Texas Our Texas
Monday, May 28, 2012
Memorial Day: a day of picnics, barbecues and family gatherings.
For most, the mention of this holiday connotes the beginning of summer, a relaxing time of year to create lasting and fond, family memories. Military families and veterans know this as a much different holiday. This is a day to remember and be thankful for those who paid the ultimate price for the freedom we enjoy every single day.
For soldiers who served during a war or conflict, Memorial Day is emotional. Many veterans mark the day by attending services, sharing stories and shedding tears.
It’s important to celebrate the freedom and blessings we know as the American Dream, the land of freedom and opportunity. But let us never forget those who willingly laid down his or her own life.
As someone once said, “a hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.”
Tuesday, May 22, 2012
It’s every parent’s worst nightmare: a child goes missing.
Every year in America, an estimated 800,000 children are reported missing, more than 2,000 children each day. Of that number, 200,000 are abducted by family members, and 58,000 are abducted by non-family members. The primary motive for non-family abductions is sexual. Each year 115 children are the victims of the most serious abductions, taken by non-family members and either murdered, held for ransom, or taken with the intent to keep. National Missing Children’s Day is May 25th and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) urges parents to take 25 minutes to talk to their children about their safety.
“We know teaching children about safety works,” said Ernie Allen, president and CEO of NCMEC. “It is important that parents take the time to talk to their children about safety.”
An analysis of attempted abduction cases by NCMEC found that in 81percent of the cases, children escaped would-be abductors through their own actions, such as yelling, kicking, pulling away, running away or attracting attention.
May 25th is the anniversary of the day in 1979 when 6-year-old Etan Patz disappeared from a New York street corner on his way to school, and this day has been observed as National Missing Children’s Day since 1983 when it was first proclaimed by President Ronald Reagan. Etan’s story captivated the nation, and still does. His photo, taken by his father, a professional photographer, was circulated nationwide and appeared in media across the country and around the world. The powerful image of Etan has come to symbolize the anguish and trauma of thousands of searching families. America was again captivated by Etan’s story as the search for him continues. He is still missing.
NCMEC is the leading nonprofit organization dealing with the issues of missing and sexually exploited children and operates a 24-hour toll free national hotline for reporting missing children. NCMEC has played a role in the recovery of more than 175,234 children, and today, more children come home safely than ever before and more of those who prey upon children are being identified and prosecuted. Yet too many children are still missing and too many children are still the victims of sexual exploitation. There is much more that needs to be done, and you can do your part by following the steps outlined in the Take 25 Campaign.
Wednesday, May 09, 2012
Yesterday I visited the Dallas Arts District to speak at Travel Rally Day. Travel Rally Day is designed to promote and celebrate the important economic impact that travel and tourism have on our state and local economies and to encourage Texans to travel in Texas. Tourism is one of my priorities as First Lady. It’s an industry that pumps billions into the economy each year. It’s always a pleasure to speak at Travel Rally Day and see the passion and enthusiasm of people affiliated with this industry.
I love the Dallas Arts District — both because of the truly exceptional work being done there and also because it’s the realization of the dreams of an entire community. It wasn’t too long ago that the district was nothing more than a shared vision, an idea about how to best tap into the creative and economic power of Dallas and that region. Decades later, the district stands to show that by coming together, developing a plan and executing that plan with hard work and determination you can achieve something that is truly a success on many levels: economically, spiritually and artistically.
Texas tourism in its own way is a success story not unlike the Dallas Arts District.
As Henry Ford once said, “Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” The story of Texas tourism is certainly one of success.
In 2011, 208.3 million domestic travelers visited destinations in our state, making it one of the best years for tourism in Texas history.
It gets better.
Total visitor spending in Texas was $63 billion in 2011, a 10 percent increase over 2010 and the highest spending on record.
Now, would Henry Ford consider that success? Certainly progress.
But if his definition of success is “working together”… well, we have that covered, too.
The travel and tourism industry supported more than 530,000 jobs last year. These job spread all across the state from the Gulf Coast to the Plains of West Texas and all points in between. Hundreds of thousands of families have their livelihood, their prosperity directly tied to tourism.
If you want to talk about Travel Matters (the slogan for Texas Tourism), that’s where it really matters.
If you think all those jobs are in the big cities, that’s simply not true. Last month, I had the pleasure of visiting San Angelo and Victoria — two smaller Texas towns that have made a real commitment to preserving the lifestyle and culture that make those places unique.
