Thursday, March 25, 2010

The White House Fellowship, Lady Bird Johnson and Texas Bluebonnets

In 1979, I applied for a White House Fellowship. I thought to myself, I'm not your average Army officer. So I tackled the 20-page application, which itself screens out thousands of potential applicants. I was surprised when I was selected to be a regional finalist. A group of 20 excellent people were interviewed in St. Louis for two days. Again, much to my surprise, I was one of the two selected from this group to go to Washington for the national final selection process.

Being a White House Fellow can be a life-altering experience. For one thing, doors open that lead to rare opportunities. So I prepared diligently. For weeks I did background research on 30 national issues so I could speak intelligently about almost anything they could ask me. 

My interviews went very well, and I was optimistic. But 1979 wasn't the year they were looking for white male military officers. For a while, I felt disappointed, but that passed quickly and I'm delighted with the way my life turned out. If I had been selected, my life would have played out differently. I wouldn't have learned what I know now, I wouldn't be involved in my current business, I wouldn't be married to my wonderful wife, Kathleen, and - horrors - I wouldn't be telling you about this in a blog post. 

One of the benefits of the Fellowship selection process was the opportunity to spend time with the Commissioners who interviewed us. One of these was Lady Bird Johnson. I asked her what she had been doing since her time in Washington, and she said she was trying to get some bills through the Texas legislature. One of the bills had to do with the beautification of Texas. She wanted wildflowers to be planted along the roads and highways of Texas. 

In the end, she got her way. Today, one of the validations of spring in Texas is the appearance of a diversity of native wildflowers along state roads and highways. This time of year, Texans everywhere get in their cars and drive along country roads to view amazing vistas of wildflowers. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin carries on the tradition of research and proliferation of wildflowers in Texas.

One of the first wildflowers to appear is the the bluebonnet, the Texas State Flower. Right now and for the next couple of weeks, we'll see them everywhere in the Hill Country. My wife took these photos yesterday. The first is a single bluebonnet stalk:

And a field of them...

With this kind of glorious display going on, it's so much easier to be in the moment, mindful and aware of what's around me. If you don't have spring yet where you are, trust me, it's on its way.

Post by Dennis E. Coates, Ph.D., , Copyright 2010. Building Personal Strength .


Beth said...

Occasionally, Buck will do a little "what if I had done this?" or "if only I had not done this" time traveling through the past. I always say, "I am so grateful you did everything just exactly as you did and events transpired just exactly as they did, because it brought you to me. That stops him! (and he agrees, naturally. . .)

Kathleen Scott said...

Lady Bird was an exceptional person; one of the few to leave a living legacy. I think of her every time I drive our roads in Spring and Summer.

Lori Meyer said...

Thank you for sharing the bluebonnet photos...I have never seen bluebonnets; they're beautiful. Thanks also for the reminder of the work Lady Bird Johnson did for beautification I always appreciated her for those efforts when she was First Lady.