What does Arkansas' "first kid" – actually, I guess, "third kid" – do when she's no longer a kid? Try to change the world, of course.
What does Arkansas’ “first kid” – actually, I guess, “third kid” – do when she’s no longer a kid? Try to change the world, of course.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the youngest of Gov. Mike and first lady Janet Huckabee’s three children, is working this year as the 2012 campaign manager for ONE, the organization that encourages governments to devote 1 percent of their budgets to foreign aid projects that address extreme global poverty.
She is heading up the organization’s efforts to woo presidential and senatorial candidates, both incumbents and challengers, to try to support the cause. She says most candidates from both sides of the aisle are supportive.
Sanders became familiar with the campaign while working as her dad’s national political and field director during the 2008 presidential campaign and then afterwards as executive director of HuckPAC, his political action committee. Gov. Huckabee ended up becoming the group’s national co-chairman, traveled to Africa as part of the campaign, and appeared in a commercial where he and other celebrities and public figures were shown uttering a bleeped out version of “the f-word” – that word being “famine.”
There is a case to be made against foreign aid – that it can be wasteful, ineffective and even counterproductive, and that the money is better spent directly helping Americans. A recent World Public Opinion poll found that the average American believes that the United States devotes 25 percent of its budget to foreign assistance but should only devote 10 percent. The actual number is around the 1 percent, ONE advocates.
But Sanders believes the United States has a moral obligation to help the world’s poorest people, more than a billion of whom live on less than a dollar a day and some of whom live on the edge of, or in the midst of, starvation. Helping stabilize desperately poor countries also is a national security issue, she said. If the United States doesn’t help these people help themselves, then a country such as China will step into that void, she argues.
“I think we have a bigger moral obligation, and as a Christian and a conservative, I think that there is a role to be played, and even some of it is just raising awareness about the issues that are out there even aside from the aid,” she said.
She has had a busy adulthood. She took some time off college to assist in her dad’s 2002 re-election campaign for governor and then, after graduating in 2004, moved to Washington, D.C., for a job in the Bush administration. After working for her dad’s political action committee and campaign, she managed Sen. John Boozman’s successful 2010 election and then was a senior Iowa strategist (if someone still in her 20s can be called “senior”) for former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s short-lived presidential campaign.
Then came ONE, which she said has given her a chance “to be a part of the process without being part of the arguing” and allowed her to see a campaign from a new perspective.
“It’s kind of weird to be there on Election Day and not be completely stressed out and freaking out and worried about who said what and who did what and who’s going where and actually just get to relax a little bit and enjoy kind of sitting back and watching from the sidelines,” she said.
Sanders, who lives in Little Rock with her husband, Bryan, is about to welcome another member of the family, Scarlet Wiles Sanders, due in late April.
While Sanders is taking a break from the rough and tumble world of politics to work with the ONE campaign and be a new mom, she doesn’t intend to stay out of political campaigns forever. Politics has run through her blood since she moved into the Governor’s Mansion around age 12.
“And I’m a Daddy’s girl,” she added, “so I was constantly at my dad’s side throughout every campaign he ran. … I’ve been to every festival, Lincoln Day Dinner across the state of Arkansas and then some, and for some reason – some people say it’s a sickness – but I actually loved it and enjoyed it, and so I think it gave me a great starting place and a better understanding of politics and the process, but also the brutality of it from a pretty early on age.”
Brutality? Wait until she starts changing diapers. Those can be brutal.
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Steve Brawner is an independent journalist in Arkansas. His blog — Independent Arkansas — is linked at Arkansasnews.com. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.