Texas 1836 Project to Examine State’s History, Future

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The 1836 Project Advisory Committee will examine the glories of Texas history, as well as its “warts,” members said Wednesday at the first meeting of its nine-member advisory board. 

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed legislation creating the committee in June. Texas won its independence from Mexico in 1836. 

In September, the governor appointed Kevin Roberts, then-president of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, to be its chairman. In October, Roberts was selected as president of The Heritage Foundation and assumed the post in December, but remained chairman of the Texas 1836 committee. (The Daily Signal is the news outlet of The Heritage Foundation.)

The term “patriotic education” was in the legislation establishing the 1836 Project.  

“Patriotism is not a belief in a mistake-free history of a people or a society,” Roberts said at the first meeting, held in Austin, Texas. “It is a belief in the goodness, the desired goodness, of that particular civil society.”

He said the project would promote awareness among state residents regarding Texas history, the founding documents of the state, and the state's founders. But it also would include the state’s record of slavery and discrimination. 

“The way that inspires people is not whitewashing history. None of us who taught in the classroom have done that. That’s not history,” Roberts said. “That’s not what inspires people. Even young people, kindergarteners, can see right through that. 

“The purpose is to tell the story, to lead with the facts—one of the facts being that the United States of America and especially Texas are places where we can live the dream of prosperity and liberty and flourishing better than anywhere else on earth,” Roberts said. 

Roberts also noted the role of Texas native President Lyndon B. Johnson in signing the federal Voting Rights Act into law; how another Texan, President George H.W. Bush, signed a 25-year extension of the law; and then-Texas Congresswoman Barbara Jordan’s successful efforts to broaden the act to Spanish-speaking communities. 

Roberts announced three separate working groups for the panel, with no more than five members each. 

One would be a “Telling the Texas Story” working group. The group is tasked with writing the report summarizing the findings of the committee both in history and what the panel found from across Texas. 

Another is a “Voices Across Texas” working group, to be an outreach committee holding meetings around the state getting different perspectives. And a “Scope of the Texas Story” will emphasize modern groups in Texas, including demographic groups and industries. 

Committee members discussed the population growth of Texas and why so many Americans are leaving other states to move to the Lone Star State. 

Committee member Jerry Patterson, then-commissioner of the state’s General Land Office when it became the custodian of the Alamo, discussed the need to assess both the glorious aspects and “warts” of Texas. 

“Our history is much to be proud of, and some to be not so proud of. The ‘not-so’ category, I call it the ‘warts’ category,” Patterson said. “I’m hearing this committee is committed to presenting a complete and factual depiction of Texas history, warts and all. 

If we are going to talk about all the good things and the evolution to the place we are today, to where we can be rightfully proud of the progress, we must also talk about where we progressed from, and that includes the warts. 

He said the pride Texans have is unmatched by residents of other states.

“When I was in the Marine Corps, when you were out in the field or maybe overseas, people have flags that are other than the Marine Corps flag or the U.S. flag, and it was always the Texas flag,” Patterson said at the meeting. “I never saw a flag for New Jersey. No offense to anyone here from New Jersey.”

Texas has been a target in a broader attack on American history, said Sherry Sylvester, a distinguished senior fellow at the Texas Public Policy Foundation. 

“We are currently undergoing an attack on our history because of the warts, the ideas that we laid out and our failure to live up to them at certain points, and our continued effort to live up to them,” Sylvester said at the meeting. “That is what we’re going to look at here.”

“Texas has become a symbol for this attack because there are so many things that we refuse to give up here,” she continued, adding:

We refuse to give up our freedom. We refuse to give up our belief in prosperity and belief that everyone can have an opportunity, that everyone can win. 

That makes us very suspect when our opponents are suggesting to us, sometimes overtly, that we should learn to settle for less. In Texas, we don’t settle for less.

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