Those are just two of the dozens and dozens of smaller Texas towns which are working to retain local character and flavor. While there are obvious benefits to the people who live there, it also makes those places a must-see for tourists bringing in untold numbers of people who enjoy the charm and distinctive style of small-town Texas.
And those people come back to Texas…again and again.
There’s a special feeling you get when visiting our state that is hard to capture anywhere else.
And, of course, our top visitor destinations have so much to offer travelers. This year, in fact, will see some exciting new and improved attractions across the state…such as a totally new water park at Sea World San Antonio…a brand-new Pleasure Pier on Galveston Island…and “The Park,” a wonderful new outdoor gathering place in Dallas.
Of course, Texas’ appeal isn’t tied to any one amusement park, one attraction or one city.
Texas’ appeal is spread throughout an industry’s worth of friendly, helpful and talented people working in hotels, restaurants, museums and any number of other capacities.
Our state has been abundantly blessed with great natural beauty. Our weather that may trend a little warm at times but is generally pretty nice and we have locations rich with culture and history.
However, it’s our friendly Texas nature and our welcoming attitude that may be our biggest blessings of all.
People come to Texas because of our attractions and they come back because of our people.
That’s important because every year we face the renewed challenge of competition from other states. Many of these states sink significant state resources into marketing and promoting their destinations.
Texas does have significant advantages over most of them. Honestly, how many states can offer beaches, the Alamo and the Texas Rangers, all within a few hours’ drive? However such advantages don’t last long without having the people in place to make each and every visit a pleasure.
That’s why Texas is, and will remain, indebted to the hard-working men and women of our hospitality industry.
Did you know that Texas generates $7 in state taxes for every $1 spent on out-of-state advertising.
Again, Travel Matters!
Monday, May 07, 2012
This week honors a profession near and dear to my heart, National Nurses Week.
Having worked in the profession for 17 years in a variety of positions in the areas of surgery, pediatrics, intensive care, administration and teaching, I was honored to help patients during those years, from those taking their first breaths to those taking their last.
My husband likes to call me “First Nurse,” and it’s a moniker I’m proud to wear. Healthcare has been in my blood since I was a little girl, and some of my fondest memories are from my teenage years of helping my father, the country doctor, in his office. I knew early on that my preferred profession was nursing.
Perhaps it’s not uncommon for nurses to feel the calling, the passion of nursing at an early age. I’ve heard a number of times through the years of people who aspired to be nurses when they were quite young.
Caring, nurturing, hard working, flexible, strong interpersonal skills...these are characteristics shared by nurses. It’s certainly not an easy field to pursue so it takes a person who is dedicated and committed. I have great admiration for nurses, who make a positive difference in so many people’s lives every single day.
Fittingly, Nurses Week concludes on May 12, the birthday of Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing.
Thursday, April 26, 2012
It’s been described by many as “life changing” and when I hear that it’s music to my ears. I’m referring to the Texas Conference for Women, Texas’ largest personal and professional development event for women.
It’s only six months from now and it’s not too early to register. Early bird registration opened this week for the 13th Annual Texas Conference for Women, which will be held at the Austin Convention Center on Wednesday, October 24, 2012.
Nationally recognized speakers and leaders from Texas and across the nation will share their wisdom and expertise on a wide range of topics including career advancement, money management, health and wellness, small business and entrepreneurship, social media and branding and more.
In years prior, attendees have benefited from the talent and wisdom of such trailblazers and nationally known trailblazers and experts. The 2012 speakers will be announced in the coming weeks.
In addition to the keynotes and dozens of breakout sessions, attendees can attend Local Leader Meet Ups for the chance to have one-on-one conversations with local businesswomen and community leaders, and Expert Exchange sessions offer a focused discussion with industry veterans. Conference attendees also have the opportunity to participate in the popular Career Pavilion, featuring free resume reviews by human resource experts, Mentor Match (one-on-one “speed mentoring” sessions with local career coaches and executives), workshops on communication skills and social media, and much more.
The Conference Health & Wellness Pavilion showcases speakers and companies dedicated to improving women’s health, while an onsite Exhibit Hall boasts hundreds of organizations and companies with products or services that appeal to women.
An early bird rate of just $125 per person, $1200 per table of 10, $230 for a group of two and $60 for students is available through May 24. To register or learn more about the 13th Annual Texas Conference for Women, visit the Web site at Texas Women’s Conference Website , follow the Conference on Twitter at Texas Women’s Conference on Twitter , visit the Facebook page at Texas Women’s Conference on Facebook , or find us on Pinterest at Texas Women’s Conference on Pinterest How’s that for being plugged in!
