By Doug Stauffer
Kayleigh McEnany opened this year’s President’s Speaker Series at Mattie Kelly Arts Center. While introducing Kayleigh, President Devin Stephenson of Northwest Florida State College invited stated, “Northwest Florida State College is certainly honored to do our part in improving the quality of place in our community by enhancing our regional cultural activities.” Last year’s speakers were former federal prosecutor and congressman Trey Gowdy and financial journalist Charles Payne with Fox Business Network. February’s speaker was Dr. Ben Carson.
My impression of McEnany is: authentic, personable, sacrificial, fearless, patriotic, conservative and Christian. Then I could add: working mom, brave and articulate, and, no, she is not the One that walked on water, but she often speaks of her personal relationship with the Creator. And she was born and raised in the Free State of Florida.
Who is Kayleigh McEnany? She was the former White House Press Secretary and the national spokesperson for the Republican National Committee (RNC). She now co-hosts Outnumbered on the Fox News Channel. Before joining the RNC, she worked as the lone conservative political commentator at CNN and as a producer for the Mike Huckabee Show. She has also authored several outstanding books.
As I read her book, I was overwhelmed to learn about the many sacrifices her family experienced for the American people. Some may recall that her tenure at the White House commenced during the earliest days of the COVID-19 lockdowns. The CDC guidelines curtailed (or discouraged) travel, forcing some difficult choices. It was also during the death of George Floyd. Unfortunately, some people used this tragedy to threaten Kayleigh and her family.
Kayleigh tells of balancing her concern for her family with her job’s demands. She strove to be much more than a press secretary. Kayleigh wanted to be a voice for those who do not “qualify” for national attention and are often ignored and certainly overlooked. She strove for substance over sensationalism.
Her motto in the press secretary’s office was “Offense!,” intending to challenge the media, never allowing others to drive the narrative. She insisted on holding the press accountable.
When President Donald Trump called to ask if Kayleigh was interested in becoming press secretary, she was in the backseat of her car with her baby girl while her mother was behind the wheel. The phone rang with the White House switchboard on the line. “Would you take a call from the president?” A quick answer of “yes” followed an even faster prayer. The president asked if she would consider becoming the White House press secretary. Without hesitation, she responded, “Mr. President, that would be the honor of my lifetime.”
She was understandably nervous about taking on this enormous task, especially in the middle of a novel pathogen just entering the country. However, she also realized the honor it would be to communicate clearly to the American people. She began reading everything, calling everyone for advice, but her dad sent her the best advice. “Kayleigh, maybe you were made for such a time as this,” a direct reference to the book of Esther. She knew God wanted her to hear this and believes He wants us all to understand that we are on this earth for a specific purpose and reason.
Her first day at work was April 13, 2020. It had been 400 days since a press secretary, Sarah Sanders Huckabee, had gone to the podium. Her first press briefing was less than three weeks later. On that day, she tweeted out Philippians 4:13 about being able to do all things which strengthen us through Christ. She had prepared herself academically. Still, the spiritual preparation gave her peace – listening to sermons on faith over fear, Christian music, and prayer.
As she sat in the press secretary’s office wondering how the first day would go, the Chief of Staff’s office called and told her to go to the Oval Office because the President was preparing to do a Coronavirus task force briefing. She was asked for input and then watched as the President used some of her feedback during the briefing.
That week, she fielded texts from Christians who said they were praying for her. One text was from Sarah Sanders Huckabee with advice: “Pray and let God carry you through the tough times and give you strength when you don’t have the wisdom.”
Sarah sent Kayleigh the day’s devotional from when Sarah was press secretary – “You are on the path of my choosing. There is no randomness about your life … As you give yourself more and more to a life of constant communion with me, you will find that you simply have no time to worry.” Her assistant entered her office and got her parents on speaker phone to pray together. As she walked through the president’s private dining room, the vice president motioned with praying hands that he would continue praying for her.
Finally, she slipped into the private West Wing bathroom, got on her knees, and prayed yet again. She retells the story of going to the podium and everything changed. Her fears and worries vanished and turned to complete serenity. That divine intervention made her feel like she had been on that podium her whole life. She pointed out that the peace came from the millions of Christians who prayed for the administration. She mentioned being a personal testament to the fact that those prayers made a difference. Her speech contained so much more thought-provoking, uplifting, and inspirational material.
Her family almost moved to this area, but settled in the Tampa Bay area. She agrees with many of us that Northwest Florida has the best beaches and promises to vacation here during the offseason.