In what reporters describe as an “impassioned speech” before hundreds of influential Hispanic civil rights leaders from across the nation, Gov. Mike Huckabee delivered the keynote address at a noon luncheon of the League of United Latin American Citizens’ national convention in Little Rock today. Huckabee told the captivated audience that America is great because it has always opened it’s doors up to people seeking a better way of life.
"I would hope that no matter who we are, or where we are from, that America should always be a place that opens its arms, opens it heart, opens its spirit to people who come because they want the best for their families ...," Huckabee said as the largely Hispanic audience exploded into a standing ovation.The Governor also won the crowd over with his legendary charm and sense of humor, joking at one point "Pretty soon, Southern white guys like me may be in the minority," as the crowd roared in laughter.
In another humorous moment, while speaking about the importance of providing education to the children of immigrants, Huckabee sounded very much like a presidential candidate when he recalled his educational upbringing in Hope and reminded the crowd "I too still believe in a place call Hope," mimicking former President Clinton's famous acceptance speech at the 1992 Democratic National Convention.
Despite such light moments, Huckabee did not shy away from several controversial issues that have made him a target of criticism, even from members of his own party. He said Arkansas needs to make the transition from a traditional Southern state to one that recognizes and cherishes diversity "in culture, in language and in population."
"This is an issue that is going to require extraordinary efforts on both sides of the border, particularly those coming from Mexico," he said of verifying the status of illegal aliens. "But I am confident that our government will recognize that we should accommodate people who wish to provide the best opportunities for their families…”.
During the Arkansas’ most recent legislative session, Huckabee supported a plan that would make college scholarships available to the children of undocumented aliens educated in Arkansas. The proposal earned him scathing attacks from many groups, including republicans, opposed to providing any benefits to “illegals”.
Huckabee, who has consistently worked to help and defend children throughout his life, would not back down, saying "I ... believe that an education for every child is the most important single factor to give everyone to be their very best.”
Although he never actually talked about the U.S. or Arkansas immigration policy, Huckabee made it very clear where he stood on the issue. In his opening remarks, he said the nation will need to address the concerns of the Hispanic community because of its growing influence and population base. He told the LULAC delegates that their presence in the state's capital city was very important because Arkansas has one of the fastest growing Hispanic populations in the nation.
"Your gathering is so very significant for our state," Huckabee said. "We are delighted to have you."