A Life of Service

Sarah, Bryan, Huck, George and Scarlett Sanders. Photo courtesy of Sarah Huckabee Sanders
Sarah, Bryan, Huck, George and Scarlett Sanders. Photo courtesy of Sarah Huckabee Sanders

Over the years, Texarkana has had bragging rights to being the hometown of many famous people, from actors and politicians to musicians and athletes. In 2017, Texarkana native Sarah Huckabee Sanders moved into the national spotlight when she became White House press secretary. The two years she spent in this role were challenging, to say the least. Imagine being the one who answers questions on behalf of the most powerful political leader in the world. That might be how most people came to know her, but that is not where Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ story began, and it is certainly not where it will end. This wife, mother, political analyst, gubernatorial candidate and best-selling author values God, family and country and has committed her life to public service.

Sarah and her family moved to Texarkana in 1986, just after she turned four. Her father, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee (we will come back to that in a minute), was the pastor of Beech Street Baptist Church. Sarah fondly recalls her early years attending preschool and kindergarten. “We rode to school together each morning, and I’d play in his office until it was time to go to class. I had my own ‘office’ under the credenza of my dad’s desk where I kept my arts and crafts supplies and made many great masterpieces and memories!”

Depending on who you ask, wearing the label “pastor’s kid” can have its ups and downs, but Sarah only has good things to say about being a “PK.” Sarah and her older brothers, David and John Mark, enjoyed the perks of having a dad/pastor. She recalls how they used the Sunday school classrooms to play hide-and-seek and admits to taking the occasional swim in the baptistry.

I am eternally grateful for all the people who have helped me become the daughter, wife, mom, friend, co-worker and Christian I am.” —Sarah Huckabee Sanders

photo courtesy of Sarah Huckabee Sanders

Sarah’s memories of life in Texarkana are simple and innocent and include riding bikes with friends, building forts in the woods behind their house and creating a neighborhood newspaper. She stated, “life in Texarkana wasn’t grand, but it was good.” Sarah will always cherish her time in Texarkana and all the wonderful, lifelong friends she made here.

When Sarah was thirteen years old, something happened that would prove to have a profound impact on the trajectory of her life. Her father became governor of Arkansas. She tried to convince her parents she was old enough to care for herself and should just stay in Texarkana with her friends. However, much to her dismay, her parents did not feel that their job was done, and soon the entire family was packing up to head to the state capital.

If growing up as a pastor’s kid is noteworthy, then spending your teenage years in the governor’s mansion is absolutely extraordinary. Again, Sarah recalls some of the best memories from those times in her life as well as some of the most traumatic. In her book, Speaking for Myself: Faith, Freedom, and the Fight of Our Lives Inside the Trump White House, she recounts the overwhelming grandeur of the mansion, the strange feeling of living in a home that was also a public space, being greeted by complete strangers at the bottom of the stairs while still wearing her pajamas and the close familial type relationships she developed with the staff and state troopers who worked at the mansion.

It was not all fun and glamour, though. Being the daughter of a governor brings with it an awareness of things that most children will never know. In her memoir, Sarah details the difficulties her family faced with possible terror attacks and the anguish they experienced as her father oversaw the executions of death row inmates.

Sarah also shared her fondest memory of living in the Governor’s Mansion. “At Little Rock Central High, it’s a tradition for the entire class to attend a senior breakfast to celebrate the end of high school. My senior year, our class decided to host it at the Governor’s Mansion for every student in the senior class. We raised money to pay for the food, and we even had an LRCH ice sculpture for the class of 2000. It was a great way to finish our years of high school together and close that chapter of my life before I went off to college at Ouachita Baptist University.”

Beyond the logistics of having unfettered access to a house of worship and a 30,000-square-foot mansion, Sarah noted her upbringing shaped her perspective and laid the foundation for a deep faith in and reliance on God. She insists that her faith helps her deal with every aspect of life. “It grounds me, reminds me what is really important and gives me hope and strength to persevere in adversity.”

