Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Texas newspapers:
Houston Chronicle. July 8, 2019.
To escape the past, you must confront it. That’s the reality Rice University accepted in recently announcing that it would join the growing number of institutions, cities, even nations that have decided to acknowledge the worst in their histories instead of trying to brush it aside.
The university said it would have a task force in place by the fall semester to examine its “past with respect to slavery, segregation, and racial injustice” and explore “how that history may continue to inform and shape the present state of the university.”
That goal, expressed in a joint statement by Rice President David W. Leebron and provost Marie Lynn Miranda, is not only laudable, it is necessary. With it comes the implied admission that the university may need to take additional steps to remedy inequities rooted in its history of racial discrimination.
That history began with the university’s founding in 1912 with funds provided by real estate tycoon William Marsh Rice, who mandated in its charter that the school be for “whites only.”
The university got that part of the charter voided in 1964, arguing in court that segregation made it ineligible for research grants and federal funding. But racism persisted even after the school admitted its first black student in 1965.
Old Rice yearbooks examined after a scandal earlier this year involving Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam when he was a student at Eastern Virginia Medical School showed photos of white Rice students in blackface, wearing Ku Klux Klan garb and otherwise making fun of African Americans.
A subsequent editorial in Rice’s student newspaper, the Thresher, said blackface photos could be found in Rice yearbooks as late as 1988, which meant 17 of Rice’s 26 trustees now attended the university “during a time when overt racism was considered appropriate.”
Whether that made a difference in how Rice treated students, faculty, staff, or others is what the task force will explore. It will search for remedies where appropriate. Anyone with suggestions as to how the university should proceed may contact Leebron by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org .
The university is following the lead of other institutions. In February, Georgetown University students voted to increase their tuition to pay reparations to the descendants of slaves sold to pay off the 230-year-old school’s debt.
The question of reparations has become a topic in the current presidential campaign, with several Democratic candidates saying they support the idea. You can’t get to reparations, however, without talking about slavery, segregation and why this country has not been successful in dealing with the racism that remains.
There have been noble attempts to force us as a nation to look at our past to determine the right course for our future. The latest example is the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama, a 6-acre site with 800 6-foot steel monuments dedicated to the thousands of men and women lynched in the United States.
Too often America’s history has been ugly, but it’s our history. The best way to deal with it is to admit what we did wrong, make amends for our mistakes and figure out how to never travel that road again.
Rice University is doing that by organizing a racial injustice task force. One of its first assignments should be to improve the school’s African American enrollment, which is only about 5% of its nearly 7,000 students. That could help the ripple Rice has started turn into a wave.
Amarillo Globe-News. July 9, 2019.
Texas took an important step in its cautious and restrained embrace of marijuana during the recently completed legislative session as lawmakers passed and Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law an expansion of qualifying conditions beneath the umbrella of the 2015 Texas Compassionate Use Program.
Previously, epilepsy was the only condition that could be treated under the state’s medical marijuana program. However, Abbott signed House Bill 3703 last month, and the program now includes patients with autism, ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), multiple sclerosis, terminal cancer and incurable neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s Disease. Also eliminated was a provision requiring the approval of two licensed neurologists, rather than one.
The bill maintains the dose restriction of 0.5% THC, the psychoactive chemical in marijuana. It was filed by Rep. Stephanie Klick (R-Fort Worth) and becomes effective Sept. 1. It passed easily in the House before an amended version passed unanimously in the Senate. The program will be regulated by the Texas Department of Public Safety, and patients seeking to obtain medical cannabis must have it prescribed by a qualified physician.
Expanding conditions that can be treated with cannabis oil was a thoughtful and necessary move without taking Texas down a path other states have chosen concerning marijuana use. All aspects of how medical cannabis may be used are accounted for, and this is a quality-of-life issue for people in the throes of tremendous suffering.
“This bill is about compassion,” Sen. Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels) told the Texas Tribune. She was the Senate sponsor of the bill. “For patients participating in the (Compassionate Use Program), they have had a remarkable and life-altering change because of this. That’s compassion.”
