Meet Asa Hutchinson: BJU Grad and Governor of Arkansas

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Over the years, we have been blessed to have many alumni who have taken what they’ve learned from Bob Jones University and gone on to do great things. I really enjoy this podcast because it gives me an avenue to talk to some of those people and share their stories with you.

Today, I had the opportunity to talk to Asa Hutchinson — a 1972 BJU grad and the current governor of Arkansas.

Gov. Hutchinson has served as the governor of Arkansas since 2015. In 1982, at the age of 31, he was appointed by Ronald Reagan as the U.S. Attorney for the United States Western District of Arkansas. He later served in the U.S. House of Representatives, was appointed as the Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration and led the Border and Transportation Security Division for the Department of Homeland Security.

I’m thankful for Gov. Hutchinson’s testimony, and I’m grateful that he took the time to join me for this episode. Please enjoy our conversation.

 


TRANSCRIPT OF GOVERNOR ASA HUTCHINSON INTERVIEW:

This transcript has been edited for ease of reading. 

(Music)

Sarah Rumpf: Welcome to Highest Potential with Dr. Steve Pettit, a podcast that explores how Bob Jones University empowers individuals to reach their highest potential for God’s glory.

(Music)

Steve Pettit: Thank you for joining me today for a new episode of Highest Potential. I’m Steve Pettit, president of Bob Jones University.

Over the years, we have been blessed to have many alumni who have taken what they’ve learned from BJU, and they’ve gone on to do some great things. I really enjoy this podcast because it gives me an avenue to talk to some of these people and to have them share their stories with you. And today, I have the opportunity to talk to Asa Hutchinson, a 1972 BJU grad and the current governor of Arkansas.

Governor Hutchinson has served as the governor of Arkansas since 2015. In 1982, at the age of 31, he was appointed by Ronald Reagan as the U.S. Attorney for the United States Western District of Arkansas. He later served in the House of Representatives, he was appointed as the administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration and led the Border and Transportation Security Division for the Department of Homeland Security. Governor Hutchinson and his wife Susan have four children. I’m thankful for Governor Hutchinson’s testimony, and I’m also grateful that he took the time to join me for this episode.

So please listen to our discussion right now.

(Music)

Pettit: Well, thank you sir, and really, really appreciate it. And thank you for being with us today on Highest Potential. First of all, we want you to just share a little bit of your background and your Christian testimony, how you came to the Lord, and love to hear that.

Hutchinson: Well sure, and of course, being from Arkansas, a native, and I grew up on a farm up in northwest Arkansas in a small town called Gravette out on Spavinaw Creek. It was a wonderful time in life, but my mom and dad, when I was the youngest of six children, wanted to make sure that I had an opportunity to be exposed to the gospel. And so, whenever I was in grade school, I started going to what we called Giant Fighters. There was a young pastor that graduated from John Brown University that was working with these 12-year-old kids, and we were playing soccer, we were building go-carts and playing football. He had one arm, but he had a passion for kids, and he knew how to do sports even with one arm. But every week when we met, he would have us to memorize a verse of Scripture. And so, the first week it was Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” The next week it was Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death.” Well, what he was doing was planting through the Word of God the Romans Road to salvation.

Pettit: Yes, sir.

Hutchinson: And God worked in my heart and even at a young age, I realized I was a sinner and needed a Savior. And so, it was through the ministry of a person, a pastor who spent time with kids and related to them, and it was through the Word of God and how that worked in my heart. And so, blessed with that day, and I stayed in touch with that pastor who started me off on a good path knowing the Lord.

Pettit: Wonderful! So, how’d you end up coming to Bob Jones University?

Hutchinson: That’s a super question, and as I was a teenager, we were in Springdale, and I had a Bob Jones graduate that was my pastor, and Reverend Carl Chewning was his name. Great Bible teacher, super Bible teacher, he went to Bob Jones. And so, as I struggled as a teenager, he talked to my parents and said, “You know, Bob Jones would be really good for him.” And you know me – I wanted to get out of state, I thought that would be a good opportunity, my brother went there the year before, so I took off to Bob Jones based on the influence of a pastor, a former graduate. And something inside of me also told me that this would be good for me, and it probably would give me a better foundation for the future.

Pettit: So, when you came here, you came in – what was it – ’68 or ’69?

