Dear Mr. Young:
I suppose it should come as no surprise that the fervor to remove statues that is sweeping the country has not spared Texas A&M University. After all, we live in turbulent times—and even though the vast majority of us would just as soon live in peace and accord our fellow Americans the same courtesy, the forces pushing for radical change are not content to simply leave us be. Instead, we are all being made to ally ourselves on one side of the cultural divide or the other, where keeping your opinion to yourself is to be accused of taking part in some great injustice. Perhaps that’s just as well. As Edmund Burke once remarked, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” And doing nothing, it seems, is no longer even an option.
Which brings me to the controversy over the statue of Lawrence Sullivan Ross which stands upon the grounds of the Texas A&M campus. I regard the word controversy here with some disbelief and more than a little anger, as it should be self-evident that a figure so pivotal to the development of our beloved university and the guidance of the state of Texas itself to prominence should be deserving of such an honor.
Alas, that distinction is now being called into question by those who, lacking any perspective on history and possessing little interest in discovering any, wish to strip Ross of his honor for the crime of not observing the cultural mores of today. I don’t need to debate the immorality of the Confederacy for which Ross once served as a soldier, any more than I need to debate the selfless and monumental contributions he made during his subsequent career and life; suffice it to say, he truly lived as a man in full, and his work left the country a much better place than when he found it.
To deprive future generations of Aggies from learning of those accomplishments by erasing them from history would not only do a disservice to Ross’s memory, it would also rob those generations of learning from his example. And made no mistake—this act of removing a statue is a brazen attempt to demolish the past, leaving only a void into which the self-proclaimed defenders of social justice will pour their approved notions of what our history really means, against which they will broker no dissent.
If Texas A&M allows this to happen, you can rest assured it will not stop with Ross. What will happen when another Aggie icon is discovered to have had problematic views, as viewed through the perpetually aggrieved prism of today’s social justice warriors? Will the university start to rename buildings? Will it take down portraits and remove all mention of those people from conversation, like some dirty secret? Is Texas A&M prepared to remove a Medal of Honor from the Memorial Student Center if some unsavory details of its recipient are “surfaced” by an activist looking to take a scalp? These are serious questions that need to be considered, because if the university continues down this path, it will be confronted by them—and sooner than you might think.
As a freshman, I quickly came to know Texas A&M as more than a place to learn. It’s also an institution committed to tradition, derived from a pride in its history and heritage—values which have made the university unique among all others, and allowed students and alumni to share in its greatness. To abandon those traditions by abandoning our history to the passions of the moment would not only be shortsighted, it would effectively destroy what it means to be an Aggie. It would hollow us out from within—for even if all the buildings remain standing, everything we stand for would be lost.
I urge you not to let this happen on your watch.
Marc D. Giller
Class of 1990
Photo source: TAMU Traditions
Lawrence Sullivan Ross was a pivotal figure who almost single-handedly saved Texas A&M University, in addition to leading the way on founding Prairie View A&M University, a historically black college, and serving as governor of the state of Texas. There is now an effort to remove his statue from the Texas A&M campus, because Ross served as a solider in the Confederate army. This is a letter I wrote to Michael Young, president of the university, as an alum concerned about the erasing of our school’s history.
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