Welcome and Introductory Remarks

Welcome to the 158th anniversary meeting of the Philosophical Society of Texas. In the thirties here in Corpus Christi on this side of the rickety old causeway, there used to be a sign that read, "Welcome, Corpus Christi, Never Misty. A Room and a Bath, a Dollar and a Half."
Now, eventually, the larceny caught up with the city and they realized that on those foggy days people not only couldn't read the sign, they couldn't even see it. So they brought in Madison Avenue and they changed the slogan to "A Sparkling City by the Bay." Other things have changed. I doubt that you will get out without paying more tax than a dollar-and-a-half on your room. But, in the main, the welcome stands, and Corpus Christi is known for that welcome.

This is a city born on the wrong side of the Nueces River. It was founded more or less as a trading post that quickly turned into a smuggler's lair and a place of escape for both Mexican citizens and Texas citizens who were running from the law, and they all met and mixed here. The Spaniard who first saw the river named it the Nueces, or the river of nuts. And it wasn't entirely irrelevant for the early period. As a matter of fact, if you attend some of our local elections, you will know we still have a few of them around.

I want to especially welcome the new members. We saw them last night and heard something about them, and I want them to look us over. I know you're disappointed because we don't look much like philosophers. The truth of the matter is, we aren't real philosophers. We are all in transit. Some are further down the road than others. Some of us have barely reached the city limits sign. But we all are lovers and seekers after knowledge and wisdom. And this group of people, in my opinion, represents the dynamic of this state in every field--in science, in medicine, in the judiciary, in the arts, and in business. We invite the new members to relax and become one with us. Although we don't take ourselves too seriously, we do take this Society seriously. We sought you out. You didn't ask to join. And since you accepted, we expect from you full participation and attendance every year, if at all possible.

When I was taking Philosophy 101, I learned two things that I remembered about philosophy, that is you have the philosopher of the road and the philosopher of the balcony. We don't have any balcony philosophers here. These are all men and women who've struggled in life and succeeded, elbowed their way sometimes through the main streets to get there. So, again, we have got a great gold vein in this Society to be tapped together. Get out your tablets, take your notes, and prepare for it.

At this time, Texas's answer to Will Rogers--Cactus?

Cactus Pryor:
I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking,
And the gray mist on the sea's face and a gray dawn breaking.
I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.
I must go down to the seas again to the vagrant gypsy life.
To the gull's way and the whale's way where the wind's like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick's over.
["Sea Fever" by John Masefield]

William Crook: It is my observation that the greater the individual, the more tedious his introduction. He or she gathers so many honors, so many degrees, fills so many positions, that you can list them all and still not know the individual. Such is the case with Bill Moyers. My wife read his vita the other night. We were both awed by it. And she said, I believe Bill Moyers is the only truly, truly humble man I've ever met. I waited. It was not amended, and it was not extended.

Bill has gathered by his voice to America so many honors that it would be a tedious introduction if I read them all, and he wouldn't have time, and the panel wouldn't have time, to speak. He has written six national best-sellers, non-fiction. He has received thirty Emmys. He has been called the most significant voice in television news, the communicator of the decade, and a great conversationalist.

It's easy for me to say this because my wife did not amend her statement. So I want to tell you that, in spite of all his virtues and his accomplishments, Bill Moyers sails under false colors; it doesn't make any difference that he didn't raise the colors. He sails under them: the concept that he's a great conversationalist. It takes two to make a conversation, or three, to exchange ideas and information. If you were to meet Bill out in the hall or somewhere, you'd go home to your spouse or your friends and say, I've just had the greatest conversation I've ever had in my life with Bill Moyers. And they would say, What did he say? And you would have to say, Well, not very much. But I was brilliant. I waxed eloquent. I spoke the definitive word definitively. I soared with my concepts and my ideas.

And that's Bill's dark secret. He listens. He listens, not because he is doing a poll or seeking information. He listens because he respects what you have to say, what the elevator operator has to say. And, as far as his being humble, he sometimes carries bags for the porter, and he listens to the porter and learns interesting things about him.

Let me give you one clue, one thing to watch for. On the fateful day when Air Force One took off from Dallas with its terrible burden, Bill was aboard for the swearing in of the new President. They were strapped in, and, once they reached the altitude, he unstrapped himself and went forward to find the president gazing at the blind that was pulled down, as they all were on the plane.

I know what I would have said. I suspect you would have said the same thing. I would have said, "Can I get you something, Mr. President?" Bill Moyers asked, "What are you thinking, Mr. President?" And the answer he received, to me, is a key that would unlock the burdens that the presidents throughout the Cold War had carried. So watch him. He will learn a lot about you, but he will treat it with great respect. I give you Bill Moyers.