Hutchinson: Oh, I did. It was the height of the Vietnam War, it was the time of campus protests, it was the time that we had two national assassinations in ’68, and then the violence continued in ’69. So, it was a very tumultuous time in our nation and for young people. And so, I came in ’69. I joke that I didn’t know what I wanted to be, so I picked accounting as my major because it was the first major listed alphabetically in the catalog.

Pettit: (Laughing) You picked one of the easier ones.

Hutchinson: So, I was four years into accounting at Bob Jones, and then I got into debate, and that debate topic caused me to go to a law library, I believe it was at Clemson law library, and started reading cases and I fell in love with the law and said, “Forget accounting, I’m going to go to law school.” And all through my experiences at Bob Jones, which changed dramatically in my life from accounting to law, and I got a good education along with it.

Pettit: So, when you look back on your time here at BJU, and I think we have about 45,000 graduates now, and over the years. And everybody has their own experience, and we call it the “snapshot of BJU” in their mind. What do you feel like were some of the most important things you took away from being a student here?

Hutchinson: Wow, there’s so much. I mean, first of all, Bible Doctrines, where we memorized Scripture. I still have my Bible Doctrines book by Thiessen, Systematic Theology, and that gives you a strong skeleton to build your faith on, and to strengthen yourself every day. It was also the society atmosphere; I played soccer there and that helped to build my leadership, actually. And then I worked in the gymnasium, and I tell this story to today. People ask me all the time as governor, “How do you become a good leader?” and I said, “You can learn leadership in doing a lot of different things in life. My first opportunities in leadership were on the cleaning crew in the gymnasium. I had workers that reported to me – I was the crew chief, and I learned about management by encouragement, inspection and the importance of that, the follow-up, the supply chain, and so, that experience at work was important to me as well.

And of course, I did meet my bride there at Bob Jones. Susan was a biology major, and we didn’t meet until like the last six months of school. And you ought to hear her tell the story of how Dr. Fremont encouraged her to be a little bit more bold in trying to find a guy. And so, she nabbed me, and oh, what a great love story that we’ve had, and we met at Bob Jones.

Pettit: I always tell Bob Jones graduates, “If you got your wife here, be very, very thankful for what the Lord’s given you because there’s so many people that have experienced that blessing.

So, you graduated, and share with us just an overview of your journey to, you know, your political road. I’m super curious about that and how you became the governor of Arkansas.

Hutchinson: Well, it was not an easy path, and there’s a lot of unusual twists and turns. If you heard my introduction to an audience, it would probably include the fact that I was appointed by President Reagan as the youngest United States Attorney at the age of 31. I got elected to the United States Congress, I was a state party chairman, I served in the Bush administration as head of the DEA, and then the number two or three person at Homeland Security as undersecretary, and then I came back and got elected as governor of Arkansas.

Now, what that background does not tell you is I lost my first three statewide races for office. And so, I’ve had a lot of downtime to the political arena. I was running as a Republican in a, at that time a blue state. We didn’t have a Republican party, and so I lost my first race in 1986 for the U.S. Senate. I lost my first race for governor, and I lost a race for attorney general. And, it is very unusual for someone to have three losses like that and then be able to have the opportunity to get elected, well to high office such as Congress and as Governor.

And so, I’ve been blessed, and the Lord has taught me every step of the way to understand that what I am doing was making a difference and that even though it’s a very unusual path, and a challenging path to get here, that by the time I got to be governor, I was the most prepared governor that we’ve ever had in history. (laughter) I mean, I’ve served – you’ve heard the different positions that I’ve served, and what a joy it has been for me to be able to work at the federal level and at Homeland Security after 911, trying to protect our country from a terrorist attack, to head up the DEA. And then the private sector here, after I lost my first race for governor, I worked, and I was blessed by that, and then eight years later I got elected governor, and I’m in my second term now.

Pettit: Wow, that’s a tremendous story, and in this course, you meet thousands of people, especially in the state of Arkansas, and I’m sure you love Arkansas. I’m from South Carolina, so I have a deep love for this state. What are some of the most rewarding and fulfilling things that you’ve done as governor?