The state should also be commended for the measured approach it is taking. Marijuana advocates claim more should have been done during this session, specifically saying those dealing with PTSD, a group that includes numerous veterans, are being overlooked.
However, steady progress, balanced against the pros and cons, is the best course, especially on the medical front as more knowledge is gained. Texas has long furrowed its collective brow at the mere mention of the word decriminalization when it comes to marijuana, and reassuring people this bill is not a pathway to legalization dominated conversation in the Senate.
“I am not for legalizing marijuana,” Campbell said in the Tribune’s story. “I don’t think that’s a surprise to anyone.”
Rest assured, though, conversations about marijuana will likely ramp up again between now and the 2021 session, and the state should look at best practices and lessons learned from other states and not be in a hurry to move without strong, persuasive data and widespread support of the voting public.
Marijuana is now legal for medical purposes in 33 states. Texas also legalized hemp and hemp-derived products such as CBD oil during the session. The medical use bill gained traction in March when the lobbying group Texans for Expanded Access to Medical Marijuana took their case to Austin, the Tribune reported.
“HB 3703 will ensure more patients have access to medicine which will have a positive impact on their lives,” Jax Finkel, executive director of Texas NORML, the Austin chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, told the Tribune. “Many more patients are still being left behind, however, and will now have to wait until the next legislative session in 2021 for their next opportunity to find relief.”
The Dallas Morning News. July 9, 2019.
Ross Perot’s legendary list of lifetime achievements should start with “captured the imagination.”
Brilliant in business, generous and demanding, driven, quirky and colorful, Perot was as hard to pigeonhole as a Texas tornado.
His death early Tuesday at age 89 leaves a broad legacy and some of the nation’s enduring one-liners born of homespun wisdom. A bestselling book and televised miniseries dramatized his adventure to rescue employees being held in Iran â€” using his own hired commandos, no less. But no single volume or TV show could capture the full sweep of the diminutive giant.
The hostage rescue was emblematic of a boss who demanded the ultimate effort on the job, then reciprocated with the ultimate loyalty.
If it was difficult working for Perot; it was also different, to put it mildly. Workers at his revolutionary, Dallas-born Electronic Data Systems abided by a meticulous grooming policy that made white shirts mandatory and banned tasseled shoes. Cohabitating unmarried was out.
The rules reflected his background as a Navy officer, training that people said made him manic, even obsessive, about security. Perot was strong medicine, and he wasn’t for everybody.
In Texas we recall him as an irresistible force in Austin to drag the state out of the dark ages on public education by demanding results. Asked by Gov. Mark White to tackle the problem, Perot became immersed in research and lobbying, spending his own money and hiring his own experts. Perot won landmark reforms in the Legislature in 1984, and the legacy of measuring student progress remains today.
In Dallas some may recall that he wrote a $10 million check to assure a spectacular new downtown symphony hall. Others may not know of his role, since his condition was putting his friend’s name on the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center.
Across the nation, Perot is best known for big fights and swashbuckling, like his attempt to deliver Christmas presents to POWs in North Vietnam and his relentless push to find MIAs after the war.
One of his noisiest fights was with General Motors, after it acquired EDS. The cultural collision between Perot’s Texans and GM’s traditions was epic, and the auto giant bought out his stake to secure the peace. The deal asked a lot of Perot â€” keeping his opinion of GM to himself.
Perot may be best known in defeat, running an unconventional yet formidable populist campaign for president in 1992 and again, with less impact, in 1996. The blunt-talking billionaire seemed out of place or off the mark at times, but he stoked debate on his core issues of budget deficits and trade imbalance.
People still refer to “the giant sucking sound” Perot warned about â€” the sound of jobs leaving country.
Taking in the broader sweep of the man, we would say he was a person who didn’t accept the world as it was. He always believed, or at least his actions told us that he believed, that the world could be made better, that great accomplishments were possible. In many ways he did that by capturing the imagination of millions and signaling that the seemingly impossible was achievable. The hard-charging approach drove change and bent the arc of history.
Not everything worked out. Not everything worked out for the better. But a lot did. Perot left a mark, and in the broad sweep of history we are better for it.