questions,” referring to a largely unanswered question about Reagan’s sentiments on minorities, drugs, and AIDS.
Goucher College Democrats Vice-President Chris Nobriga said, “It was interesting to hear what he thought about the future of the moderate Republican.”
President Ungar was pleased by the attendance. He thought that Governor Huntsman appeared to be “a very sensible, moderate man,” and that his speech was “a great way to end the election season.”
Governor Huntsman has great expectations of today’s students and believes that students are the great hopefor this country. He expects young people to fix many of the underlying issues in government and advised students to stay engaged internationally, particularly in the US/China relationship.
Young people are also how Governor Huntsman would reconnect the nation. “We [the US] are only as good as the people we put forward into politics,” he said, suggesting that students involve themselves in the US political process. Governor Huntsman told the students in attendance: “I want you to be excited and energized about the prospects that lie ahead.”