Texas Our Texas
Thursday, April 28, 2011
This week was the annual First Lady’s Main Street Tour, and I think I broke a record here in Texas – making my 40th stop. That’s right, 40. The tour is sponsored by a longtime partner, The Independent Bankers Association of Texas. For 17 years, their generosity allows the tour to happen at no expense to the state.
Having grown up in a small town myself, it’s fun to make these stops each year and it’s a good reminder of what makes our small communities so special. People take care of each other! Growing up, I remember the freezer being stacked high with casseroles, and we’d pull one and take it to a neighbor or friend if something happened and they needed dinner. This tour is special because small towns in Texas are making a commitment to restore their historic downtown. They get some help through the Main Street Program, and it’s a big deal!
The first stop was Kingsville. Remember that this is the quintessential Texas dream town - built to support a sprawling ranch. Reminders of those early days were all around me when I spoke there. Behind me was the 1909 H.M. King School, a beautiful old building that was the town’s first school and it will soon be restored. Helen Groves is leading the restoration – and the school was named after her great-grandmother, who had a vision for Kingsville. To my right was the 1909 Ragland Building, which is now the King Ranch Saddle Shop! It’s gorgeous, and I can’t wait to see Kingsville restore its downtown… for the university, for their men and women in uniform at the Naval Air Station, and for future generations.
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Today, the Governor’s Commission for Women will honor female members of the 82nd Texas Legislature at their annual fundraising luncheon. My husband will speak, along with Lt. Gov. Dewhurst and Speaker Straus, and we’re lucky enough to have the support of actress and philanthropist Janine Turner. She will emcee our event, and she’s a three-time Golden Globe nominee. Who doesn’t remember her character, Maggie, from Northern Exposure?
The Governor’s Commission for Women has been a key part of the office since it was formed in 1967. In the past decade alone, the commission has raised and donated more than $500,000 to key initiatives like helping women 50 and over find employment, supporting military families, and empowering girls to pursue science, technology, engineering and math careers. Throughout its history, the commission has launched public awareness campaigns, hosted workshops and conferences, conducted surveys, established local women’s commissions throughout the state and honored some of the most accomplished women with Texas Women’s Hall of Fame and the Outstanding Women in Texas Government Awards. To stay updated on the latest from the Governor’s Commission for Women, join on Facebook at http://www.Facebook.com/texaswomen.
Thursday, April 21, 2011
On April 21, 1836… At San Jacinto, about 900 Texans defeated the General Santa Anna’s force of 1,300 with shouts of “Remember the Alamo!” and defeated the Mexican army in 18 minutes. We caught them during a siesta, and Santa Anna was found the next day hiding in the grass, dressed as a common soldier. For Mexico, this battle was the beginning of its loss of nearly a million square miles. For the Texans, this victory led to independence, and later, annexation into the United States – and the US eventually gained not only Texas, but also New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona, California, Utah and parts of Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado and Wyoming. Due to the bravery and military leadership of Sam Houston, almost a third of what is now the United States of America began to change ownership. It all started in Texas on this day 175 years ago!
And by the way, congratulations to the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum on its 10-year anniversary today!
Thursday, April 21, 2011
It’s officially springtime and today we get to see a traditional egg hunt for children and grandchildren of our state legislators. It’s always entertaining to see Easter through a child’s eyes, and reminds me of the simple beauty of this holiday. We celebrate new life and the promise of a new beginning. Each egg holds a surprise, and each new life has grace and a fresh start. In the Christian calendar, it’s the most significant holiday of the year – which is why it’s so hard to find a place to sit at church! Regardless of your faith, it’s a good time to keep an eye out for those simple reminders of new life. You never know where you’ll find them. Look at these little hatchlings… right on the back porch!
Monday, April 11, 2011
Today I joined Rep. Pete Gallego on a flight over some of the wildfires in West Texas around Fort Davis and Marfa. This is normally such a beautiful part of our state, but today it was heartbreaking to see such extensive fire damage. It’s truly devastating. So much is still burning, and my prayer is for the safety of this region. I was touched to meet the people and firefighters who came from as far as Colorado and Utah to help us.
While officials estimate that the fires in this region are 40 percent contained, dangerous conditions are still expected for the next several days. I’m urging Texans to heed all warnings from local officials and follow the latest safety guidance as wildfire containment efforts continue.
Wednesday, April 06, 2011
Wow, what a game! Could I be any more proud of the A&M women’s basketball team? Not only was it the first time for them to make it to the Final Four, but they also became our NCAA Champions! The game was a nail-biter against Notre Dame, and the Irish didn’t go down without a good fight. Both teams were relative underdogs to make it that far, so I just have to say that it was a much more exciting matchup than the men’s game on Monday night.
Coach Blair has worked hard to raise the profile of the team, and when he first arrived he went door to door introducing himself and inviting people to see the women play. After all, not too long ago the A&M women shared uniforms with other teams, and their friends and family were really the only people who came out to see them play. Before each game, Coach Blair scrawls a plus sign on his hand as a reminder to be just as positive with the team as he is with the public. He’s brought out the best in the women, and he’s worked equally hard to give them a voice and make sure the community knows about their success. Thanks to last night’s history-making performance, they’ve made a mark on women’s basketball at A&M and the NCAA has seen what they can do. Congratulations!
