Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee was entertaining and straight-forward in his delivery of the keynote address to the Kansas Agribusiness Expo in Wichita on Thursday morning.
Huckabee, a Fox News commentator and radio host, is also a Baptist minister and a former GOP presidential hopeful.
"I understand this is not a political event so I will try not to be partisan," he told the crowd. "And I know it is not a religious event, so I will try not to be overly religious. But, people you invited a Baptist preacher who is also a politician to speak, so I'm not quite sure how this is supposed to work."
Laugh lines aside, Huckabee went on to say that he was "shocked" that Mitt Romney lost the presidential election because right up until the time that Ohio was called for Obama he was sure that the Republican candidate would be headed to the White House.
Huckabee said he felt that the Republican message may have come across as callous and indifferent toward Americans struggling with poverty.
"I absolutely reject the notion that people are in poverty because they want to be," he said. "I say that because I am only one generation removed from living in a house with a dirt floor and no plumbing or electricity. I am the first male of my family to go to college. My father never finished high school and he worked hard and barely got by."
Huckabee said however, that the way out of poverty is not government assistance that makes people dependent and reduces their drive to help themselves.
"I think what people in poverty want is a job that offers them a way out and a pathway upward," he said. "What our system does is punish people for their success at every rung of the ladder up. Succeed and you pay more and more in taxes."
Huckabee said that he learned as a parent and grandparent that the way to get more of something is to reward the behavior that produces it.
"Work is good," he said. "We should reward work, not punish it. Sloth is bad. We should punish it, not reward it."
On the subject of health care, he said we need to solve the real problem which is unhealthy lifestyles and chronic illness.
"As a nation, we eat too much, exercise too little and smoke. That is real problem," he said.
He said his answer would be making Americans responsible for the consequences of their lifestyle decisions through a system of health savings accounts that enabled healthy young people to save money for late rmedical bills and keep more of that money if they remain healthy.
"We need to create a sense of personal responsibility," he said.
For government, he advocated term limits, a requirement that anyone running for a new office has to resign from the one he holds and a requirement that every member of Congress participate in social security and retirement savings just as average Americans do.
Finally, he said, more responsibility should move back to the states.
He advocated relying on charitable organizations and churches rather than government disaster aid and FEMA.
At the same time he said he is optimistic about the future because of the storms of the past that the country has weathered: the Cold War and nuclear threat, the assassination of President Kennedy, the riots of the 1960s, the energy crisis and inflation of the '70s and '80s.
"I don't think my party is always right or the other guys are always wrong," he said. "But I think we have to accept that the real answers don't come from government."
The real answers, he said, will come when Americans get on their knees and pray for God's help in turning society around.
"We need to live like He teachers us, to treat each other as equals, to esteem marriage and get back to the idea of a mother and a father focusing on raising children and training them to do the right things."
For more on Huckabee's solutions and the Agribusiness Expo, be sure to watch for your January Kansas Farmer.