Betsy is contentedly napping on my lap. All is well in her little world. And while contentment is delightful, we have to admit that suspense does have it’s place. Many great stories start with a suspenseful opening. However, unrelenting tension can be a real downer. The current suspense about our economy might be killing you. But don’t forget, this is America!

Hope is why people are crushing in on our borders. One can dream and act upon those dreams when one has hope. In a day when fear and anxiety seem to be running rampant, let’s keep telling the inspiring stories of America’s past and of those who capitalized on this hallmark American quality called hope. One such story is about Jim Clayton of Clayton Homes.

Clayton’s empire of manufactured home building helped along with many others to make this country great by providing jobs and homes for hard working families. On an excursion to various manufactured home retailers in Central Texas, I resolved to become more familiar with such dealers here in the Valley. Along the way, I picked up a copy of Jim Clayton’s autobiography, First A Dream.

While decorating several Clayton model homes this past year, I learned that Clayton’s rise to success was not without challenges. I couldn’t put the book down. Warren Buffet couldn’t either. When Buffet was presented the book by University of Tennessee business grads, he discovered a business model and (yet another) company worth owning. Three days after acquiring the book he called Clayton with an offer. But, back to hope. We are never more UN-American when life knocks us down than when we refuse to get back up. Clayton was knocked down by business challenges over and over, but he got back up! He had hope!

Another inspiring life is that of R.G Letourneau, famous for building enormous earth-moving equipment. He was destitute and had multiple business reversals. Finally, when he did succeed, he decided to express his gratitude to God. In so doing, he committed 90 percent of his income to the Lord’s work and made a commitment to live off 10 percent! Many of us have a hard time parting with 10 percent each Sunday morning when the offering plate goes by. He became a millionaire many times over. Before those key successes, he just didn’t quit! Texas now boasts a Letourneau University in Longview. Letourneau’s story, Mover of Men and Mountains, can change your life, too! Life is tough at times. Just don’t quit!

Many are familiar with the Bill Gates/Warren Buffet connection of recent years when Buffet awarded the Gates’s the vast holdings he had set aside for charitable purposes. Already some of those funds have arrived in the Rio Grande Valley. Recently, Melinda Gates was shown sitting and talking with our Valley students, on ABC’s Good Morning America, and I was reminded of the power of a simple word of blessing. On tape, before the entire country, Mrs. Gates shared of the remarkable commitment of every high school student in Hidalgo ISD to attend college. Now, every child in Hidalgo ISD may not end up going to college, but they know that Mrs. Gates expects them too. Wow!

Last month, McAllen ISD and business professionals promoted the Texas Scholars Program to our 8th graders. Encouraging students to take more than the requisite science and math needed to graduate, we shared the opportunities for greater employment security for graduates when they rise to the challenge to be a Texas Scholar. The Texas and Distinguished Scholar programs are even more critical than ever in preparing children for a future America that many of us can’t even imagine today. Many children, discouraged in life by their middle school years face real threats to give in to failure, drop-out, or join a gang. You might be just the person some discouraged child needs to hear from today. Share that high expectation and belief with a child. You may be talking to a future Clayton, Buffet, or Letourneau.

As millions of people are cut from the employment rolls across the country, now is the critical moment to ask ourselves if we are making sound decisions to keep Texas a leader in employment and business. For this reason, McAllen parents need to know about the Texas Scholar opportunity for their children along with the fine arts educational opportunities of our district.

Fine arts covers a broad spectrum of studies. Let’s focus on the musical element. For years it has been a well known fact across the state that McAllen ISD is recognized for it’s outstanding music program. Fine arts visionaries of years past crafted and implemented a musical fine arts program envied by other districts across the state. Oddly, across the country, the uninformed in education leadership roles have historically debated the veracity of fine arts curriculums when funding got the squeeze. That was when left-brained thinkers ruled. Today, it is not an option. Let me explain.

Last week in San Antonio, the annual Texas Music Educators Association (TMEA) convened downtown. The largest convention of any kind in San Antonio each year, the association showcased an indescribable array of musical talent from Texas school children. Thrilling my heart and that of 25,000 other parents, educators, exhibitors, school children and advocates for the arts from across the state and country, we were reminded that children involved in the arts are among the highest scoring students anywhere.

Furthermore, a startling clarion call was issued by TMEA’s keynote speaker, Dan H. Pink. Author of A Whole New Mind — Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future, Pink outlined the new imperative for studies of the fine arts. Our economy has been ruled in the past by what Pink describes as spreadsheet-white collar-lawyer types. The future will be very different. Why? For starters, leading Ivy League engineering and medical schools are now primarily recruiting students with a solid, fine arts background. Why? These are the students who are able to think from the creative, right-brained dimension of their grey matter.

To quote Pink, these students are disciplined and espouse abilities that “bubble-test weenies” can’t. Ouch! So what are these abilities? They design - not just function. They create emotional, impactful argument - not just repeat fact. They are problem solvers and out-of-the-box thinkers. Fine arts students are empathetic, not just logical. Pink reminded the audience that this skill (empathy) is rarely outsourced. Want to help position your child for the future? Get him trained for jobs that won’t get shipped to China. Get her in Texas or Distinguished Scholar programs with a good dose of the arts. These subjects are no longer defined by elective status. They are imperatives.

These students reason algorithmically and aesthetically. Finally, right-brained students are equipped to function “in symphony, combining disparate random elements into a whole.” Isn’t this what every employer dreams of? These students are equipped for an uncertain future, because they are analytical, passionate, systems focused, innovative, multi-culturally comfortable, good communicators, and able to change and adapt. More that that, we are Americans! We have hope!

Life is tough. Proverbs in the Old Testament reminds us that “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold.” It would be great if this land of the palm trees and the bright sunshine was like that cowboy’s home on the range our elementary children sing about…where seldom is heard a discouraging word! For the last fifty years of my life Texas has been the greatest “country” on earth. Let’s keep it that way. Get your children enrolled in Texas Scholar and MISD music/fine arts classes for next year. Equip your child with hope and a promising future.

Sincerely yours,

Aunt Lisa & Betsy Ann

Lisa Morrow can be reached at lkfmorrow@yahoo.com.