Before I say a few words about the way in which this program is structured, let me see if I can briefly thank several people who have generously helped frame this day’s events.
We began a couple of years ago with a committee that I hope still recognizes the final result. Those generous folks are Tom Staley, Terry Sullivan, Jerry Supple, and Greg Curtis. Throughout the past couple of years, I have had abundant help from my good friend here at the podium, Betty Sue Flowers, in defining the shape of this program.
Bill Hilgers was the eloquent spokesperson who persuaded John Silber to join us, and Cathy and Jerry Supple are my folk music consultants for this evening.
I would also like to thank the RGK Foundation for its generous gift in support of this program, and George and Ronya are here; thank the Blanton Museum, again, for their gracious hospitality last night; and in anticipation, thank St. Edward’s University for their hospitality this evening.
Finally, the staff and colleagues who have made this possible: Baker Duncan, our chair-elect, who will take the gavel this afternoon, worked very hard on the essay contest. You met the winner last night and, for those of you who asked, there are a few copies of his essay up here; Ron Tyler, who works very hard for these meetings; and especially Evelyn Stehling. She is probably not in the room, but she is an extraordinary support to this effort and a person to whom we are all in debt.
A word about the program inspiration. I suspect we are all at a point where if we hear Y2K one more time, our eyes will glaze over. But I still am intrigued by the notion that in less than thirty days it will be the year 2000, and we are part of a very small percentage of human beings who live at that point in time, at that thousand mark. Maybe it is the philosopher in me, but it calls me right away to put down a marker and reflect and ask myself something about what it is my life is about and what kinds of values are driving it.
So when I knew I was going to have responsibility for this program just thirty days before the millennium and I thought about the name and mission of this society, it seemed to me most appropriate that we, as philosophers and as Texas philosophers, take some time today to think about what Texas has stood for, what Texas values are. Is that ground on which we stand shifting? Should Texas challenge itself in the light of some changing demographics, ever more dominant technology, and environmental consciousness?
So our program design is structured to probe that question, hopefully in a logical way. Our keynoters will reflect on the unique mythology and philosophy that we know as Texas.
The first panel has a dual role after the keynoters. Each has an important personal and professional perspective on this topic, but they will also, as their time permits, have a chance to react to the co-keynoters. Our eleven o’clock panel is a stretch out into the future. If we were all here in 2010 and 2020, would we look back and see things in the same way?
After lunch, we have a wonderful writers’ panel to bring a closing literary perspective on our theme today. Tonight we will be at St. Edward’s University. Our host—and he may be here this morning—will be the new president of St. Edward’s University, George Martin. I hope you will get a chance to meet him—with wonderful entertainment by Ed Miller.
And tomorrow morning, we will resume a tradition of the membership, which is to have a plenary discussion on the topic with as many of our speakers as are able to remain with us.
That is the plan. After two years of planning it, I am eager to begin. So to the main event.
Who would any of us pick to frame this issue of Texas values, to unfold the Texas myth? That was my wonderful opportunity in thinking about this program. Two native Texans, but both with perspectives from outside of Texas in the United States and abroad—a philosopher and a poet, both insightful, honest, and provocative—Dr. Betty Sue Flowers and Dr. John Silber.
Betty Sue Flowers is a professor of English and former Associate Dean of Graduate Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. She has served as a Plan II Honors Program director and is a Piper professor. She’s a native Texan with degrees from UT and the University of London. Her scholarly publications include a book titled Browning and the Modern Tradition and articles on Adrian Rich, Christina Rosetti, poetry, therapy, writing, and other subjects.
She has edited Daughters and Fathers as well as four books in collaboration with Bill Moyers. Betty Sue has served as a moderator for executive seminars at the Aspen Institute for Humanistic Studies, as a consultant for NASA, as a member of the Envisioning Network for General Motors, and as a member of the Vision Team for the National Endowment for the Humanities.
In 1992 and again in 1995 and 1998, she worked with an international team to write Global Scenarios for Shell International in London, stories about the future of the world for the next 30 years. She has recently edited a book in conjunction with Joseph Jaworski on the inner dimensions of leadership, Synchronicity, and has also completed a manuscript for the Christina Rosetti edition in the English poets series.
Last year, Betty Sue was the writer and editor of the Global Scenarios for Sustainable Development sponsored by the World Business Council in Geneva.
Dr. John Silber was born in San Antonio and took his B.A. summa cum laude in philosophy at Trinity University. While at Trinity, he also studied fine arts and was awarded the Coppini Gold Medal for painting in oils.
He took his M.A. and Ph.D. at Yale. After teaching at Yale, he returned to Texas, where he joined the Department of Philosophy at the University of Texas at Austin and served as chair and then dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. He was the first chairman of the Texas Society to Abolish Capital Punishment and a leader in the integration of the University of Texas. He was also instrumental in founding Operation Head Start.
In January 1971, John Silber became the seventh president of Boston University. At Boston University he emphasized the attainment of academic excellence and financial stability. Most recent NSF records show that Boston University, which ranked one-hundredth in sponsored research in 1971, now ranks forty-fifth.
Going against a national trend of declining SAT scores, Boston University’s have increased steadily, and Dr. Silber has invested deeply in a strong faculty, as evidenced by Nobel Prizes and a Nobel laureate.
Dr. Silber resigned as president effective May 31, 1996, and on June 1 assumed the newly created post of chancellor. In addition, as many of you know, to his leadership of the university, Dr. Silber introduced innovative programs to partner with public education, contracting to operate the schools of Chelsea, Massachusetts. He also opened the Boston University Academy, a private high school that earned accreditation in a record time of three years, three months.
In January 1996, Governor William Weld appointed Dr. Silber chairman of the Massachusetts Board of Education, in which post he served until 1999. He also has written widely on philosophy, especially on Immanuel Kant, on whom he is a leading authority; on education and social and foreign policy; and his work has appeared in any number of well-known journals.
John and Kathryn Silber are the parents of seven children and twenty-four grandchildren.
With that, please welcome Dr. Betty Sue Flowers and Dr. John Silber.