Last night, the Denison Forum was honored to partner with Dallas Baptist University in hosting ABC News political commentator Matthew Dowd. He spoke on campus as part of the Leadership Lecture Series of the Institute for Global Engagement. We asked him to reflect on the recent election and describe our country as he sees it.
Matthew’s remarks were both profound and timely. He noted that significant change comes to our country every seventy to eighty years. Eighty years ago, we were coming out of the Great Depression and into World War II. Eighty years before, we were coming into the Civil War and the Industrial Revolution. Eighty years before, we were coming out of the War for Independence and into the agricultural revolution.
We are now in another time of significant cultural change. From politics to technology to industry to medicine to moral standards, everything seems to be in transition. Matthew believes that in such a chaotic time, we desperately need leaders who serve those they lead, who care for people more than politics or party, who know that souls are what matter most.
Earlier in the day, I took part in celebrating a man who personified Matthew’s thesis.
Friends from across the nation gathered at Park Cities Baptist Church in Dallas to celebrate the life and legacy of Vester T. Hughes, Jr. His death on January 29 brought to an earthly end one of the most amazing lives I’ve ever known. And it marked the heavenly transition of a man who was my mentor and spiritual father.
Vester (he insisted that his friends call him by his first name) grew up in Mertzon, a West Texas town of 780 residents; his high school class numbered seven graduates. He went on to study at Baylor, Rice University (Phi Beta Kappa), and Harvard Law School (with honors), where he edited the law review. He clerked for the Supreme Court, served his nation as a JAG officer, and founded one of the most prestigious law firms in our city. He was considered by many to be the finest tax attorney in America, arguing two cases before the Supreme Court and engaging in some of the most significant tax litigation and legislation in our nation’s history.
But his astounding achievements were not what we gathered to remember yesterday. We honored who Vester was, not just what he did.
When he was a freshman at Baylor, Vester had a life-transforming encounter with God’s grace. He came to understand his need for God’s forgiving love and never forgot its impact on his life. He spent the rest of his life giving the grace he received.
I was one of the thousands of lives Vester changed. When I became his pastor in 1998, we began meeting regularly for lunch, conversations that marked and molded my life and work. I will always cherish our trip to the Holy Land together. I did nothing significant without asking him for advice.
“How should we then live?” (Ezekiel 33:10, KJV)
In his funeral sermon yesterday, Dr. Bill Pinson referenced a text that was central to Vester’s life and faith: the prophet’s question, “How should we then live?” (Ezekiel 33:10, KJV). Vester’s answer was to begin every day with the same prayer: “Lord, let me be who I am supposed to be today.” And God answered his prayer, every day.
I am resolved to begin every day by making Vester’s prayer my own. Will you join me?