Sarah Huckabee Sanders with members of the Miller County Republican Women on Monday, May 16, 2022, at Crossties Event Venue in Texarkana, Arkansas. photo by Matt Cornelius

She credits being exposed to a diverse group of people during her formative years for helping her develop sincere compassion for others. “Nobody is unworthy of our compassion or beyond the redemptive power of God’s grace. I focus on people’s good qualities and do not dwell too much on their flaws.” One of the best lessons she learned from her dad while growing up was to, “always be who God created you to be, and never try to be anyone other than the unique and special person God has made you.” She stated, “It’s a principle I strive to embrace, even when it’s hard.”

Sarah also feels strongly that her upbringing ingrained in her an appreciation for public service. Her parents did not shield her or her brothers from political life. On the contrary, they took them to political events as often as possible and exposed them to the life of campaigns and elections. It wasn’t until college that she realized it wasn’t completely normal to spend weekends asking people to vote for her parents. Reflecting on her life, Sarah has tremendous respect for the values her parents instilled in her and is committed to passing them on to her children as well. She also takes her children with her on the campaign trail anytime she can. “I let them loose with stacks of push cards and bumper stickers and hope that I am also instilling a deep appreciation for public service and a love for Arkansas and our people.”

As someone who has worked side by side with the president of the United States, authored a book that made it to the New York Times bestseller list and most recently won the GOP primary for Governor of Arkansas, Sarah has experienced some notable accomplishments. Still, she holds that her greatest success is her family. Mother to Scarlett, Huck and George, Sarah describes her children as beautiful, energetic and wild. She says they keep her laughing and humble and are part of her reason for running for governor.

Most of Sarah’s days are spent juggling a typical hectic family schedule, including getting the kids off to school, parent-teacher conferences, afternoon tennis matches, evening baseball games and bedtime stories. However, amid all that family wrangling, there are campaign rallies, roundtable meetings with business and industry leaders across Arkansas and conversations with supporters in gas stations or restaurants. Sarah explains, “between the campaign and kids, there is certainly never a dull moment!” She is “constantly focusing on what it takes to make Arkansas even better and stronger,” and explains, “I know that every decision I will make as governor will have a direct impact on [my children’s] lives and the lives of every child growing up in Arkansas. I want to pave a path for kids in this state to run free and clear toward success by protecting their freedom and creating greater opportunity.”

Running for governor was not a decision Sarah and her husband, Bryan, made lightly. It came with a great deal of prayer and support. “My husband and I prayed about it and talked about it at length and with our kids. We wouldn’t have taken this step if we weren’t all fully committed and didn’t believe this is the path God wants us on.”

Bryan Sanders is also no stranger to political life. In fact, the two met while working together on her father’s presidential campaign. He understands the pressure that comes from choosing a life of public service, and he fully supports his wife’s political aspirations. Even though she may be the one in the spotlight, Sarah looks to Bryan as the leader of their family.

I want to pave a path for kids in this state to run free and clear toward success by protecting their freedom and creating greater opportunity.” —Sarah Huckabee Sanders

Sarah’s parents have also been a very present support to their daughter’s goals and regularly offer words of wisdom. “My parents were also supportive but didn’t hold back from reminding us of the challenges we would face,” she said. “They have been there every step of the way, from giving me my very first donation to babysitting our kids on a regular basis!”

Sarah has a deep love for the people of Arkansas and a passion for public service. These two things have fueled her ambitions and propelled her toward the highest-ranking office in the state. “I am running for governor because I love our state and care about our people, and I want to unleash our full potential. I want every kid growing up in Arkansas to love this state the way I do and to have every opportunity to succeed.” She has focused much of her attention on children and has set her sights on affecting change in education, insisting that this is the foundation for a state’s success. “I believe every child growing up in Arkansas should have access to quality education, putting them on a path to prosperity instead of a lifetime of government dependency. We must teach them a skill set and prepare them to become contributing members of society.”

Successes in life don’t happen in a vacuum, but they are the culminating result of lots of hard work and many external influences. In Speaking for Myself, Sarah acknowledges that “life isn’t much fun if you don’t have good people to share it with.” She attributes her successes to the support of her family and the wonderful relationships she has made along her journey. “I am eternally grateful for all the people who have helped me become the daughter, wife, mom, friend, co-worker and Christian I am.”


For more information on Sarah Huckabee Sanders, pick up a copy of Speaking for Myself or visit www.sarahforgovernor.com.



 

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