I want to welcome you to Abilene on behalf of all of the Abilene members of the Philosophical Society. I want to express our appreciation to the folks that really helped us make this meeting possible, my assistants Beverly Guthrie and Angie Cook, and, of course, Ron Tyler, as well as Evelyn Stehling and Melinda Wilson of the TSHA, and the staff of the Embassy Suites, who have done everything they could to make things work smoothly. Again, I want to thank all the volunteers from Abilene that drove folks back and forth to Albany and to the Civic Center last night. So all of you all were very important in making this thing work well.
I had no idea two years ago, when we selected the topic for this discussion, that the Koreans would have launched a three-stage missile, or that India and Pakistan would have detonated a nuclear device, or that-well, you probably would have figured that Iraq was causing another problem. But today's topic really is not only timely, I think it's crucially important, because if history teaches us anything, it is that those nations that are focused, and committed and militarily strong are the survivors. Those that are divided by ethnic and religious tensions, ravaged by economic mismanagement, indifferent to education and the aspirations of tyrants abroad, those are the ones that don't survive. So today and tomorrow morning we will discuss these issues as they relate to protecting the United States.
America is not and can never be again isolationist. And as we say in West Texas, whether we like it or not, we've got a dog in almost every fight. When the Asian market collapsed and we looked at our stock portfolios, this became very clear to us. When we've completed our discussions on Sunday, each one of us will consider what we've learned, and then use it as we have the opportunity to benefit this state and nation.
Now, I'd like to introduce our moderator for the rest of our session. Abilene likes to claim Lee Butler as one of our own. We look at him as an Abilenian in exile. Lee came here as a bird colonel, commanding B-52 wing at Dyess Air Force Base. We quickly recognized that he was destined for stardom, as it turned out, as Commander of the Strategic Air Command. From 1991 to 1995, he served as the Commander in Chief of the Strategic Nuclear Forces for the United States. In this position, he was responsible for the deployment of the nation's nuclear bombers and ballistic missiles, both land and sea based, developing nuclear weapon target plans, and advising the President on response to nuclear attack on the United States. When he retired from active duty, he went into the business world, but he continues to serve in a number of defense-related activities, most recently as a member of the Blue Ribbon Commission reporting to Congress on ballistic missile threats to the United States. It's now my pleasure to present our moderator, General Lee Butler.