Hutchinson: There are so many. And when you look at being governor, and what motivates me to be in politics to begin with is my Christian faith, that you want to make a difference while you’re here on this earth in the lives of people that you’re around and to influence it in the right direction for God and the values that we hold dear. And so, that can be done in two ways in the political arena by good policy, and so that’s been rewarding to me to sign pro-life legislation, it’s been rewarding to me to improve education and teacher’s salaries and computer science education.

But some of the biggest joys comes from the personal interaction, and that’s where God allows you to have some of the biggest blessings for yourself and hopefully blessings for others. And so it could be just helping someone who’s struggling in life with a challenge that they have with the government, or it could be a fifth-grader who wants to come in and sit in the governor’s chair, and you’re able to treat them well and inspire them for a lifetime. So, it’s the joy of people that really makes this job fun for me.

In terms of policy, we’ve lowered taxes. I’ve had to manage through this pandemic that no one expected, and that’s been gratifying to me because it was the biggest stress and challenge to my leadership skills that I’ve ever had, and I hope never to have again.

Pettit: Right.

Hutchinson: But it’s been a good six years, and I’ve got a couple more years left, and we want to finish strong.

Pettit: Wow. I totally understand the challenges. We faced them here in a university setting, and God has been very merciful to us to help us.

I’d like to ask this kind of in closing, Governor if you don’t mind, and that is that this is a tumultuous time in many ways in our country, and as a Christian in politics, how would you encourage the people of God today, Christian people – they’re all over the place – how to respond to government? And if you were to sit in front of a group of Christian people, you’d say, “Here’s what I would encourage you folks to do.” What would that be?

Hutchinson: Well, first of all, let’s pray for our leaders because when you pray for them, it shapes your heart as well and we’re also commanded to do that. And that includes the president, whether we agree or not, and it includes your governor. And from my standpoint, I always ask for two prayers. One is for wisdom – I need the wisdom that the book of James refers to the wisdom that is from above. I need the wisdom that helps me to see eternity’s values and wisdom that deals in human affairs. And then, pray for me to be a good steward. I’ve been in this unique opportunity to be in office, and I want to make it count, and I want to be a good steward.

But in the broader context of our Christian faith and the Christian family, we need to participate. And when I say “participate” is generally voting. But we need to be as knowledgeable a voter as we can and that’s hard in this environment with all the false information out there and confusion and the internet. But we need to make the best judgments that we can with information.

And then, I think it’s important that we tolerate. We’re in, as Christians in the political arena, with a biblical worldview. But we have to work with people who have different perspectives, and we have to make judgments based on how we’re going to move our country in the right direction for terms of freedom, in terms of love and compassion, and sometimes we forget that tolerance part, in that we have an edge that makes us ineffective. And so, we’ve got a lot of division in our country, and Christians don’t need to add to that division. We need to somehow add to unity and some tolerance at the same time that we’re standing very firm on the principles that God wants us to hold to.

Pettit: Well, all of those things are challenging, and to be able to do it with a solid balance, we really need the grace of God today.

So, governor, thank you for taking the time in your busy schedule. Can I pray for you right now and for the state of Arkansas?

Hutchinson: I would be very grateful. Thank you.

Pettit: Lord, we thank you so much for Governor Hutchinson. We thank you for the state of Arkansas. We pray for your grace and blessing to be upon him. Give him the wisdom that he needs to make the kind of decisions that will strengthen the state, make it a solid state. We pray for the people of the state, that you would bless them, and particularly for the blessing of God on the preaching of the gospel through local churches and the scores of Christians that are there. Thank you for his influence. Thank you for grace. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Thank you, Governor, for your time.

Hutchinson: Absolutely. Say hello to Governor McMaster. He’s a long-time friend of mine.

Pettit: We love him here in South Carolina, and we support him, and he’s been a blessing through this pandemic.

Hutchinson: Yeah. He’s a good man, good man. He’s had a lot of ups and downs in politics just like I have.

Pettit: Well, I’m sure. We’re super grateful for him, so thank you.

 

(Music)

Rumpf: Thank you for listening to this week’s episode of “Highest Potential” with Steve Pettit. Don’t forget to find us and subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts. Thanks again for listening. We’ll talk to you next week.

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Steve Pettit traveled for many years with the Steve Pettit Evangelistic Team before becoming president of Bob Jones University. His ultimate goal for BJU is to prepare students to serve and love others, no matter their vocation.