In response to the class council recent decision to exclude a stop at Lawrence Sullivan Ross’ statue, as a former Regent I feel compelled to address the damaging line of thinking that has increasingly contributed to decisions such as this.
Golda Meir once stated that, “One cannot and MUST NOT try to erase the past merely because it does not fit the present.” These wise words can be directly applied to the situation at hand. We must come to understand that it is possible to celebrate a person’s contributions to society apart from their shortcomings. I believe we are all willing to take a look at ourselves and realize we are less than perfect. With that said, we must ease up on the historical assassination of the great leaders who have come before us to establish the institutions we celebrate today or we will become one large self-condemning society where none are worthy.
Lawrence Sullivan Ross was a great man and leader, obviously with his own set of faults to be examined closely under the context of the time in which he was living. While making no excuses for some of the less than honorable practices of his time, the bottom line is that norms were different yesteryear, just as they will be 200 years from now. If we continue to crucify the individual for their wrongs despite their many great deeds and contributions however, we might as well scrap the idea of any legacy, past memory, or tradition altogether.
If we focus on the positives of Sully, we quickly observe the many great things he did for our school, state, and nation. In addition to being the staunchest of proponents for our university in its time of greatest need and peril, Ross additionally served our state in innumerable ways, including saving countless lives as a Texas Ranger, directly contributing to our state’s constitution of 1876 and dutifully serving his beloved state as Governor. None of these negate any “sins” of his past, but as previously stated, we are all guilty of such shortcomings when viewed through the lens of the corresponding time period.
This ideological mindset that we are becoming increasingly entrenched in as a society is a slippery slope. We are in great danger of dividing what generations of Aggies have prided themselves on — being the best student body in the world. Can we not pause and establish that when it comes to being an Aggie, there are no minorities, majorities, better-thans, or lesser-thans? — "We are the Aggies, the Aggies are we.”
I thank our student leadership for their civic service to their university, but at the same time, I implore all involved in this decision to reinstate a stop at Sully to pay homage to our recently departed Aggie family members — in the spirit of the one who is ultimately responsible for its existence today. We owe it to ourselves, our past, present, and future generations of Aggies, and Sully, to continue doing what Aggies do best — respecting the past and embracing its legacy — isn’t that what traditions are all about?
Pass it back Ags,
Jim Schwertner, Regent 2009-2015, Texas A&M University System