Janet Ashcroft, wife of Attorney General John Ashcroft, is a legal
expert in her own right. She has taught business law and individual
income tax at Howard Universitys School of Business in Washington,
D.C., and has taught law at colleges in Missouri where her husband served
as state attorney general, governor and U.S. senator. In addition, she
has been a general counsel for the Missouri Department of Revenue and
co-authored two law textbooks with her husband, one of which is in its
"Nobody in my family could figure out why I wanted to study law,"
she admits with a laugh. "They thought something was wrong with
me. There were no lawyers in the family before me; my father and brothers
are engineers." Despite their misgivings, Charles and Martha Roede
supported their daughters dream. Today, Janet Ashcroft looks back
with gratitude to the start they gave her in life.
She and her husband, despite their demanding public lives, have also
invested in their three children, raising them in church. The Ashcrofts
are longtime members of the Assemblies of God and regularly attend Sunday
school and services at Central Assembly of God in Springfield, Mo.,
when home from Washington, D.C. Janet Ashcroft recently spoke with Scott
Harrup, associate editor, about faith, family life, September 11 and
On meeting John Ashcroft
John and I met in law school at the University of Chicago. I was studying
in the law library before class and John came up and flipped his spiral
notebook on the desk and said, "Hi, Janet. Im John Ashcroft.
How about going out with me this weekend?" He was very direct;
it was a real change from the other approaches. Of course, I turned
him down immediately. But he was very persistent. I ultimately went
out with him sometime later. I was not about to go out with a total
stranger and he said he might have been strange, but he wasnt
a total stranger anymore. We went to a Chicago Pops concert on our first
date. We met in October of 1965 and were married in December of 1967.
From the first time I met him, I found John to be the kindest, most
concerned person about other people I have ever met in my life. When
I first started going out with him, one of the girls from his class
stopped me to say that John was the nicest, kindest person. I said,
"You dont have to tell me that. Ive already discovered
it." Here is a guy who cant stand to see someone walking
along the highway with a gas can in his hand or by the side of a car
with a flat tire.
Its always been a challenge to make plans for our anniversaries
because our anniversary is the 23rd of December. Especially now that
our children have grown, it has been very special that they would come
and spend Christmas with us. We hate to duck out just two days before
Christmas, so we generally go somewhere with all the kids.
On family life in public
I think I viewed raising children the way a lot of people do
"My parents did a good job with me; this is not that big a job."
John likes to say youre really in trouble when the kids outnumber
the parents. And we have three kids.
In our case, we had this strange life with a husband in politics. The
normal family can have a schedule. They can find out when Johnnys
baseball game is and when Suzies ice-skating lesson is and go
to them. We joke in our family about all of us having the same middle
name, "Flexible." We all had to be very, very flexible, and
the schedule frequently changed.
Its amazing how God allows even difficult situations to bring
beneficial results. So often we have a schedule or we have a project
or an agenda, and we feel that if theres any disruption in it,
then theres a serious problem. Our familys lifestyle, with
changes in schedule and crises at any time, made our children much more
able to handle problems as adults. They saw how we handled problems.
We didnt become hysterical or basket cases, but we worked through
them. So they had to learn to adjust. I think as a result they can handle
lifes ups and downs much more easily as adults than if they had
constantly been sheltered.
Our daughter, Martha Patterson, is 32 and living in Kansas City with
her husband and our grandchild (who is the most spectacular grandchild
in the world). Our son Jay (we call him "Jay" to distinguish
him from his dad his first name is John) is 28, an engineer and
is teaching at Forrest Park Community College in St. Louis. And our
son Andy is 24 and in the Navy and stationed in Jacksonville, Fla.
On the challenges of political
I think there are different kinds of pressure depending upon the individual
involved. Some people will be more sensitive to one thing than to another.
I didnt like living in a house that wasnt my own house.
When we moved out of the governors mansion and moved into our
own house, people would meet me and then say to John, "Janet looks
so extremely happy." And John would say, "She is."
No matter what happens, God is in control. John wrote a song one time
on that theme. No matter what troubles we have faced and no matter what
bizarre circumstances, we knew God was in control. And I think youd
have to say we faced some extremely bizarre circumstances during the
last year or so [with the unexpected upset in the Missouri U.S. senatorial
race and the confirmation hearings for attorney general]. We trust God
to provide. And not necessarily to provide what we think we want. I
think thats important for people to understand. We get our hearts
set on something or we decide that this is exactly the way it has to
be, and maybe God has a different plan. I would have been shocked if
someone had told me around August before the election in 2000 that Gods
plan was not that John would be re-elected to the Senate. When the election
circumstances were so bizarre and it didnt come out the way we
expected, we just said, "Well, lets see what God has in store
for us now."
On September 11
I firmly believe God can turn every bad situation around and use it
for something good. The events of September 11 have led to such a return
to the need for faith. I dont think Johns going to be criticized
for having a Bible study in his office before work time anymore. And
there is a renewed patriotism. When things go really well, we dont
value or recognize the value of some things that we take for granted
the strength of this country, the cohesiveness of this country,
the neighborliness of this country. It reminds me of the stories you
read about in American history books of people helping each other on
the frontier. Thats exactly what this country has always been
about, and its wonderful to see it happening in spite of the fact
that we had to have a terrible tragedy.
On the power of prayer
God has told us we need to turn from our wicked ways, but we have to
pray as well (2 Chronicles 7:14). We need to continue to pray for this
country and the leaders of this country. Im very grateful that
we have the people in government that we have today. Having spent some
time with many of them, Im very encouraged by their motives for
being in government. Theyre not there just because they want to
tell everyone else how to live. They want to be there to do what is
right. Im very, very impressed about some who have made personal
sacrifices to set the right example so we can get this country hopefully
turned around and doing the right thing again.
On Americas future
Id like to see the American people have an ongoing, long-term
realization of the need for the values that we have reembraced since
September 11. Its a terrible thing when God has to jerk us up
short and say, "Remember what this is all about." I hope that
this country can set itself up and set up a mechanism so that we dont
forget those events and that we remember that God is in control and
that we owe our first allegiance to Him. I pray we continue to serve
Him, because when we do, we will be blessed.