SEARCY -- Very little was left untargeted by former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee when he addressed a crowd of about 200 people Tuesday night as the first speaker of this season's Distinguished Lecture Series hosted by the Harding University American Studies Institute.
In nearly an hour at the lectern, Huckabee took aim at the media, professional football players who kneel during the playing of the national anthem, Planned Parenthood, pandemic science, racism and global warming.
The crowd in the Christian university's Benson Auditorium at various times clapped, cheered and doled out standing ovations.
Huckabee started with a pitch for his daughter, Sarah Sanders, who is running for the Republican nomination in the Arkansas 2022 governor's race.
"I'm grateful that she wants to serve the country and serve the Lord," he said.
He then delved into political hot buttons.
Huckabee, 66, is the host of the weekend TV show "Huckabee" on TBN, writes books and lectures widely. He served as the 44th governor of Arkansas from 1996 to 2007 and ran twice unsuccessfully for president.
Throughout the presentation Tuesday evening, Huckabee began numerous statements with the phrase "20 years ago." He referenced the first time he spoke at Harding University in the aftermath of 9/11.
"None of us were ever the same after that," Huckabee said.
After the terrorist attacks, America was a united country; not the America of today that is divided by "talks of racism and divisiveness," he said.
"For at least a period of time, America was unified in a way that I had never seen it before, and, quite frankly, I've never seen it since," Huckabee said. "Let me be very blunt. In that period of time, not one person at a sporting event took a knee in protest to the national anthem or to the waving of the flag. Not one person."
Huckabee spoke about growing up in Hope with strict parents who told him no and dealt out discipline.
"I didn't grow up with wealth," he said. "I didn't grow up with influence."
Unlike today's world of victimhood, Huckabee said, he was not a victim of anything.
The former governor spoke loudly about the covid-19 pandemic with churches being closed down by the government.
"There were some things in the early days of this pandemic that we did not understand, so we reacted with a certain level of extreme. But, by the same token, it's time to be America. It's time to recognize that the government can't tell a church that it's nonessential, but that a casino or strip club is," Huckabee said. "Folks, that's nonsense. And every American ought to be offended to the point of standing up and saying to the government, 'Our churches are a whole lot more essential than even what you guys do in Washington, so thank you, but no thank you. We will continue to worship, and we will continue to fellowship because we need the relationship with God and each other.'"
Huckabee tackled Planned Parenthood and the press in one fell swoop when he talked about the story of body parts being sold by the organization. He accused the media of spiking the story.
He spoke of a time when journalism had character, but said a good journalist is hard to find now and what's left for the most part is a "reckless, irresponsible press."
Huckabee referred to an unnamed journalist who was with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette more than 30 years ago. The former governor said that person was the epitome of true journalist.
"I never knew if he liked me or not," he said.
This journalist spoke only the truth, Huckabee said, and there was no bias.
"When was the last time you read something that pure?" Huckabee said.
Huckabee also touched on the LGBTQIA community, joked about people "choosing" genders, the changing ideas of science and the absurdity of global warming.
He sprinkled Bible verses throughout.
Huckabee drew laughter when he told the story of bobsledding for the first time at a governor's conference in Utah. He was assigned a 16-year-old Olympian bobsledder to guide the way.
He comically wove the story through the curves of the bobsled track and his lesson from the Olympian about controlling the skids.
"He told me to steer for the curve ahead," Huckabee said, saying that he learned a powerful lesson from his Olympian trainer about not looking behind and steering for what's ahead.
At the end of Tuesday's speech, Huckabee sat in a chair on the stage with Bryan Burks, vice president of Harding's university advancement, and answered questions pre-submitted by students who asked what he learned from his failures, what his parents taught him and who holds the ultimate power in the Republican Party today.
"Voters," he said.