WASHINGTON, D.C. — Sam Brownback appears relaxed, looser and more convivial as he settles into his ambassador’s job, miles both geographically and emotionally from where he was during his final, difficult months as Kansas’s governor.
When Brownback left the governor’s office in January, the two-term conservative Republican left behind low approval ratings, ire from fellow Republicans over the state’s fiscal problems and an order from the Kansas Supreme Court to increase spending on public schools.
Five months later, a visibly relaxed Brownback was back in his element, The Kansas City Star reports . He was making jokey sports analogies, ribbing former aide and U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, boasting about his anti-abortion record in Kansas and asking the faithful for their prayers.
He spoke at the recent National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., his new home. As soon as he’d been introduced in his new role as U.S. ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, he wasted no time in drawing laughter from the audience.
“She forgot to mention my favorite title, though: Grandpa!” he said. “We have three grandchildren; five children, we’re expecting 25 grandchildren and my favorite child will be whoever has the most grandchildren.”
He said in an interview after the speech that he hasn’t been following political developments in Kansas very closely. That includes the governor’s race, where Republican Gov. Jeff Colyer, his former lieutenant governor, is in a tough contest to keep the office.
Brownback said his wife had moved to Washington to be with him. That’s a change from when he served 16 years in Congress before being elected governor in 2010 and he commuted between Washington and Kansas. The couple doesn’t return to Kansas a lot, he said.
“I hear from friends,” Brownback said, “but I’m focused here.”
Brownback’s new job has sent him all over the world.
He’s been to Turkey and Bangladesh and is headed to Nigeria soon, documenting religious persecution for the State Department. He recently had lunch with President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and his new boss, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, to discuss religious freedom with the president of Uzbekistan.
And the State Department will soon release an annual report on religious freedom around the world, produced by Brownback’s office.
Brownback, a Catholic known for his strong faith, said he loves his new job as ambassador for religious freedom.
“It is the protection of the pure, noble beautiful,” he said in his speech. “It is why we need your prayers because religious freedom is under attack all over the world.”