A bronze statue of civil rights champion Barbara Jordan was unveiled today (April 24), on The University of Texas at Austin campus, following a week of special events honoring the late congresswoman. Jordan is the first female public figure so honored on the campus.
The ceremony was at the site of the Battle Oaks at 24th and Whitis streets near the Texas Union. The program featured a number of speakers, including William Powers Jr., president of the university, DeAnn Friedholm, a friend of Jordan’s, and student Dera Barlow, Barbara Jordan Statue Project co-chair. Other program participants included author and actress Anna Deavere Smith, the Innervisions Gospel Choir, Longhorn Singers and The University of Texas at Austin Trombone Choir.
Powers called Jordan “a woman from Texas who mesmerized the nation with her eloquent oratory, her skillful interpretation of U.S. history and constitutional law, and her rigorous devotion to ethical standards in politics and society.
“We on this campus–and many in this audience–were privileged to know her as a professor in the LBJ School of Public Affairs,” he said. “Our university will forever be known as the place where Barbara Jordan taught for the last 17 years of her life.” (Read President Powers’ complete remarks.)
The statue, crafted by artist Bruce Wolfe, is the result of a student-led initiative that began with the Orange Jackets, a volunteer and service organization that is one of the oldest student organizations on campus. Women inducted into the Orange Jackets in 2002 noticed that women were not represented by the public art on campus, other than by a statue of the mythical Diana. Jordan quickly emerged as the woman who symbolized the vision and values of the institution and whose character and personal achievements–including the 17 years she spent as a professor at the LBJ School of Public Affairs–made her an obvious choice for the honor.
“Barbara Jordan is one of our own, and we are so very grateful, and so very proud. This wonderful statue is our noble obligation to never forget Barbara Jordan and our responsibility to serve society,” Dr. Juan C. González, vice president for student affairs, said. “She never sought recognition. In fact, she was typically humbled by any praise. She simply sought justice for all–Justicia para todos.”
The members of the statue committee, which includes faculty, staff and alumni in addition to students, have been dedicated to the same vision–having Jordan’s presence and powerful words memorialized on campus, to serve as a reminder of what is just and fair in this world, according to Dr. Sherri Sanders, deputy to the vice president for diversity and community engagement, and director of the Barbara Jordan Statue Project.
“That has driven many of the decisions we have made–from placement of the statue underneath the Battle Oaks, to our choice of quotes by Jordan on the stelae surrounding the statue,” Sanders said.
Dr. Gregory J. Vincent, vice president for diversity and community engagement, noted that Jordan’s words are an integral part of the sculpture.
“Jordan’s moving reflections on freedom, education and civil rights will inspire students, faculty and staff at The University of Texas at Austin for generations to come,” he said. “Her life and her efforts serve as a reminder of why we continue to strive to create an environment of inclusive excellence here on campus.”
For a full list of speakers at the ceremony and a full list of events honoring Jordan that were scheduled April 20-24, visit the Dedication Activities page of the Barbara Jordan Statue Project Web site.
Activities included a number of performances and panel discussions as well as a candlelight vigil honoring Jordan April 23, from 8-9 p.m. on the mall near the Main Building. The University of Texas Libraries has a special exhibit, “When Barbara Jordan Talked, We Listened,” that will be displayed until June 1 in the Student Learning Commons at Perry-Castañeda Library.
The online Barbara Jordan statue press room includes additional information about the artist and the statue project, as well as photographs of Jordan and quotes from a number of people involved in the project.
Below are the complete remarks by President Powers at the Barbara Jordan statue unveiling ceremony.
Barbara Jordan Statue Dedication
Remarks by President William Powers Jr.
Friday, April 24, 2009
Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. On behalf of the entire University family, I welcome you all to campus for this historic occasion. Thank you for joining us.
This is a great day for The University of Texas at Austin. Today we dedicate a statue of Barbara Jordan, a distinguished public servant and educator.
A courageous leader who struck down the barriers of race and gender.
A woman from Texas who mesmerized the nation with her eloquent oratory, her skillful interpretation of U.S. history and constitutional law, and her rigorous devotion to ethical standards in politics and society.
We on this campus–and many in this audience–were privileged to know her as a professor in the LBJ School of Public Affairs. Our university will forever be known as the place where Barbara Jordan taught for the last 17 years of her life.
At UT we often say, “We change people. And then they change the world.” One of Barbara’s students said of her: “I’ve never met a person who believed so strongly that we can actually change the world, and that gives me confidence that we really can.”
Barbara Jordan was truly of the soil and spirit of Texas. She refused to be hindered by bigotry and hate. She refused to be left out. When she lifted that magnificent voice, she soared. Her spirit lives with us on this campus. Tonight, the Tower will glow orange in honor of Barbara Jordan. It is a great day for Texas.
In 1986, Barbara Jordan gave the UT Commencement address, which she titled “Conviction Values.” Her challenge to those students more than 20 years ago rings true to all of us gathered here today. Perhaps the best way we can honor her is to listen to her eloquent words as we dedicate this statue as a powerful and immediate reminder of her continuing presence on our campus.