AUSTIN—Dr. Stephen L. Hardin, professor of history at McMurry University in Abilene and author of the Texian Iliad: A Military History of the Texas Revolution, was named winner of an essay contest exploring the topic of Texas exceptionalism. The Texas Historical Foundation, a preservation organization that is celebrating its 60-year-old anniversary this year, sponsored the competition.
The purpose of the essay contest was to celebrate the state’s unique spirit, culture, history, and traditions. Writers were asked to explore the reasons for the pride, love, loyalty, and spirit that Texans have long had for the Republic and State.
According to THF President David Martinez, of Corsicana, “Dr. Hardin’s winning essay skillfully, and with a great sense of humor, argues that the concept of Texas ‘exceptionalism’ is a distinctive identity shaped by Lone Star history and a mindset embraced by each generation of Texans.”
Here is a portion of how Dr. Hardin explained the concept of Texas exceptionalism:
Texans, having witnessed what individuals breathing the fresh air of freedom can attain, bristle under restraint. Their tendency to strike an independent course, to observe their own customs, annoys foreigners…
Potentates and politicians living in remote capitals, bureaucrats who knew nothing of conditions in Texas, have always tried to foist one-size-fits-all policies suited for places with milder climes, for persons of more yielding dispositions. They never worked; they never will. Texas—and Texans—are simply too different from those other places and those other people…
There is integrity in tradition, value in the verdict of experience, of lives lived, and
principles cherished. It does not venerate the ashes, it feeds the flames. And Texans heat multiple irons in that fire. Explain to the heirs of Tom Green, Leander McNelly, and Heman Marion Sweatt that compliance is a virtue, submission but another form of patriotism. Texans have spent enough time in cattle pens to recognize this notion for what it is—and their mamas taught them to scrape it off their boots before they came into the house. Ultimately, identity remains the best argument for Texas exceptionalism.
It’s just this simple: If a people decide that they’re different, they are.
The winning essay, in its entirety, has been reprinted in the current issue of Texas HERITAGE, the quarterly publication of the THF. An electronic copy of the composition can be obtained upon request from the Texas Historical Foundation, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Since 1954, the Texas Historical Foundation has funded preservation and education projects around the state and helps promote the cultural legacy of Texas. The group’s main efforts include its award-winning Texas HERITAGE magazine and preservation grants program. For more information, or to join the Foundation, use the on-line membership form found on the organization’s website, www.texashistoricalfoundation.org.