Our state has an incredible story. 

In 2019, the University of Texas Press published Big Wonderful Thing: A History of Texas, written by author Stephen Harrigan. The book reads like a novel about our great state’s history with all the beauty, suspense, kindness, strength, tragedy, loss, and even horror you’d never expect from a history book. 

It’s all there – unglamorized, profound, and genuine. This is where we came from. This is Texas. Every issue facing Texas today resonates with echoes from our past. These lessons of struggle, perseverance, setbacks, and victory repeat and reverberate. 

There’s a proverb that says, “We don’t inherit the world from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.” On March 2, 2036, Texas will turn 200. What kind of world will our children – and the 38 million Texans projected to be living in our state – inherit then? What should the state be doing today to turn obstacles into opportunities that will shape Texas’ story for years to come? 

For instance, how can we work together to overcome the challenges our growing population will place on our schools, infrastructure, health care system, and economy? How can we make progress reversing negative trends so that we give our children an even better world than we found? How can our society evolve in a more profound way to create a deeper level of existence and appreciation for one another?

Such long-term questions are not often top of mind for our policymakers. That’s why our organization Texas 2036, a non-profit, bipartisan group focused on ensuring Texas is the best place to live and work through our state’s bicentennial and beyond, was created. 

Civic leader Tom Luce launched the group to take on that endeavor, gathering data and policy research to help our people, businesses, and leaders answer such questions. Three prominent San Antonio leaders – Elaine Mendoza, Sheryl Sculley, and Graham Weston – are members of the organization’s 36-member board

Tom and the board engaged Margaret Spellings, former U.S. Secretary of Education, to lead this effort. She has invited me to be part of this aspirational and ambitious work, and I’m honored to join her and the Texas 2036 team. 

We can’t know for sure what challenges and opportunities future generations will face – just as no one in 1820 or 1920 imagined that so much of Texas’ future would eventually hang on issues like addressing the digital divide or creating seamless pathways to take students from pre-K to the workforce. 

In policy areas like education, health care, and infrastructure, Texas’ current challenges to some degree result from decisions made in the past. It’s important to know our history, but it’s more important that we make history with the time we have right now. Our legacy is marked by ingenuity and drive; it reassures that if anyone is up for this challenge, it’s Texans. 

By taking action now, we won’t just forestall problems. We’ll also create chances for future Texans to leave their own legacy of prosperity.

Supported by individuals, institutions, and businesses across the state, Texas 2036 endeavors to create a foundation of wisdom, responsibility, and prosperity that will help future generations of Texans to be as successful as past ones. 

Earlier this year, Texas 2036 released a strategic framework that takes a comprehensive look at the forces shaping the state’s future. The framework sets out 36 strategic goals to achieve by 2036, including setting up children for success through quality education, preparing Texans for careers enabling economic security, meeting workforce needs, and engaging Texans to actively participate in governing their communities.

By monitoring 160 indicators in six policy areas, ranging from education and health to infrastructure and government performance, we will measure progress toward these goals. We also have made available to the public more than 350 data sets related to these policy areas, and we launched a COVID-19 dashboard providing health and economic information both statewide and by county.

A thread running through the entirety of this work is the impact of our state’s human capital, both in developing Texas’ future workforce and in closing gaps that impede people’s ability to succeed in the 21st century economy. 

Back when I was in school, my government professor would call tests and quizzes “opportunities.” Well, here we are. Texas faces a historic test that includes a pandemic, social justice issues and civil unrest, a recession and, in just three months, an unprecedented legislative session that will focus on these and many more concerns.

But by taking a longer perspective as a state and a community – and as neighborhoods, businesses, and individuals –  we can celebrate our state’s bicentennial in 2036 with the promise of unimaginable “opportunities” and continued progress for tomorrow. 

San Antonio just celebrated its tricentennial last year. For us, the future is as tangible as the past. We have always stepped up to do what we can for our community and state. To support progress and ensure our future, I encourage you to visit the San Antonio section of Texas 2036’s website to learn more, share your feedback, and join other Texans in supporting long-term solutions to the challenges of a growing state.

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A.J. Rodriguez

A.J. Rodriguez is the executive vice president of Texas 2036. He previously served as an executive at Zachry Group, deputy city manager in San Antonio, and president and CEO of the San Antonio Hispanic...