WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump has appointed former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee to serve on the board of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, one of the capital's cultural gems.
It's an assignment the Hope native eagerly accepted.
"It was, quite frankly, a natural fit," Huckabee said Thursday. "It's going to be a lot of fun and a perfect hand-in-glove opportunity."
Huckabee, a bass player for a half-century or so, has long championed music and the arts.
While governor, he signed legislation requiring public schools to provide weekly visual arts and music instruction for all students in first through sixth grades.
Rather than relying on volunteers, the schools were told to use licensed teachers who are certified in those subjects.
Over the years, Huckabee also worked with the National Association of Music Merchants, raising money to buy instruments for disadvantaged children.
Now, he'll be helping to oversee one of Washington's premier music and arts institutions.
That's fine with Donna McLarty, a Texarkana native and board member emeritus.
"I'm really delighted about the appointment of Mike Huckabee. I think he'll be wonderful," she said.
Huckabee was one of 10 board members Trump named Tuesday. The list included business and philanthropic leaders as well as actor Jon Voight, Broadway producer Daryl Roth and Karen LeFrak, author of Jake the Philharmonic Dog, Jake the Ballet Dog and other children's books.
Their terms end Sept. 1, 2024.
Huckabee, a presidential candidate in 2008 and 2016, spent a lot of time with Trump on the campaign trail in 2015 and 2016.
After his loss in the Iowa caucuses, Huckabee dropped out of the race, but remained on good terms with his former adversary. While other Republicans were snubbing Trump, Huckabee chose to embrace him. And once Trump had cleared the Republican field, Huckabee worked hard to help elect him.
So did Huckabee's former campaign manager, daughter Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
When Trump was looking for an assignment for Huckabee, early in the presidential transition period, the Kennedy Center wasn't at the top of the New Yorker's list.
"The president had been asking me to do different things ... way back before he took office," Huckabee said. "Cabinet jobs and ambassador things."
Huckabee wasn't interested, however, in becoming a full-time civil servant, he recalled.
"I said, 'Look, I don't want a federal job. I'm kind of done with government jobs for a while,'" Huckabee said.
When Trump asked if there was anything that sounded appealing, Huckabee said he'd enjoy something arts-related.
Eventually, "the Kennedy Center position came open and I thought, 'That is a perfect fit,'" Huckabee said.
Sanders, his daughter and Trump's press secretary, agrees.
"My dad is an incredible advocate for the arts and arts education and will bring this passion to the Kennedy Center board," she said Friday.
The Kennedy Center, which opened in 1971, overlooks the Potomac River and provides a platform for a wide variety of arts and artists -- from ballet and baritones to Broadway plays and Bach concertos.
It provides cultural opportunities to Washingtonians 365 days per year.
Huckabee recently visited the center, with his daughter and son-in-law.
"We went and saw Miss Saigon," he said, referring to the hit musical.
The building, which has several performance spaces, is itself a work of art, Huckabee said.
"Oh, it's gorgeous. I mean, it's really a national treasure," he said.
McLarty, who was appointed to the board by President Bill Clinton in 1998, says Huckabee's passion for music is deep-rooted. Growing up in Hope, Huckabee played in a band with her husband Mack McLarty's brother, Bud McLarty.
"It's pretty much a lifelong thing for him," she said of Huckabee.
"He has a background in music and an appreciation for music and he's always supported arts in education," she said.
"I've heard him speak a number of times about how the arts can influence curriculum and have such a positive effect on children," she said.
"There's all this wonderful science that's been done on how music relates to math and how it enhances children's performance ... and lifts their spirit at the same time," she said. "He was on the cutting edge of that. He was ahead of his time in talking about that."
One year ago, Huckabee was named to the board of the Country Music Association's charitable foundation, but quickly resigned after gay-rights supporters threatened to withhold financial support from the tax-exempt organization.
Huckabee said he wasn't trying to advance a political agenda when he offered his services a year ago. He was simply trying to help promote a worthy cause.
"It was all about music. It's the only thing it's about," he said.
Now he's been given another opportunity to serve.
Being on the Kennedy Center board "will give me the opportunity to invest some of my time and efforts in something I'm very passionate about," he said.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee has played bass guitar for a half-century and said “it’s going to be a lot of fun” serving on the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts board.
SundayMonday on 03/31/2019
Print Headline: Trump picks ex-Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee for board of Kennedy Center in D.C.