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One day after being elected to the board of the Country Music Association's charitable foundation, former Arkansas governor (and noted homophobe, transphobe, and gun nut) Mike Huckabee resigned. Numerous members of the country music industry blasted the foundation's board for choosing Huckabee as one of its representatives, ultimately helping shove Huckabee out the door. Here's how Huckabee responded to the blowback and his decision to quit, mentioning his support for public education, but not a word about his vitriol toward LGBT people:
Dear Board Members:
It appears that I will make history as having the shortest tenure in the history of the CMA Foundation Board. I genuinely regret that some in the industry were so outraged by my appointment that they bullied the CMA and the Foundation with economic threats and vowed to withhold support for the programs for students if I remained. I had NO idea I was that influential! I'm somewhat flattered to be of such consequence when all I thought I was doing was voluntarily serving on a non-profit board without pay in order to continue my decades of advocacy for the arts and especially music.
The message here is "Hate Wins." Bullies succeeded in making it untenable to have "someone like me" involved. I would imagine however that many of the people who buy tickets and music are not that "unlike me."
I hereby tender my resignation effective immediately. I hope this will end the unnecessary distraction and deterrent to the core mission of the Foundation which is to help kids acquire musical instruments and have an opportunity to participate in music programs as students.
Since I will not be able to continue in what I had hoped to be useful service in this endeavor, I wanted to at least put some things on the record. I have no expectation that it will change the irrational vitriol directed toward you or me for my religious or political views that necessitated my abrupt departure, but I want you to know what you would never know by reading intolerant and vicious statements on the internet about who I am or what led me to want to be a part of your efforts to empower kids with the gift of music. So please bear with me.
Music changed my life. I grew up dirt poor in south Arkansas. No male upstream from me in my entire family ever even graduated from high school. I had no reason to believe that my life would consist of anything but scratching out a meager living and hoping to pay rent in a house I would never own just as generations before me had done.
Music changed that. The gift of an electric guitar by my parents when I was 11 put in my hands a future. It took them a year to pay for the $99 guitar they bought from the J. C. Penney catalog. Granted, I was never good enough to make a full-time living at music, but the confidence I gained by playing, being in front of people, and competing against myself and the low expectations I grew up with was transformative.
No need to recite my entire history, but I was especially baffled that I was accused of not being supportive of public education. I am the PRODUCT of public education. As Governor my own children were the first children of a Governor in 50 years to have their entire education grades 1-12 in the PUBLIC schools of Arkansas. I fought to give teachers the largest pay raise in state history. I successfully led the effort to allow teachers to retire with full benefits after 28 years of service after my two Democrat predecessors vetoed the same bill. I personally shepherded through legislation that mandated both music AND arts programs for EVERY student in grades 1-12 and taught by fully certified teachers. We were one of the only states to have ever done that.
I was Chairman for 2 years of the Education Commission of the States, comprised of all 50 Governors, education leaders in the Senate and House from all 50 state legislatures, and the state education chief for each of the 50 states. My chosen theme and agenda for those two years was music education for every child. I launched an initiative "Play it Again, Arkansas" that promoted donation of musical instruments that would be professionally refurbished and provided to students whose parents couldn't afford the rent or purchase of an instrument allowing them to be in the school band. I traveled repeatedly to DC with the NAMM Foundation to advocate for music education and have worked with them for several years to urge states to mandate music and arts education. Now someone who has never met me threatens to wreck valuable programs of the CMA Foundation because of a personal contempt for my faith and politics. I am willing to get out of the way for the sake of the students the Foundation will hopefully help.
If the industry doesn't want people of faith or who hold conservative and traditional political views to buy tickets and music, they should be forthcoming and say it. Surely neither the artists or the business people of the industry want that.
Until recently, the arts was the one place America could set aside political, geographical, racial, religious, and economic barriers and come together. If the arts community becomes part of the polarization instead of bridging communities and people over the power of civil norms as reflected in the arts, then we as a civilization may not be long for this earth.
All of us have deep passions about our beliefs. I do about mine. But I hate no one. I wish upon NO ONE the loss of life or livelihood because that person sees things differently than me.
I hope that the music and entertainment industry will become more tolerant and inclusive and recognize that a true love for kids having access to the arts is more important than a dislike for someone or a group of people because of who they are or what they believe.
My sincere thanks to the CMA Foundation for believing I had something to contribute. I regret that my presence caused controversy and threats to vital support for deserving kids. Kids wanting to learn music shouldn't be the victims of adults who demand that only certain people can be in the room or be heard.
I wish you nothing but good will and success at reaching students across America who need music as much as I did. At the end of the day, I'm not worth the fight, but the kids are. Never stop fighting for THEM!