Governor Jon Huntsman, Former Presidential Nominee, Speaks at Law School



Claire O’Halloran

Two-time former governor of Utah, former U.S. ambassador to China and Singapore and 2012 Presidential candidate Jon M. Huntsman Jr. spoke at the Villanova School of Law on the topic of ethics and civility in politics this past Monday.

Governor Huntsman was introduced to warm applause from the students, faculty and press filling the seats and lining the walls of the David F. and Constance B. Girard-diCarlo Center for Ethics, Integrity and Compliance. Brian Tierney, CEO of Brian Communications and former CEO and publisher of The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Daily News and, moderated the discussion.

Tierney began the discussion by asking questions regarding politics in general and how much weight civility should hold in the field.

“We’ve always had our disagreements, and we’ve always had pretty sharp elbows in politics,” Huntsman said. “But what is fundamentally different today is that after making our best arguments, our most passionate pleas, we find it absolutely impossible to sit down at a table and work out our differences.”

This lack of understanding between parties is something Huntsman works to diminish through his role as co-chairman of No Labels, a bipartisan group with a mission to reduce party polarization and incite a national movement towards a Federal government that mutually agrees on goals that will better the country, regardless of party stances. 

“What we want to do at No Labels is incentivize good behavior,” Huntsman said. 

 Tierney later focused the discussion on the upcoming election and the current election process in America, to which Huntsman argued the preliminary phases of the election process, where candidates are trying to put on a show and get themselves noticed, are the most toxic and distracting. 

“At the presidential level, goofiness prevails,” Huntsman said. “Outrageous, outlandish behavior is what people want to see.”

The second half of the hour-long event was opened to audience participation, and questions covering topics of the current election, the influence of the election on young children, criminal justice and trust in politics were asked. 

One question asked Governor Huntsman about his feelings towards the current election, which has been marked with a plethora of vulgar comments, and if he thought young children should watch that sort of speech. 

This question resonated with first year Villanova Law School student Will Kapp, 27, and stood out to him as the most impactful question at the event. 

“To fix politics, the youth are the ones that are going to have to take control,” Kapp said. 

Huntsman agreed, stating that the millennials are ultimately the generation responsible for dealing with the issues in our electoral process and making the needed changes. Huntsman attributed one of these problems to the redistricting of our nation into states that are considered hard set “red or blue” states, and a second problem to the mass amounts of money that go into an election and create an un-enterable political scene. 

“The way we pay for elections is an abomination,” Huntsman said. “You’ve got to be smoking something if you don’t see that.  We need to level the playing field for people that want to get into politics.” 

In response to a question about Republican Presidential Nominee Donald Trump’s claims that a loss for him would mean the election is rigged, Huntsman spoke of the problems with fear as a tool for politicians. 

“Fear is a driver in politics,” Huntsman said.  “You can use fear or you can use hope. When you use fear to whip people up in an election it is un-American.” As far as changes that need to be made to our political system, Huntsman had many ideas that were respected by students and faculty alike. 

“He detached himself from the situation effectively so he could analyze the real problems with the system” Paul Fenaroli, a Villanova law student, said on Huntsman’s discussion. “I like his optimism.” 

Mark Alexander, Arthur J. Kania Dean and Professor of Law, agreed. 

“With the governor’s approach we have the opportunity for healing and a strong future ahead,” Alexander said. 

Huntsman is optimistic about America’s future, even with the controversy of this year’s election and the problems with politics in general. Although positive, he acknowledges that it will be no easy task to revamp American politics.

“I would love to see a cleansing, open, transparent discussion of what we did wrong,” Huntsman said. “What we have had, ladies and gentlemen, is human failure. It’s got to take humans to fix.”