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Arkansas governor leads inaugural ideas summit in northwest Arkansas

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is the keynote speaker for the inaugural America Leads ideas summit in Bentonville Wednesday.
America Strong and Free
Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is the keynote speaker for the inaugural America Leads ideas summit in Bentonville Wednesday.

Former high-ranking officials from the Bush and Trump administrations are among the guests at a summit in northwest Arkansas Wednesday.

The meeting, called “America Leads: An Ideas Summit” will feature policy discussions and potential solutions for issues relating to education, economics and rural communities. Former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey and Arkansas Republican gubernatorial candidate Sarah Huckabee Sanders are among the guests leading various panel discussions.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson was instrumental in organizing the summit through his political advocacy group America Strong and Free. Speaking with KUAR News, Hutchinson said the goal is to have a forward-thinking discussion about the future of the United States.

“It seemed like we were spending a lot of time in America, particularly our leaders, debating the last election and looking to the past. And we need to focus on the future and ideas, and so I thought three weeks out from the election would be a great time to have an ideas summit that would focus our candidates, the public on things that are solving problems,” Hutchinson said.

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will be the keynote speaker in Wednesday’s summit. Hutchinson said national security and foreign policy will be a key issue up for discussion, particularly America’s relationship with China, Russia and the Middle East.

“And whenever you look at Saudi Arabia who’s been a traditional stabilizing force in the Middle East, and they have sided with Russia in terms of reducing oil production that causes our price at the pump to go up, this is a concern to us,” Hutchinson said. “And also, not just our current relationship, but how do we prevent bad things from happening?”

Discussions on education, national security, faith and leadership are also on the schedule, with representatives from the American Enterprise Institute, a center-right-leaning think tank, set to take part. Hutchinson says the goal is to facilitate sharing of ideas between officials and policy researchers, while hopefully encouraging more civility in political discourse.

“Civility comes from leaders who discuss ideas, and not simply personalities and grievances. And that’s the bottom line. And so, by the fact that we are having this ideas summit, we’re discussing ideas and we do have differing viewpoints here. We can be idea-oriented and we can be civil in our discussion,” Hutchinson said.

The meeting begins Wednesday morning at The Momentary in Bentonville. A livestream of events can be found here.

Daniel Breen is News Director of Little Rock Public Radio.