Pragmatic, Inclusive Leadership

//Pragmatic, Inclusive Leadership

As I listened to civil rights giant Vernon Jordan deliver keynote remarks at our Texas Legacy luncheon this month, I reflected on the recent challenges Texans have endured.

Hurricane Harvey dropped an unprecedented amount of water on Houston and Southeast Texas. The death toll and the scale of the destruction was hard to comprehend.

In some ways Harvey was an unusual, equal-opportunity offender because it also flooded homes and businesses in wealthier areas of Houston. Our Texas Legacy honoree, former Houston Mayor Bill White, had his own home flooded.

But our fellow Texans who have the least stand to suffer the most. From housing to transportation, Harvey’s financial impact on low-income Texans could be equivalent to another recession. We must all stay active and vigilant to ensure an equitable recovery.

Elected officials in Washington are adding fuel to the fire for Texans, especially in the area of health care. Congress members’ failure to renew funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program leaves nearly 400,000 Texas kids at risk.

The Trump Administration recently moved to cut payments to health insurers that help low-income people afford health coverage. This move will needlessly and significantly raise some premiums for 2018 and increase costs to the federal government while benefiting virtually no one. Texas already has the most uninsured people in America, and this will make it worse.

What gives me hope, then? Certainly the resilience and gumption of Texans. From the heroic first responders and tireless friends and neighbors helping Harvey victims to the non-profits spreading the word about Affordable Care Act enrollment because the government won’t, Texans continue to give me hope.

Will the compassion and dedication of hard-working Texans translate into policies that reflect our shared values? That is the test.

As Vernon Jordan said, “The compassionate, practical, necessary leadership—and solutions—will not come from the top down. Those things will come from places like this, from organizations like [CPPP], and from leaders like Bill White —from people working on the ground to make their communities better.”

As the water recedes, let us move forward together as Texans and ask all of our elected officials to practice compassionate, practical, necessary leadership.

A renowned social justice lawyer, former philanthropy executive, and frequent public speaker and writer, Ann Beeson joined the Center in 2013. She was previously the Executive Director of U.S. Programs at the Open Society Foundations, where she promoted human rights, justice, and accountability nationwide. Beeson was the national Associate Legal Director of the American Civil Liberties Union, where she worked from 1995-2007. She argued twice before the U.S. Supreme Court, litigated numerous cases around the country, and launched groundbreaking programs to stop the erosion of civil liberties in the name of national security and to protect free speech and privacy on the Internet. Beeson has been recognized as one of the nation’s top lawyers by American Lawyer Magazine and the National Law Journal. A proud Texan, Beeson has embraced a wide range of innovative strategies to advance social change. Before joining the Center, she launched a new non-profit to involve the creative sector in social change. In 2012-13, she was a Senior Fellow and Lecturer at the Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Life at the University of Texas, where she co-produced a public media series to inspire more people to get engaged in their communities. She grew up in Dallas, Texas, and received undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Texas. Beeson obtained her law degree from Emory University School of Law, and served as law clerk to the Honorable Barefoot Sanders, then chief judge of the Northern District of Texas.

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