When I lived in Dallas, Texas, back when men were men and women ran the state, Jim Wright was a big name who cast a very big shadow across the metroplex of the Dallas/Fort Worth area.
I hadn’t thought about him in years and so his recent death found me reading the Fort Worth Star-Telegram for their take on his passing.
The article gave a thorough account of Speaker Wright’s life history. “The evil that men do lives after them, the good is oft interred with their bones,” so said Marc Anthony by way of Julius Caesar and Shakespeare.
It need not be so with Speaker Wright. I spent about 15 years in Texas and I confess I have never understood the peak from which Texans believe they look down on the rest of the “lesser” states. Maybe it is a belief that size trumps all. It is undeniable that Texas has produced more than its share of memorable and historically noteworthy figures. I can’t account for that either, but I won’t dispute it.
Like our own Sen. Stennis did for Mississippi, I was reminded that Jim Wright had the skills and mindset to make an incalculable difference in Texas’ future. The Wright Amendment protected DFW from divisive airport competition and was the backbone of what allowed Dallas/Fort Worth airport to become the explosive growth machine for all of north Texas.
DFW was a mere infant of an airport when I arrived in Dallas. It was opened in 1974 and was a project that would shift the aviation landscape for the South. It eclipsed any other major hub opportunities for the Southern states and relegated such places as Memphis and St. Louis to “also ran” feeder airports.
The local and regional leaders of Dallas and Ft. Worth cooperated to create the compromise that became DFW airport. It took months of hard work to get the land and the details of the legislation worked out. It required agreeing to impose restrictions on the existing airports in the two cities. The end result was an economic juggernaut that led the DFW region to almost unparalleled growth over the past 30 years.
There are at a minimum three requirements of politicians for them to transcend politics and effectuate good government as statesmen: cooperation, creativity and compromise.
Stennis and Wright understood this and became the statesmen we revere. Sadly it isn’t something we find a working supply of these days particularly in the tea-party subset of the Republican South. In point of fact, they seem to take great pride in producing nothing while in office.
Interestingly, we have examples of our local leaders’ efforts at cooperative regionalism in the Golden Triangle Regional Airport and the regional landfill. These projects are part of that same productive, compromising spirit that actually builds instead of tearing down. Our most recent foray into cooperative creativity is the Golden Triangle Link agreement for economic development services between our communities.
We are about to elect a representative for our state to the national scene. I have eagerly been waiting for someone who shows some evidence of wanting to become a budding statesman. So far, no luck. The entire bushel of them seems to be running on a platform pandering to tea-party Republicans.
That approach translates into the old report-card phrase “does not play well with others,” more of what we currently have. The polls say we are woefully disenchanted with our national leaders. Is this who we want to be? Is our destiny focused on destruction rather than construction?
This is a nonpartisan special election and as such each candidate could be providing real leadership ideas. Instead we get anti-Obama rhetoric and a resume recitation. The president is a lame duck and will be gone before the new guy figures out where the bathrooms are.
The intransigence and obstructionism we hear so much of these days takes us nowhere and mires us down in status quo. Our Constitution that the tea-party Republicans are so enamored of talking about as though it sprang fully formed from the head of Zeus was a product of creativity, cooperation and compromise. Who will pick up the banner and make us proud again?
The Dispatch Editorial Board is made up of publisher Peter Imes, columnist Slim Smith, managing editor Zack Plair and senior newsroom staff.