I hope you’ll join us for a day that promises to be inspiring, motivating and just plain fun!
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
As a nurse, I’ve seen the impact that underage drinking can have on young people, through death, injury, or problems later in life. As a parent, though, I know both how hard it is to have the discussion with your children about alcohol and how important that lifesaving discussion can be. Alcohol is the drug most commonly used by teens, but three-quarters of all kids say parents are the number one influence on their decision to drink or not to drink.
That’s why I’m proud to support PowerTalk 21® on April 21st—the national day for parents to talk with their children about underage drinking. MADD’s Power of Parents™ program, created in partnership with Pennsylvania State University’s Dr. Robert Turrisi, provides guidance for talking with teens about the dangers of drinking before age 21, and is based on research proven to help reduce underage drinking by as much as 30 percent.
You can download a parent handbook free of charge. This handbook provides tips and conversation starters and can help you answer the difficult questions your kids may have about alcohol.
On April 21st, please start the conversation with your kids about underage drinking, and help keep the next generation of Texans safe.
Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Most people associate springtime with longer days, budding trees and the ubiquitous wildflowers along the roadways. As First Lady, this time of year wouldn’t be the same without a Main Street tour. It’s an annual ritual I look forward to, meeting enthusiastic and energized people who are committed to preserving the authenticity of their community. Yesterday I visited my 42nd Main Street city. Congratulations to Victoria!
A Texas Historical Commission program, Main Street helps Texas cities revitalize their historic downtowns by using preservation and economic development strategies. It takes a huge commitment on the part of a city or town to be designated a Main Street city.
The program was founded in 1981. Since 1994 the annual First Lady tour has been sponsored by the Independent Banker’s Association of Texas (IBAT). Today there are 84 cities participating in the Main Street Program and they’ve made a difference in so many ways. Over the years, these efforts have contributed to more than $2.4 billion in economic reinvestment. It’s led to more than 27,000 new jobs and the creation or expansion of almost 7,100 businesses in Main Street districts.
Beyond economic numbers, however, I love the Main Street Program because it demonstrates, time and again, what a community can accomplish when they pull together and work hard to achieve a goal, exactly as the dedicated people in Victoria did.
I also have to mention another important award that honors Texas communities. Today, I was proud to present San Angelo with the 2012 First Lady Texas Treasure Award. This honor goes to communities that enjoy an ideal combination of culture, preservation and vision in protecting and promoting their hometown legacies. That combination is very evident in cities like San Angelo. The program is only a few years old but each year I’m impressed to learn about the cities that apply and receive the designation.
As we concluded the whirlwind day I was thankful to be part of the celebrations in both cities. The people in both Victoria and San Angelo did a fabulous job of representing their communities and hosting me. I appreciate their hospitality and enthusiasm.
Thursday, March 29, 2012
Perseverance. Pride. Hard work.
Those are some of the characteristics Texas’ early Spanish and Mexican settlers possessed, and the same holds true for the organizers of the newest monument on the Texas State Capitol grounds, the Tejano Monument.
Today was a historic day, as thousands attended the unveiling of one of the largest monuments on the Capitol grounds. The Tejano Monument has been 12 years in the making, beginning in 2001 when legislators passed and the governor signed legislation establishing it. Countless Texans and state leaders persevered for years to obtain funding and make certain the monument would accurately depict the rich Hispanic history of our state’s early explorers and settlers. Sculptor Armando Hinojosa of Laredo worked for years on the life-size statutes which make up the monument, including a depiction of a Spanish explorer, a vaquero on his mustang, a longhorn bull and cow, and a family of settlers. At 525 square feet, the monument is quite impressive.
As the Governor said at today’s unveiling, “This important monument reflects a larger truth about the origins of Texas, about the contributions of so many Hispanic citizens to the creation of the state we love and the lives we share. These contributions are ongoing with Latinos providing political, business and spiritual leadership in communities throughout Texas. The future of our state is tied directly to the future of our Hispanic population, and I believe we have a glorious future ahead of us.”
It’s another reminder of my pride of being a Texan and our rich, interesting history as a state.
Friday, March 23, 2012
In case you missed our recent announcement, the 13th Annual Texas Conference Women is returning to Austin on October 24th at the Austin Convention Center, so be sure to save the date. The conference was held in Austin from 2000 to 2007, and has been held in Houston for the last four years.
