Asked what advice he would give to Jeff Colyer when he takes over as governor of Kansas, Gov. Sam Brownback answered with one word:
After a lengthy pause, he elaborated.
“The motto of the country is ‘in God we trust,’ right?” Brownback said. “Do we believe it, or not? I think leaders need to be people who pray and really do seek wisdom from above. And I just think that’s a very important thing, to seek that and have the humility to do that.”
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Brownback is awaiting Senate confirmation for his new role in government as the nation’s international ambassador for religious freedom, a post he helped create as a U.S. senator and to which he’s been nominated by President Trump.
In a farewell address to Republican supporters at the Wichita Pachyderm Club, laced together with frequent religious references, Brownback announced that one of his last acts before he leaves office as governor will be to declare a statewide day of prayer and fasting for Kansas.
“You look at our great leaders of our nation, George Washington, Lincoln, my goodness, these guys were on their knees all the time,” he said. And he hailed the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, “a man of the cloth,” for the religious underpinnings of the nation’s civil rights movement.
“They started these rallies from the church,” he said. “They were singing hymns before they’d go out and face the police and the dogs. Where does your strength come from? It comes from God.”
Brownback also praised Republicans in general and the Pachyderms in particular for making Kansas “the leading pro-life state” in the country.
He likened the movement that began at the Summer of Mercy protests in Wichita to the anti-slavery activism in Kansas that was a key factor in launching the Civil War.
He said the nation basically tolerated slavery until “people came out here and said ‘I am not willing to tolerate it.’”
Brownback said he has signed 19 bills restricting abortion and the movement has spread from Kansas across the country.
“We are a pro-life state and we are not going back,” Brownback said. “You changed the nation by changing thoughts in people.”
Brownback declined to give specifics about what he plans to do as an ambassador, but did say he thinks the position will be “one of the most important portfolios around” because of the intersection between religious extremism and international terrorism and security.
“This issue hasn’t been trending the right way” in the past 20 years, he said. “It’s been trending the wrong way.”
Brownback said the message he hopes to convey to other countries is “If you want your country to grow and prosper, you need to protect your religious minorities.”
In terms of state politics, Brownback said he thinks Colyer, the lieutenant governor, will do “an outstanding job” when he takes over. But he also praised the numerous other candidates who will run against Colyer next year and gave a quick shout-out to candidate Wink Hartman, a Wichita businessman who was in the audience.
“I’ll be really disappointed if you don’t elect a pro-life governor,” Brownback said.
Although Brownback won’t be in Kansas to see it through, he urged Wichitans to keep pushing for his proposal to start an independent private-sector medical school to train doctors of osteopathic medicine.
Brownback said it’s important not just to Wichita, but to the rural parts of the state. In contrast with the medical doctors trained at the University of Kansas, osteopathic physicians are more likely to go into general practice and become family physicians serving small towns.
“We’ve been chronically short of medical people practicing in rural areas since I’ve been in public life,” Brownback said.
While other Kansas communities are also competing to be the site for the osteopathic medical school, “I don’t see any reason why it shouldn’t be here,” Brownback said.