The 700 Club with Pat Robertson


Karen Hughes: Life Since Washington

By Shannon Woodland and Terry Meeuwsen
The 700 Club TERRY MEEUWSEN (reporting): Karen Hughes, the White House advisor to Present George W. Bush, first worked with the President when he was governor of Texas. She was his director of communications, and a good one at that.

KAREN HUGHES: Suddenly, after all the chaos of the convention, we're clickity-clackiting across rural America, seeing the occasional cow, and on the second day, we're coming into the station in this little Illinois town, and the conductor was very proud to have us on his train and he came over and very proudly announced, 'Ladies and gentlemen, we're ten minutes from Normal, ten minutes from normal.' And at the time, I turned to a friend in the staff car and said, 'If I ever write a book, that's the title because that's exactly how I feel about this whole amazing experience.'

TERRY MEEUWSEN: The whole journey has been somewhat surreal for Karen. As one of President Bush's closest advisors, Karen was considered one of the most powerful women in Washington, but she sees it another way.

Karen Hughes with President George W. BushKAREN HUGHES: At times I say I have 'pinch me' moments. I have to pinch myself to believe that this has really happened to me. I remember sitting on Air Force one in the senior staff cabin where there's four chairs and I look across and there's Colin Powell; next to me is Condoleezza Rice; and then there's Andy Card, the White House's chief of staff; and then there's me. I really remember it hitting me, What am I doing here? I'm a young woman who grew up in a very normal background, very normal family, and all of a sudden, here I am knowing the president of the United States and working for him. It's thrilling. It's a great privilege; it's also a great responsibility. But I do at times have to literally pinch myself.

TERRY MEEUWSEN: I think often when we get to a certain place in our lives, we do this. You can look back and see that God's hand was in everything for where you're at today. You started in college deciding to go into journalism. Did you ever see the journalism going into politics at that point?

KAREN HUGHES: No, not at all. In fact, I tell young people today that I could not have plotted my career. I didn't approach it that way. I always tried to follow my interest, follow my passion, or I prayed in later life what the right thing to do was. When I was in college, I don't think I did that. I was not very faithful during my years in college, although I grew up in the church. I kind of strayed, as many young people do, and I remember just falling in love with journalism and so I pursued that. I don't remember getting God very involved in that decision, but, of course, He does things that we don't even know about, so I consider my training as a reporter wonderful training for what I did in the White House.

TERRY MEEUWSEN (reporting): Karen's can-do spirit has pulled her through tough times throughout her career, marriage, and motherhood. She exudes an air of confidence and pulls no punches. Surprisingly, after serving 18 months in the White House, Karen resigned her position and moved back to Texas with her family. Her son was 15 at the time. This decision was as tough as the decision to move to Washington, D.C. in the first place.

(to Karen) What was your thought process in all of that? That was a huge decision?

KAREN HUGHES: It was really an agonizing decision. Any life changing decision is agonizing, especially when I had been very troubled about traveling to Washington because I knew the values of Washington, the power, the prestige, the jostling to win status and try to keep it are not in keeping with my values, which were the least will be the greatest, to much is given much more is expected, love God and love your neighbor. There's not a lot of time for that in Washington. I knew that it was going to be a challenge for me in Washington. I remember worrying about it and talking to my pastor about it and praying about it before I joined the presidential campaign because it had never been a part of my career plan -- well, let's see if I can go to work for someone who will run for president. Then I move to Washington and work in the White House. That's never been a factor.

TERRY MEEUWSEN: At the same time, there must have been an element where you looked at your life and you saw how God had brought you to this point, almost an Esther-like coming to the kingdom for such a time as this. Not everybody is asked.

Karen Hughes talks with 700 Club co-host Terry Meeuwsen KAREN HUGHES: That was the other side of the decision. I felt a responsibility to someone I believed in. I thought he'd be a wonderful president who trusted me and who I'd worked with, so that was the other side of the decision. Obviously, it was agonizing to think about leaving. I love the president. I've seen up close the demands of his job. I didn't want to make it in anyway harder for him. On the other hand, I felt increasing uncomfortable being able to fulfill my responsibilities of being a wife and mother.

TERRY MEEUWSEN: When you did decide to come home, the president said, 'Can I count on you to be there for me?' Were you able to come back then and almost have a role when you worked for him as governor?

KAREN HUGHES: I think it's different. In the governor's office I saw him every day. People ask me if I miss anything. I do miss the daily interaction. The president is a wonderful person. He's a fun person to work for. So I feel very fortunate that I'm able to still be involved. I think it's a great credit to the president. How many bosses do you know that have the most difficult job in the world, when somebody comes to them and says, 'I've have to move home for my family', most of them would say, 'What about me? or 'Won't you stay for the next whatever?' That's not what he said. He said, 'Will you still be involved?' I consider it a great privilege to be able to still be involved, and I hope I'm still able to contribute. I think I am. I'm still looking at major speeches. I went to Washington before the State of the Union. I promised him that I would travel for the last three months of the re-election campaign.

TERRY MEEUWSEN: It's been almost two years since Karen left the White House.

(to Karen): What's it been like for you since you've come home? Has it been what you wanted it to be, the way you wanted it to work out?

KAREN HUGHES: It has. People ask me all the time ifI have any regrets, and I don't. I really don't. My sister said to me once over Christmas vacation, she was looking at my son, 'If you ever have any regrets, just look at Robert. I realized when she said that that I don't have any. I was very, very fortunate that I was able to do what is right for my family and still be involved with the White House and still advise the president and work with my colleagues. The best thing I've done since I've come home is teach my son to drive.

TERRY MEEUWSEN: That's no small task.

Karen HughesKAREN HUGHES: It was enormously fun, though. I realized that I would never been able to do that if I was in Washington because I would never be home.

TERRY MEEUWSEN: Karen, when people read Ten Minutes from Normal, what do you want them to walk away with?

KAREN HUGHES: That's a great question. I hope they walk away with a sense of how important priorities are in life. You have to have a foundation to set those priorities on. For me it's my faith. Faith, how important that it is for us who believe that God sent His Son to die for us. That's an important part of life, and we really need to step back and consider what is really important in life and act based on that.

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