Barbara Bush and Ima Hogg: Two Texas Matriarchs, One Common Vision

 

Miss Barbara Bush = Miss Ima Hogg = Two Texas matriarchs and kindred spirits with one common goal, purpose and vision.

Miss Ima was a very influential Texas philanthropist and was, among many other things, an arts magnate, one of its fiercest advocates and most prolific patrons of the 20th century. She was an early champion of racial equality and believed that one of the ways it could be achieved was through equal access to and immersion in the arts, and was the architect of programs for children of color to achieve that very end, programs that would serve as a model for others like it for years to come.

She was also a passionate voice for mental health, especially in children, and as you may have guessed, was an architect for programs and institutions to bring about its end. As it happens, she was the founder of Mental Health America, one of the oldest and largest mental health advocacy organizations in the country, and certainly in the state and my city (Houston). It is the first mental health advocacy organization I have partnered with, and the one with which I remain the most intimately connected.

As most of us perhaps already know, Miss Barbara was a perennial champion of literacy, especially child literacy. Perhaps her most salient and tangible legacy is her literacy foundation, with chapters all over the country, and the “flagship” chapter in Houston. Like Miss Irma, she was a firm adherent of the philosophy that literacy and equal access to books and other forms of reading material was the key to fomenting positive social/economic change, leading to the achievement of true and lasting social equality.

Both women are true American heroines, shining embodiments of a lifetime dedication to serving humanity, whose respective life’s purposes were informed very early on by an unbridled appreciation for reading, writing and the arts, the very human elements indispensable to the construction, management and furthering of any civilized and progressive society, and I am personally thankful and deeply indebted to them for their universe-altering and universe-expanding quest for profound social change, the microcosmic counterparts of which having demonstrated their precious fruits and gifts in my own life many times over, enriching it beyond all expectation. God bless them both, and while I am reasonably certain that they have crossed paths in life in some capacity or context, I am positive they are back together, leading the collective collaboration to continue advancing some of the noblest aspects and aptitudes of the human spirit, wherever they are.

 

For Barbara: Martin Luther King reflecting on my favorite poem, “For Whom the Bell Tolls” (No Man is an Island). by John Donne

For Ima: “Heroic” Polonaise befitting her consummate heroism from my favorite composer, F Chopin, and played by my favorite pianist, Evgeny Kissin

 

A Brief Open Letter to Dr. Ben Carson

Dr. Ben Carson

(Originally published March 2013 in response to the fallout from his infamous National Prayer breakfast speech):

Dear Dr. Carson,

As a moderate progressive, I disagree with much of your social and political perspective, but your personal story and prodigious achievements in medicine are nonetheless inspiring. I agree that everyone would do well to foster productive discussion without venturing into disparaging and accusatory rhetoric. That said, I do believe your public comments on marriage, while not intentionally hurtful, probably lent themselves to an understandable perception of offense. While I see nothing particularly offensive about your fundamental point (marriage should not be redefined arbitrarily to suit every kind of relationship), the mere inclusion of NAMBLA and zoophiliacs in the same thought borders on the incendiary. Indeed, a popular view of the white racist opposed to interracial marriage is precisely that such marriage is tantamount to bestiality.

Moreover, I get the sense that much of your support among conservatives is predicated more so on your opposition to the President than anything else. Inasmuch as moderate black conservatives like General Powell and Condoleeza Rice are routinely shown disdain by others in their party for expressing the least bit of support for our President, my hunch is that your support within the conservative movement will continue to grow with every new idea or stance coming from you that could be reasonably interpreted as an explicit repudiation of the President. I am sure you are well-aware of this. In the interest of maintaining productive discussion, I sincerely hope you do not fall into the trap of an Allen West or Herman Cain where you feel you must insult blacks (i.e. referring to them as brainwashed, slaves on the Democrat plantation, etc.) and other groups in order to accord with the more regressive fringe wing of the conservative party. Radical views on both sides need to be confronted and denounced swiftly and severely. Indeed, I have had my share of tongue-lashings from liberals with whom I took no reservations in calling to account due to the nature of their rhetoric.

I trust that as you become more outspoken in the conservative movement, you will not allow yourself to be swayed either by the contingent support on your side, or irrational opposition on the other. I’d suspect that a man of your intellect and integrity would be just as willing to risk a loss of some of your support in the interest of confronting misinformation and negative rhetoric coming from some in your own party as you would be willing to continue enjoying increasing gains in support whenever your ideas happen to be in harmony with the party line.

In any case, differences in social and political perspectives notwithstanding, you continue to command my utmost respect and admiration as a man.