I hope you’ll join us for networking, professional development, personal growth, and stories of wisdom and inspiration by nationally recognized speakers and leaders from Texas and across the nation.
It’s always such an empowering and inspiring event, and I look forward to seeing so many Texas women given the power to realize their dreams and positively impact lives, their communities and the world.
For more information on the 13th Annual Conference, please visit http://www.txconferenceforwomen.org.
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
In the last few years, researchers have made significant progress toward understanding and treating the cognitive issues associated with Down syndrome. Studies now provide hope of biomedical therapies for improving memory, learning and communication in individuals with Down syndrome, offering the potential for increased life opportunities. It all sounds very hopeful. In recent decades, improved health care, education and community opportunities and the support of families and advocacy groups have improved the quality of life for individuals with Down syndrome. The life expectancy of those with Down syndrome has more than doubled over the past 30 years.
Interestingly, associations between Down syndrome and Alzheimer’s disease have been identified, which open encouraging paths for treating both Down syndrome and Alzheimer’s. In addition, a decreased incidence of breast and colon cancer has been reported within the Down syndrome population and this finding offers additional clues, which may prove to be useful in developing treatments for these conditions. I applaud First Lady Christie for bringing attention to Research Down Syndrome and the great work this organization is doing.
Closer to home, we’re blessed here in Texas with Down Home Ranch, a working farm and ranch, where about 40 adults and children—including 28 with Down syndrome and other disabilities—live year round. Founded by a family who had a baby with Down syndrome, the parents “learned quickly that this baby—like their other children—was first and foremost a person, worthy of love, friends, and the joys, sorrows, and opportunities open to any other,” to quote its website. Down Home Ranch also welcomes 160 people with disabilities to summer residential camps. What a beautiful contribution Down Home Ranch makes to countless families by giving their children opportunities they may not have otherwise.
Friday, March 16, 2012
As a nurse, mother and a person who wants to live a long and healthy life, I’ve been interested in nutrition for a long time. Healthy eating not only provides fuel on a daily basis, but also impacts our quality of life well into the future. I’m reminded of one my mother’s favorite sayings, “If I would have known I was going to live this long, I would taken better care of myself!”
I learned recently that the month of March is designated as National Nutrition Month by The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Wanting to learn more, I visited the organization’s website, and even for a person who prides herself on a good amount of knowledge about healthy nutrition, there was plenty of information for all ages and all levels to read and digest (couldn’t help myself!).
I was especially interested in reading the section about popular diet reviews. Who hasn’t read about the latest trend diet and thought, this may be just the way to take off those stubborn, extra 10 pounds? The section offers reviews by experts on how to spot the most recent craze from the nutrition plan that could be a life-changer. For their reviews of diet books, experts looked at the following: claims made by the author; details of the diet plan; nutritional weaknesses and strengths; and the registered dietitian’s assessment of the books.
Perhaps the most worth-while read, is section 25, Healthy Snacks for Kids. It’s full of creative ways to keep children wanting to reach for healthy choices, like making snack kabobs made of low fat cheese cubes and grapes on pretzel sticks or healthy ice cream sandwiches made of frozen yogurt, graham crackers and slices of banana. I personally think those snacks sound great for adults too!
For more information on healthy eating and National Nutrition Month, please visit http://www.eatright.org/.
Thursday, February 16, 2012
Dick Wallrath. It’s not a household name but maybe it should be. Dick’s story is nothing short of amazing. It’s what movies are made of—and are—in this case. I had the pleasure and honor of attending the movie premiere of “Deep in the Heart” at the Paramount on Wednesday night. The movie is Dick’s life story.
What a fun evening. But more importantly, what an inspiring evening as we watched an incredibly moving and touching story about determination, forgiveness, redemption and generosity. Dick has single handedly changed untold numbers of lives through his generous donations for scholarships. Actually, no one has ever given more financially to the Texas 4-H and Texas FFA Scholarship Programs than Dick Wallrath.
After battling demons of substance abuse Dick found strength through his faith that made him realize the importance of family. He realized that love and family relationships are the true measure of success. Dick and his sons built a successful business and then went on to “give back” in the form of supporting Texas 4-H and FFA. The movie has a great cast—Jon Gries, Elaine Hendrix, DB Sweeney and Val Kilmer. It opens this weekend. I can assure you, you won’t be disappointed. And, it’s always nice to see a fellow Texan share his success so generously.
Congratulations and thank you, Dick!