Mike Huckabee, who served as governor of Arkansas for 11 years and ran for president on the Republican ticket in both 2008 and 2016, is looking beyond the era of political division and offering his take on how to lead a meaningful life in his new book, Rare, Medium, or Done Well (Worthy, Nov.).
This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
Can you explain the meaning of the book's title?
When we live in a way that doesn’t develop all of our talents or opportunities, that’s what it means to live a life that is not quite cooked. The idea of medium is basically a life that is mediocre, really not that good. The goal is to live a life done well, which is fully maximizing opportunities and living life to the fullest, not to just make money or be famous, but living so as to leave a legacy of something that has value and worth.
Why this book, now?
In a very highly politicized and even sometimes an incredibly divided country, sometimes we need to step away from the things that divide people and cause people to get angry, and start asking what’s going to live beyond this life. That’s the focus of the book. It has the endorsement of people as diverse as [CNN contributor] Van Jones, who is pretty far over to the left, all the way to people like Eric Metaxas on the right. That’s indicative of the fact that this book doesn’t try to say this side is right and this side is wrong, but rather says, take a look at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself, are you living a life that matters?
Who is a high-profile person that is leading "a life well done" today?
I think there are many people who do that. I want to try to avoid naming anybody political because that defies the purpose of the book. It doesn’t focus on well-known personalities, but one of the things I focus on is to use what you have, not what you wish you had. And I contrast that with people who had great talent but took it for granted, who could have done better.
What would you tell those who have made what you call "poor choices?"
Many people who are outwardly citizen of the year have secrets in their lives that nobody knows, and others that are outwardly scandalous, inwardly have something in their heart that gives them some very serious credibility as human beings. The role of life is asking what talent and opportunities do I have, and am I making the most of them? It's never too late. Oskar Schindler is a great example. By anybody’s estimate, he was a scoundrel who cheated on his wife, was a heavy drinker, and used the Jewish workforce as basically slave labor for his own profit. But something got into his conscience. He began to use his resources to save the lives of Jews.
What is the most important thing you want readers to take away from the book?
The most important thing is to assess one’s life. I realize that my life is not going to be judged by the editorial board at the New York Times or voters in any particular election. It’s going to be judged by the creator of the universe.
Do you think you are leading a life done well?
I can always improve. I’d like to think I’m living in such a way: investing in my children and grandchildren, and making sure I use my resources with some sense of purpose. Some of the things that [I] will have done will never be known by anyone but God, and those are the best things of all.