As students and faculty packed into Randolph Hall yesterday, Nov. 2, Jon Huntsman could be seen waiting in the doorway to the side of the stage. After a short introduction, Huntsman received a warm welcome as everyone in the room stood up in order to applaud him. Instead of taking his place behind the podium, which had already been set up with a mic, Huntsman proceeded to stand in front of it near the edge of the stage.
While professionally clad in a black suit, Huntsman opted out of wearing a tie. The only accessory, besides the clothes on his back, could be found on his left hand: a wedding ring.
“I’m running for the presidency as a father of seven kids.” Huntsman said these words in the first few sentences of his speech. With the three older daughters helping out with the campaign, two younger ones adopted and two sons now involved in the armed services, Huntsman appeared as a family man, advocating the urgency of providing the next generation with a country less divided.
Many have coined the former Republican Utah Governor as a dark horse in the race. With names such as Perry, Bachmann, Cain or Romney in the news, other presidential candidates, such as Huntsman, aren’t always featured in the spotlight. Even though Huntsman recognized this in his visit to the College yesterday, he said he still thinks he has a chance.
“I’m an underdog, but you know what, underdogs rise up and succeed.”
Huntsman continued to say that he felt as if he was being “whip lashed” at times. He used the example of the media’s tendency to switch from candidate to candidate as their focus changed. He said at the beginning of the race, everyone was talking about Tim Pawlenty, but he has now withdrawn. Then Michele Bachmann was all the rage who was then followed by Rick Perry.
When it came down to it though, Huntsman said people will stare at the ballot box, and the early primary talk about “such-and-such candidate” won’t be in their minds because they will seriously think about who is best fit to run the country.
During his speech, Huntsman told those who attended the event that he wanted them to walk away remembering two things: the need to rebuild a strong manufacturing sector and the urgency of the United States repositioning itself as a leader in the world, which can only be done by fixing its economy and focusing on innovation and entrepreneurship.
He compared the need for urgency to aviation history. He said, “I feel at times this nation is losing its engines. Can we re-fire it? Yes, we can. That’s why I’m running for president.”
Jobs and the Economy
The first point he wanted people to remember dealt with rebuilding the United States’ “manufacturing muscle.” Born in the 1960s, Huntsman said he remembered when the manufacturing industry was still booming. Since then, manufacturing as a part of the economy has plummeted. In 1965, the share was 53 percent, and by 1988 it dropped to 39 percent. Even more starkly contrasted, in 2004, manufacturing accounted for just 9 percent.
Huntsman said the United States has fallen behind in workforce training and that it needs to take measures to fix the economy and the unemployment issue by focusing on tax and regulatory reform.
“We’ve got this divide in this country that is unhealthy, unnatural and un-American. And how are we going to bring people together? We can agree on the big issues of the day. If we don’t address this jobless issue now, the divide will only get bigger. We have great innovators and entrepreneurs in this country, but there is no confidence. So what to do? I think this nation needs to reestablish itself as a premier manufacturer in the world.”
Huntsman also said he was concerned about the United States’ dependency on energy. He said, “And here we sit today, like a heroine addiction to oil.” Huntsman said the United States must investigate environmentally-sound energy projects in order to step away from its dependence on energy imports.
The second issue Huntsman emphasized dealt with the United States’ position in the world and its foreign policy. He emphasized his experience by mentioning several times that he served overseas four times. He was once the U.S. Ambassador to Singapore and the U.S. Trade Ambassador under former President George W. Bush. When asked by President Barack Obama to serve as the U.S.
Ambassador to China, setting partisan lines aside, Huntsman accepted the request and was then unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate. While some conservatives may be wary about his involvement with Obama, Huntsman said, “When the President of the United States asks you to serve…” you don’t say “No.”
Huntsman said the United States needs to remember that Afghanistan and Iraq is not its future, and that it is not in the country’s best interest to be spread far and thin. Instead, Huntsman said the United States should focus on its economy so that it doesn’t fall behind in the world.
In regard to to falling behind, Huntsman said,
“We are a dispirited bunch and it is unnatural for us to be like that… We don’t have confidence, we don’t have leadership and we don’t have a plan.”
Although Huntsman focused on the U.S. economy and foreign policy primarily in his speech, one student asked him about repealing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Although Huntsman said “ObamaCare” needed to be repealed, he said he is tired of people saying the same thing but not offering possible solutions.
He specifically talked about creating more transparency for patients so that they know what options they have in relation to costs. He also spoke about harmonizing medical records to cut costs out of the system. However, his main focus is closing the gap of the uninsured without implementing a one-size-fits-all system.
He also spoke about the need for investigating affordable insurance policies that’s also easily accessible to patients. He said the best way forward involves affordable options to match people with different needs.
Give it two to three years, Huntsman said a solution can be found. He said, “We can get it done. I have no doubt we can get it done. The best ideas will emerge. We just need to set the foundation.”
Civil Unions and Gay Marriage
Another student at the event said he was concerned that although Huntsman supported civil unions, he did not support gay marriages. Huntsman said the decisions should be made on a state-by-state basis, and that states should have this discussion and determine what’s right.
In regard to his favor of Civil Unions, Huntsman said, “Some people like it and some people don’t.”
Need for Leadership
Although Huntsman focused on several issues during his speech, he repeatedly emphasized the need for leadership and more confidence from the American people. He said the current nation is handing down a country to the next generation even more divided.
He said the United States lacks the confidence, leadership and a plan at the moment. Huntsman said he wanted to change this. He said, “[It] starts with a plan and starts with leadership.”