October 11, 2007
While few folks seem to know it, there is, in fact, an election next month featuring 16 state constitutional amendments.
Today, I want to remind you specifically about Proposition 15, which would allow Texas to put $3 billion into cancer research with the goal of finding a cure for the disease. As you may remember, I was co-author of the legislation giving rise to the ballot proposition.
Writing in favor of Proposition 15 carries some sweetness and some sorrow.
It’s profound, but not just because I’m a survivor of cancer, although my living through that time is such a key part of who I am. There’s rarely a day goes by that something doesn’t cause me to stop for a second and be thankful I was one of those to make it, particularly when I enjoy seeing my kids participate in events, have new experiences, and look to the future.
And it’s not profound just because I lost Don Watson, my father, to cancer when he was only 66 years old, although I miss him, and I pray that my two boys will look at me and think of me in the way I think of him.
It’s really most profound because of my mother – Billye Watson – who died from cancer at the age of 62, just 13 months after we lost Daddy. She was the first in our family to be diagnosed, and she taught the rest of us how to live with cancer and how to fight it.
When she was originally diagnosed, we all faced a timeline that seemed too short. But her reaction was to say, “Keep me alive for six months. Who knows what I’ll get to see, and who knows what they’ll come up with that will keep me alive another six months.”
She beat cancer back that first time. And the second time. And the third. Actually, she beat it more than that, over and over and over, as it came back time and time again. For 21 years.
By the time cancer finally won, she had been treated with pretty much everything they could throw at her – high dose chemo, a bone marrow transplant, full-body radiation. You name it.
Research and medical science found those things to keep her alive. And, so, she got to see both of her boys finish law school. She saw all four of her grandchildren born. She saw a short period of happy retirement with my father.
After her death, I heard one of her new friends describe her vividly. The friend was someone who knew her only in the last few years of her life and watched her in the final part of her fight. But he saw something essential and vital in Billye Watson. He said she was the person leading the “singing in the lifeboats.”
My brother and I loved that description. It captured her optimism, fearlessness and audacity.
My friends, Texas and Texans are optimistic. We’ve revealed that we can be fearless and, goodness knows, we can be an audacious crowd.
We need to be. We need to be audacious enough to say that Texas can cure cancer. We need to be fearless enough to take that optimistic leap and put it on the line.
This idea, this Proposition, writes the music for all of those singing in the lifeboats.
I urge you to support it next month.
I want to thank everybody who voted in the 2007 Austin Chronicle Readers Poll– particularly everyone who voted for me.
It’s a terrific honor to be recognized as your “Best State Legislator,” particularly in a region where citizens are so well represented. I look forward to working with you all and to being a good, strong voice at the Capitol.