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On February 18, Dr. Betty Sue Flowers, director of the LBJ Library announced her resignation. The full post is below, but what is particularly relevant to the readers of this blog is Dr. Flowers’ leadership in establishing Texas Forums as an initiative of the LBJ Library six years ago.

It was October 2002 when I walked into her office to discuss deliberative forums as a possible offering for the LBJ Library. In true “Betty Sue fashion”, she only needed to hear two sentences before proclaiming, “yes, these forums will be one of the legacies of the LBJ Library. They are a direct fulfillment of one of the presidential libraries’ missions: to foster civic engagement.”

Just a few weeks later, I was privileged to enjoy a Sunday brunch at the Old Pecan Street Cafe with Betty Sue and four high-powered women. We discovered a common concern over the lack of opportunities for citizens to participate in the political conversations about important and, often, divisive issues that affect our every day lives. Out of this common concern, Texas Forums was born in January 2003.

If you recall the time, we were in the early stage talk about going to war in Iraq. We launched forums on Americans’ Role in the World in partnership with KLRU and were overwhelmed by the number of people who wanted to learn to moderate and participate in these difficult conversations. A sentiment expressed by many participants went something like this, “I know what I believe, but I desperately want to engage with those who think differently. I don’t want this to divide us. I want to reach out and understand.” People did not necessarily change their opinion about the war. But they did reach a new understanding and empathy for those who thought differently. That’s quite a legacy.

Betty Sue learns about One Latop Per Child from Joshua Gay at the We are All Actors event

Betty Sue learns about One Latop Per Child from Joshua Gay at the We are All Actors event

Texas Forums is not just a program of the LBJ Library to Betty Sue. Deliberative forums and a connection to the Kettering Foundation were already a legacy of the LBJ Library under Harry Middleton, long-time library director, and former staff member and close confidant to President Johnson. Betty Sue built on this legacy and moved civic discourse out into the community –  real and virtual. Long before President Obama drew WOOTS from the civic participation and open government junkies and threw the Washington bureaucrats into a frenzy with his talk of transparency, participation and collaboration, Betty Sue saw the connection between transparency and authentic public discourse. Almost three years ago she was assembling resources to enable Texas Forums and Silona Bonewald (League of Technical Voters) to assemble an amazing roomful of talented technologists committed to transparency in government that would enable people to be responsible, pro-active, and engaged citizens.

She wove together extensive networks of organizations concerned with issues – Texas Health Institute and the Center for Health and Social Policy, for example – and demonstrated how their mission to address difficult issues could be better achieved by engaging the public in civil discourse in partnership with Texas Forums. The list of organizations that have partnered with the library as a result of her vision for Texas Forums is long, but I will research our history and post them later so that you can appreciate the scope of her vision.

I know that many of you will want to send your regards and good wishes to Dr. Flowers and join me in thanking her for her vision and leadership. You may do so in the comments section of this blog where they will be collected for her to enjoy well into her next adventure.

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LBJ Foundation Logo

AUSTIN, Texas-Dr. Betty Sue Flowers, director of the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum since 2002, is leaving that post effective May 22, 2009, the Lyndon Baines Johnson Foundation announced Feb. 18.

“After seven wonderful years at the LBJ Library and Museum, I have decided to move on to other adventures and opportunities,” Dr. Flowers said.

“It’s been such an honor and pleasure to serve as the director of this flagship presidential library, and I’m sure I would have been happy to continue serving into the indefinite future. But it’s always been my philosophy that it’s good for an institution to adapt to new leadership-and for a leader to face new challenges.”

Tom Johnson, chairman of the Lyndon Baines Johnson Foundation, said he is grateful for the wonderful leadership Dr. Flowers has provided at the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum. Johnson applauded the distinction, class and loyalty she has displayed as director.

“Dr. Flowers has earned the respect and the admiration of our board, her many colleagues in the entire presidential library system, historians and scholars who use the Library, and The University of Texas community,” Johnson said. “We will be cheering the next chapter in the accomplished life of Dr. Betty Sue Flowers.”

Johnson praised the many initiatives launched during Dr. Flowers’ tenure at the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum, including the Presidential Timeline of the 20th Century project, a Web-based resource that opens to the public the rich archives of historical documents and artifacts from the nation’s presidential libraries. Johnson said the project “will serve future generations with an amazing collection of historical information about U.S. presidents and the times they experienced.”

Other initiatives undertaken during Dr. Flowers’ seven years as director include the release of recorded phone conversations from the Johnson administration; activities commemorating President Johnson’s 100th birthday; the tribute to Lady Bird Johnson; and repair of the LBJ Plaza at the Library and Museum.

Dr. Flowers said: “Thanks to the generous support of the LBJ Foundation, many of my dreams for the Library and the reputation of its great president have come true.”

Dr. Flowers became director of the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum in 2002. Before that, she was the Joan Negley Kelleher Centennial Professor in the English Department at The University of Texas at Austin, as well as a Piper Professor and a member of the University’s Academy of Distinguished Teachers. During her tenure at The University of Texas, she also was associate dean of graduate Studies and director of the Plan II Honors Program.

Dr. Flowers is a native Texan with degrees from The University of Texas and the University of London.

Dr. Flowers was a consultant for the nationally televised series “The Power of Myth” and a host for the radio series “The Next 200 Years.” Her 10-part television series, “Conversation with Betty Sue Flowers,” aired on the Austin PBS affiliate, KLRU.

About the Lyndon Baines Johnson Foundation

The Lyndon Baines Johnson Foundation is responsible for managing gifts that benefit two institutions at The University of Texas at Austin-the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum and the Lyndon Baines Johnson School of Public Affairs.

As one of only 12 presidential libraries in the country, the Library was established to preserve and make available for research the papers and memorabilia of President Lyndon Baines Johnson.

The mission of the School is to prepare graduate students for leadership positions, to organize public policy research, to provide continuing education for professionals, and to foster community involvement.

For more information, visit www.lbjfoundation.org.

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