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Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee speaks on “Leadership in a Free and Strong America at University of the Cumberlands 6th annual Leadership event on Tuesday, April 5. The event was hosted by UC and the Forcht Group of Kentucky Center for Excellence in Leadership.

WILLIAMSBURG, Ky. - Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee brought a fresh prospective to University of the Cumberlands as he spoke to students and community members on Tuesday April 5, 2011. The presidential candidate, speaking at the sixth annual Center for Excellence in Leadership program, delivered a speech that resonated with the audience as he addressed many issues that are currently affecting the Appalachia area. Joining Huckabee was Grammy and CMA award-winning artist Lee Greenwood, who performed “God Bless America” and the patriotic anthem “God Bless the USA”.

“We are all part of the fabric of this state and this nation,” said Dr. Jim Taylor, Cumberlands’ president. €I think [Huckabee] was talking very candidly about what is going to have to be done in terms of some mutual sacrifice so we don’t burden [the students’] generation and the next generation.”

In his speech, Huckabee chose to motivate the crowd to strive and be the leaders of the future while improving the world for upcoming generations. The first step in doing so, according to Huckabee, is to remember that “government [should] essentially be self governed”; and that the “best form of government is at the most basic level…family”, where mothers and fathers raise their children together.

The former governor offered a solution to improving the country by beginning with the restoration of the nation’s character through strengthening of families and healing a “broken humanity”. Expanding on a local issue, Huckabee stated that forty one percent of children today are born out of wedlock.

Williamsburg Mayor Roddy Harrison felt that the speech connected with the audience because Huckabee “spoke to the crowd, and just captured everyone’s hearts…I think it relates, it really hit home.” Huckabee addressed other local issues such as unemployment rates and the loss of small businesses. He stated that the government is “focused on penalizing the wrong peopletaking from those who make good decisions [in order] to bailout those who are making bad decisions.”

Throughout the speech, Huckabee emphasized the importance of the “government working for the people”, regardless of people working for the government. He added that the Bill of Rights is meant to protect the people and “limit the government, not limit you. It doesn’t say you can’t speak up, it says the government can’t keep you from speaking up.”

According to Huckabee, the purpose of the government is to be limited and allow the economy to operate and function fairly; where the winner and loser is determined by how well they executed their business or job.

Instead, the Arkansas native cautioned that currently the “government is manipulating the markets” by bailing out those who are deemed ‘too big to fail’; thus placing the burden on the small businesses and taxpayers. This manipulation, Huckabee added, is “not what the founding fathers intended”.

Huckabee’s speech also encouraged students to pay close attention to the actions of their elected officials.

“For me, one of the points from the speech that stuck out was that in a working economy, you have to reward good business decisions and let the natural consequences of bad decisions run their course,” said Cumberlands’ senior Clark Embree.

“In my thoughts, the nation currently doesn't know where it stands ethically,” senior Adam Craig said. €I felt as though [Huckabee] was saying that he wants to be a voice [for the people] because the government is no longer holding true to American values on which he believes the country was originally established.”

While portions of Huckabee’s speech appealed to the broad interests of community members, the focus of his message later targeted specifically the future generation of leaders sitting in the audience.

“Every decision that Congress makes will affect you a heck of a lot more than it will ever affect me,” he warned; thus presenting a challenge to the students that did not go unheard.

“Most of us have yet to face the real working world,” Cumberlands sophomore Kevin Rybicki said. €So most of what he discussed, we as students are going to have to handle and deal with in the very near future. Pretty soon our generation is the one that will be making these decisions.”

Chris Dillon, a sophomore, added, “We need to do our own homework and be active in our communities, letting [what we do] reflect to others; thus creating a better community and, eventually, nation.”

The messages of the six featured speakers hosted at Cumberlands since the start of the Leadership series that begin in 2006, have ultimately culminated in the challenge Huckabee laid forth to the students as they begin to construct their nation of the future.

The presidential candidate prepared the students for this strenuous undertaking with a lesson of hope from the past.

“There has always been a group of people in this nation who rose up and gave voice to the simple principles of liberty,” Huckabee said.

“This night will be worth it…if one student says, here am I Lord, send me.”

The annual lecture series is made possible by an endowment from local business owners Dr. Terry and Mrs. Marion Forcht, who founded the Forcht Group of Kentucky Center for Excellence in Leadership in 2006. The purpose of the Center is to provide programs and activities that enhance the development of leadership, character and good citizenship. Past speakers in the series have included Roy Moore, Zell Miller, Stephen Covey, Ben Stein and Karl Rove.

Located in Williamsburg, Ky., University of the Cumberlands is an institution of regional distinction, which currently offers four undergraduate degrees more than 40 major fields of study; nine pre-professional programs; seven graduate degrees, including a doctorate and six master’s degrees; certifications in education; and online programs.