PSTX Seal

Welcome

Good morning, everyone. If everyone will take their seats, we can proceed with the program. I am Isabel Wilson, president of the Philosophical Society this year. First of all I want to say, Welcome, welcome. We're delighted to have you all in Houston for what I hope will be a very stimulating program.

The Philosophical Society was first started, of course, back in the 1800s. It was re-started in 1937, as I think most of you know. So, this makes a sort of wonderful year, '37 to '07. I like the ring of that. And I hope that it will continue happily for many more years.

I am here this morning to welcome our first speaker and tell you a little bit about him, although I think most of you know him.

Our first speaker is James A. Baker III. He entered a career of politics and public service despite advice he received from his grandfather. Captain Baker, as the grandfather was known, was a very successful attorney with the law firm that his family had started in Houston -- Baker Botts. Were it not for Captain Baker, we would not be here today. Among his many accomplishments was the preservation of the endowment for the William Marsh Rice Institute for the Advancement of Literature, Science and Art, after the mysterious death of its benefactor. That institute of course is now more simply called Rice University.

Captain Baker often gave young attorneys like his grandson three pieces of advice: Work hard, study, and keep out of politics.

For much of his life, our speaker followed Captain Baker's well-intentioned axiom. He built a successful law practice and raised a family four sons. It wasn't until about midway through his life that a series of circumstances, and his friendship with George H.W. Bush got our speaker involved in politics, and then in public service. The rest, as they say, is history.

Since then, our speaker has been the only person who led five presidential campaigns, the only person who served as White House Chief of Staff, Secretary of Treasury, and Secretary of State. He is: the Treasury Secretary who helped Ronald Reagan direct one of the most significant restructurings of the nation's income tax system; the Secretary of State who helped the first President Bush conclude the Cold War, with a whimper and not a bang; and the co-chairman of the Iraq Study Group, which developed the only forward-looking approach to Iraq that enjoys bipartisan support.

The list goes on and on. During that time, he has been called Mr. Baker, the Chief, Mr. Secretary, and the Velvet Hammer. And I am sure there are some Democrats who have less savory nicknames for him.

I just call him Jimmy. After all is said and done, I am damned glad that Jimmy followed only two pieces of his grandfather's advice to young attorneys: He worked hard and he studied, but he did not keep out of politics.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is a distinct honor to introduce our speaker and my cherished friend since childhood, James A. Baker III.

isabel wilson at mfah 12-7-07
2007 President, Isabel B. Wilson. Photo by member John Gullett.