Friday, April 01, 2011
For the first time ever, the Texas A&M Aggie Women basketball team is in the Final Four! I’m so excited about the game on Sunday, and I’ll be in Indianapolis – at least in spirit. Whether they win or lose, it’s such an accomplishment. Congratulations to them, their coaches and to the team for making it this far. They’ve brought the team to new heights. I hope they savor every minute of it and enjoy the fruits of such hard work. So much to celebrate!
Friday, March 25, 2011
What would you do if you were lured to another country with the promise of a better life? Would you consider taking the plunge? What if you did – only to find yourself enslaved at the mercy of someone who made sure that you had little or no money, no alternate place to stay, no relatives… and couldn’t even speak the language? It happens right here in Texas. What if your child – at the age of 11, 12 or 13 – was lured away and ended up stuck in a prostitution ring, given a nightly dollar quota to meet and found herself fully beholden to someone who is abusing her? These are the awful realities for the many victims of human trafficking and their families. Most of us live in comfortable, secure surroundings with very little exposure to that terrible part of our world, but it’s real and Texas is at the forefront of working to combat it. We live in a land where each life is precious, so let’s help put an end to human trafficking.
Monday, March 21, 2011
Today I’m joining New Jersey First Lady Mary Pat Christie and several other Governor First Spouses to bring attention to Down syndrome cognitive research, which holds great promise and could lead to safe and effective treatments for those affected by it.
Down syndrome is the result of an extra copy of the genetic material present on chromosome 21. Did you know that it is the most common chromosomal abnormality, and present in one of every 700 live births? It’s estimated that three million people worldwide are affected by Down syndrome, with 400,000 here in the United States. It manifests differently in each person affected, but is usually associated with mild to moderate cognitive impairment.
New research at Johns Hopkins University, Stanford University, The University of Arizona, University of California, San Diego and University of Colorado has taken a fresh approach to these complex intellectual disabilities. Much of the work is funded by the non-profit foundation Research Down Syndrome with the goal of creating safe and effective treatments that empower people to reach their full potential. This is encouraging news!
Thursday, March 17, 2011
Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Did you know that some of the first settlers and patriots of Texas were Irish? The first Irish man in Spanish-ruled Texas was most likely Hugo Oconór, who served as the governor ad interim in 1767. Philip Nolan, a native of Belfast, was said to be the first to map Texas. James Hewetson and James Power (below), along with John McMullen and James McGloin, were the first Irish men to receive empresario contracts from Mexico. They settled Refugio and San Patricio counties, which were among the first established in Texas after the revolution, and chose to make it official on March 17, 1836. Naturally, that was Saint Patrick’s Day!
As many as 25 Irish men signed the Goliad Declaration of Independence, and four of them signed the actual Texas Declaration of Independence. Eleven Irish men died at the battle of the Alamo, and 100 enlisted in the Battle of San Jacinto… which would mean that one-seventh of the soldiers who won Texas independence – were Irish! They fought and died for civic and religious liberties.
In 1841, Irish-born Texan William Kennedyqv became known for his book, The Rise, Progress and Prospects of Texas, which encouraged immigration to the new republic. By 1850, we had nearly 1,500 Irish settlers in Texas, and 10 years later the number had more than doubled. Among the settlers, they were said to be the most eager to protect and defend their freedoms. Today, we salute the rich Irish heritage of Texas.
Monday, March 14, 2011
As death toll estimates continue to climb and we see more footage of the devastation, my heart breaks for the people of Japan. When we think of the many families that will be broken, the lives that will be affected, and the communities that will be rebuilding themselves, we can’t help but extend our thoughts and prayers. My prayer is that mothers, fathers and children will have the strength to face the challenges that lie ahead.
Thursday, March 10, 2011
In 2001, Joci Straus created the Texas Medal of Arts to recognize the outstanding achievements of Texans in art. Every two years, a group of art luminaries are recognized for their artistic commitment and talent, and Rick and I have proudly served as honorary chairs. Last week, I spoke at their Stars of Texas Brunch to personally congratulate the outstanding artists, educators and supporters being recognized this year.
The 2011 medalists were: ZZ Top for Music (a favorite at our house); the lovely and talented film actress Marcia Gay Harden; film actor extraordinaire Bill Paxton; opera singer, trailblazer and Lifetime Achievement honoree Barbara Smith Conrad; historian and literary giant Robert M. Edsel; art museum director, educator and writer Tom Staley; Lubbock-born and world-renowned visual artist James Drake; Houston’s 60-year-old famed Alley Theatre; longtime CBS News anchor Bob Schieffer; multi-media musician, actor and producer Ray Benson; and, art patrons Dr. Ernest and Sarah Butler. Congratulations to the 2011 Texas Medal of Arts Honorees!