At 80 years of age, former Attorney General John Ashcroft could be forgiven for pursuing a life of ease and comfort.

Only that wouldn’t be his will – or his way.

“It’s great to retire,” he said on Tuesday. “But it’s bad to quit.”

In a wide-ranging meeting with ministry managers here at Focus on the Family, General Ashcroft took questions and shared thoughts on Christian leadership. At once dignified and down-to-earth, the Missourian mixed easily with staff, employing both humor and heart.

“I’m corny,” he explained. “I live my life very simply. If I wrote my life story, I’d use a crayon.”

Prior to joining the George W. Bush administration as the 79th chief law enforcement officer of the United States, General Ashcroft served two terms as Missouri Governor (1985-1993) and one term in the United States Senate (1995-2001). Most recently, he’s been teaching at Regent University School of Law.

As the son of a preacher and a strong Christian believer, Ashcroft says he still enjoys meeting and discussing things that matter – which is what brought him to Colorado Springs.

Traveling with his wife of 55 years, Janet, whom he met at the University of Chicago Law School, the former attorney general offered up sage wisdom, perspective and plenty of quotable quotes:

  1. “Leadership redefines the possible.”
  2. “The currency of leadership is sacrifice.”
  3. “The essential function of a leader is to unify people towards a goal.”
  4. “The most important decisions require alacrity.”
  5. “Unity is not uniformity. Diversity is the friend of unity.”
  6. “I like to focus on God’s purposes rather than man’s motives.”
  7. “A police state is not too many police. It’s too many laws.”
  8. “Be informed. Information is the friend of prevention.”
  9. “America has long been a country of thankfulness.”
  10. “The real friend of poverty is enforced equity.”
  11. “Culture has to have the right aspirations. If you don’t aspire to be something different, you’ll never be something good.”
  12. “Preparing to make the right decisions is often more important than making them.”
  13. “The Word of God is the will of God.”
  14. “I once went to a church that handed out two bumper stickers. The first said, ‘It’s Never Too Late to Start Over’ and the second stated, ‘It’s Always Too Early to Quit.’”
  15. “Bring your family into your mission. ‘Family stuff’ is not unrelated to your life mission.”
  16. “I frequently awakened to the sound of my father praying.”
  17. “Don’t train up a child that condemns the past.”
  18. “Stop focusing on America’s imperfections.”
  19. “If you can’t aspire to be something different, you’ll never be something worth defending.”
  20. “I wish we had a kinder spirit as a nation. But I would be angry if nobody was angry right now.”
  21. “Our culture is in a very, very tender condition.”


During his tenure in the Senate, Mr. Ashcroft was known to sing with three other members in a group called “The Singing Senators.” In addition to Ashcroft, the quartet included Senator Larry Craig (Idaho), Senator James Jeffords (Vermont) and Trent Lott (Mississippi).

A prolific songwriter of his own, the former attorney general once penned a piece that was sung at President George W. Bush’s second inaugural. It was titled, “Let the Eagle Soar,” and it included these inspirational lyrics that read like a prayer:


This country’s far too young to die.
We’ve still got a lot of climbing to do,
And we, we can make it if we try.
Built by toils and struggles
God has led us through.
We’ve fought for freedom dear
both here and on the distant shore
Paid a price a sacrifice
A price you can’t ignore


Let the eagle soar,
Like she’s never soared before.
From rocky coast to golden shore,
Let the mighty eagle soar.
Soar with healing in her wings,
As the land beneath her sings:
‘Only God, no other kings.’
Let the mighty eagle soar.
‘Only God, no other kings.’
Let the mighty eagle soar.


America is blessed to have enjoyed the leadership of John David Ashcroft for the last half-century.