Congratulations, Class of 2017 on accomplishing a major milestone in your life! Take it all in, enjoy the moment and spend as much time with your family and friends as you can this summer.
While there will be great emphasis placed on what you will do going forward, the most important thing is knowing who you are. You are, no doubt, the sum of a lot of experiences and relationships as well as your God-given talents and personality. However, another important mark on your identity is where you come from, and — whether you appreciate it or not — you have had the tremendous blessing of growing up in West Texas. You are West Texans!
Every place has a history and a culture that defines it. My current job as your representative in Congress makes me think a lot about these things. I often reflect upon our pioneering ancestors. What made them settle in this part of the country? How did they survive on the South Plains of Texas and eventually create a prosperous community out of the Dust Bowl?
I have concluded that the answers to those questions describe the very attributes that have made West Texans unique for well over a century. They are the same character traits that have been unwittingly etched on your hearts and minds over the years. Embrace them, develop them, live up to them, and I am confident you will achieve success in the next chapters of your life.
West Texans have bold vision. As Americans began heading west to find new lands, most — as you might imagine — passed right over the South Plains and made their homes on greener pastures, except for a few daring men and women. Instead of seeing a big patch of dirt, they envisioned fields white with cotton, and cattle grazing as far as the eyes could see. They saw an opportunity to make a life for their families and create a vibrant community for their future. They saw the future not as it was, but as it could be. In that same way, dream big dreams and cast a bold vision for your life.
West Texans make brave decisions. We are risk takers, innovators and entrepreneurs. Whether it’s producing energy to fuel our economy, cotton to clothe our people, food to feed our families, or technology that is transforming our lives — people from all over the country rely on our region to make America great. Take risks; have faith; and don’t be afraid to fail.
West Texans have broad shoulders. This region has become the food, fuel and fiber capital of the United States, and that didn’t happen by accident. It was built on the backs of men and women who were not afraid to work. Today, with the rise of an entitlement culture in our country, and record numbers of able-bodied Americans not participating in the workforce, we need West Texas values more than ever. While many of your cohorts from around the country are shying away from getting their hands dirty, let your work ethic and determination set you apart. Put your shoulder to the plow and there is no limit to what you can do.
West Texans have big hearts. We are known as the friendliest people in the world. In order to weather the elements, our forefathers knew that they needed to depend on each other. Love thy neighbor wasn’t just a memory verse, it was a matter of survival. One of the greatest lessons I have learned growing up in West Texas is that life is all about relationships. Put others first, and everything else will fall into place.
West Texans have a bulldog spirit. There is a reason Winston Churchill was referred to as the “British Bulldog” and that the bulldog is the mascot of the United States Marines. Bulldogs are fearless, tenacious and never back down from a challenge. Like the words of Churchill, “never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never — in nothing, great or small, large or petty — never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense.” Grace this world with your God-given talents and deliver them with resolve.
I was never the best or the brightest, but no matter the job at hand or adventure that came my way, I always tried to embrace it with that same West Texas attitude. I made sure to work harder, be more prepared and do my best to exceed the expectations of others. There is no doubt these West Texas values helped a kid from Plainview, Texas, achieve his dreams. Now it’s your turn — dream big, have faith, work hard, love others and never quit, and I believe you will achieve your dreams, too.