Breakfasts with champions. Still catching up from that wintry trip last month to Davos, Switzerland. Had breakfast with many Texans there. Some were there as staffers to the visiting Trump administration; others present had earned championship places among the world’s truly wealthy. I say “earned” advisedly; among those very privileged come to converse at that high Alpine altitude, the Americans constantly expressed the need to pay back or pay forward their good fortune. That is as it should be for all: It is sometimes only good fortune that separates the world’s economic and social leaders from the also-rans. If there were no good-fortune hydrocarbons set millions of years ago beneath the Texas soil, for example, there would be far less wealth here at home around the Lone Star state – in Houston, Dallas and now Midland, the fracking capital of the world. We are always happy when one of our own hires our agency to bring attention to those good works – nice and important companion messages to those celebrating and explaining their successful operational missions.
Turtle race to survive. I met another real champion last week: a very small sea turtle (officially, a very rare, very endangered Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle) admitted into rescue rehab at the Texas State Aquarium in Corpus Christi. When found on a cold Texas Gulf Coast beach last fall, this tiny tot looked like a small Post-It Note and weighed only 60 grams – about two ounces. He’s up to 450 grams now (that’s just short of a pound in weight) and growing, one of several hundred sea turtles who have been rescued and rehabilitated after the sudden drop in temperatures these past few months along the coast of Texas. The Texas State Aquarium with its newly expanded Wildlife Rescue and Recovery Center in Corpus Christi are our newest clients. The rehab center has admitted and released over 1,000 turtles endangered by freezing temps over the past two months alone. Fortunately, under the able direction of long-time aquarium president and CEO Tom Schmid, the just-expanded facility had enough new state-of-the-art equipment and ample controlled spaces to bring the threatened reptiles in from the cold.
Educational agility. One of the most agile and effective politicians in our state is Texas State Board of Education Chair Donna Bahorich, who must two-step the querulous and always-warring school systems of Texas across an annual educational-standards dancefloor, waltzing nimbly around self-appointed Biblicists scanning every schoolhouse textbook for passages offensive to their local sectarian beliefs and predatory publishers that lust after the rich book budgets of the nation’s second most populous state. Meanwhile, the State Board is also responsible for putting together that long-range plan for education … but hasn’t written one for nearly 20 years. Getting the school districts to properly design for the long-term pedagogical future of digital text books and high-tech jobs while the annual true-belief battles spin on and on is even harder. But last Thursday, a fiercely determined and accomplished Donna was engaged in exactly that, shepherding that planning task in Houston. If all goes well, a BOE steering committee of 18 members will find consensus and have recommendations for approval by September of this year, with a fairly aggressive agenda of five meetings still ahead before that deadline.
Nuclear mastery. Another masterful woman was under public scrutiny last Thursday. Lisa Gordon-Hagerty, who has thrice been named to Fortune Magazine’s Most Powerful Women list, was called before the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee. It was the final scrub for her nomination as Undersecretary for Nuclear Security, the top job at the National Nuclear Security Administration. The NNSA is a powerful and semiautonomous U.S. Department of Energy agency that manages the nation’s nuclear weapons complex. (Texas has more to do with our nation’s nuclear deterrent than you might think – or have the proper security clearance to know.) Among many high-powered posts in the field of security and at the White House, Lisa was six years the Department of Energy’s first responder for radiological and nuclear emergencies. If you can’t think of any such emergencies, just maybe that is because of the careful oversight and high standards Lisa brought to the office. She’ll bring that same high tone and highly competent leadership to her new role, too. Also reassuring: She’s married to a former Navy counterterrorism ace Walter Houston who is a descendent of old Sam Houston, first and third president of the Texas Republic (according to Ancestry.com, son was Louis; grandson, James; great-grandson, Ocie; great, great grandson Walter.)
Admiral Giroir? Texan Dr. Brett Giroir was confirmed Friday by unanimous consent of the U.S. Senate to serve as Assistant Secretary of Health, a position critical to our nation’s public health functions. Giroir should be sworn into office this week, and when he does will become primary advisor on matters involving the nation’s public health and will oversee the nation’s Public Health Service, a corps of more than 6,500 health professionals throughout various government agencies and armed forces. Of course, Texans know Giroir for his stellar work at UT Southwestern and then at Texas A&M University System where he served in various roles for seven years, guiding the System to being awarded a federal contract to aid in responding to pandemic threats and disease outbreak. The ASH is eligible for an Admiral commission if nominated for such by the President and confirmed by the Senate, and the candidate meets all eligibility requirements. Giroir was also nominated by the President as Medical Director (ADM) of the Public Health Service and confirmed by the Senate. There has not been a confirmed ASH since 2014 and not an Admiral ASH since Jan. 2009. We salute him.
Admiral Graham. I, too, am a commissioned admiral, in the Texas Navy. The Texas Navy of course played a critical role in Texas Independence. According to Teddy Roosevelt, the Texas Navy succeeded in preventing reinforcements and provisions at the Mexican naval base at Matamoros from reaching General Santa Anna‘s forces then occupying Texas. This forced Santa Anna to disperse his large army, to forage for food and supplies. This, in turn, is what led to his defeat at San Jacinto by General Sam Houston, as he was outnumbered. The Texas Navy today is a historical organization dedicated to the preservation of the Texas historical navy, caring for the Battle Ship Texas and seeking funds to raise the Invincible, which is believed to be near the shore of Galveston, Texas. The position of Admiral in the Texas Navy is a ceremonial one commissioned as an honor by the Governor of Texas.
Texas Gold. While in Davos, I shared with you Sec. Perry’s comments about the dramatic shift of energy in the U.S. since 2005, and that the U.S. had surpassed Saudi Arabia in oil production, with Russia still the world leader. Now, new numbers indicate that the U.S., led by Texas and the Permian Basin, will surpass Russia later this year and become the world leader in oil production with an expected average 10.6 million barrels a day this year and 11.2 million barrels in 2019. Read more from the Houston Chronicle’s Jordan Blum.
Boogie nights in West Texas. In the “What I’m Reading” category, don’t miss author Bobby Mealer’s fascinating account of his family’s experiences in the boom-to-bust oil industry in 1980’s Texas: The Kings of Big Spring. His father signed up for a roller-coaster ride as vice president to Grady Cunningham, a West Texas wildcatter, and the Mealer family went from austere Assembly of God origins to urban-cowboy style parties, charter planes and fur coats almost overnight. It couldn’t last – it didn’t last – but Bobby reaches back to his family’s Texas origins in the 1800s and uses the story of his family’s 1980s flame-out to tell a deeper saga of a Texas family as exciting as any I’ve read in years.
Crosswind’s President and CEO, Thomas Graham, keeps a sharp eye on things that matter to Texas and developments in Texas that matter to our nation and the world.