Dear Mr. Bryan,
First of all, I love the Gage Hotel.
If you want to talk about Texas history, you needn't look further than that little dusty strip of main street in Marathon, Texas. I've walked around your buildings a time or two and found it to be its own story of a Texas past: brick after brick set upon a carefully tended foundation; a taxidermied mountain lion stalking its next conquest; the Mexican Elder stooping at the front gate, as if it has been laboring for years against a forceful wind. The Gage is a beautiful symbol of a preservation of Texas's past and an investment in its future -- so thank you for sharing it with us.
Today I read your Open Letter to Citizens of Texas on the potential shuttering of the Texas Historical Commission with great interest. Since you are an ardent supporter of the Republican Party, it seemed odd to find myself agreeing with you. Growing up, I was never much of a history buff but one of my favorite teachers in middle school, Ms. Mary Lou Custer Heard, changed that for me. She was from Beeville, Texas and her Texas History class was more like finishing school with a Texas twist. She dressed in peach-colored knit dresses and played "Texas Our Texas" on the keyboard and made us learn about historic Texas trees -- trees, of all things. "Now tell me, is there any other state that has trees with stories?" She'd ask us as she'd hand out grainy, black and white photographs of the Sam Houston and Treaty Oaks.
What could Alfred Gage have been thinking in 1878 when he headed west to build a life in the middle of Marathon basin that was really any different than what so many Americans think as they head to Texas to start a business, send their children to schools and live in good health? Probably not much. Part of our history is our common spirit to prosper and to grow -- but as you well know, this goes far beyond courthouse renovations and restorations of sunken ships. This spirit runs through our schools and our teachers, our homes and our land, even our water and our air. The stakes you speak of in the loss of the Texas Historical Commission far surpass the limits of forgetting our common history -- they threaten to erase it.
In your letter you ask, "What better answer to the question, 'Who are you?' than 'I am a Texan.'"
I can tell you that I am a Texan, but that is not where my answer ends. I am a Texan who believes that while we may have a difference in political opinions, we could have a united interest in protecting the foundation of our State. I am a Texan who believes we must pay homage to our past while investing in our future -- not bleeding it dry.
Finally, I am a Texan who believes another 7th grader should have a chance to learn about Texas trees.
Just being a Texan is not enough. We must care about the next generation of Texans as well. Otherwise, who will be left to learn the history that was made?