In her visit to Elon Law for a Distinguished Leadership Lecture, Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas called for renewed pride in the United States as part of a larger strategy to address social and economic woes that have led to today's political climate.
Kay Bailey Hutchison is proud of the work she accomplished in the two decades she represented Texas in the United States Senate. She secured federal funding for important infrastructure projects in her home state, worked across the aisle to pass bipartisan legislation with an eye toward science and innovation, and served as a role model for young women with political ambitions of their own.
Would she want to reenter the political arena today? No.
“When you’re in politics, you are one dimensional,” said Hutchison, who visited Elon Law on April 13, 2017, for the final Distinguished Leadership Lecture of the academic year. “You are ‘all politics, all the time.’ … What I like about what I do now is the variety. It’s getting to speak here, learning about North Carolina, about Elon.”
Among the most influential Republican lawmakers of the past quarter century, Hutchison’s remarks to her Elon Law audience in downtown Greensboro focused on what she calls “The Fifth Revolution,” and how changing economics and demographics in the United States led to the ascendance of President Donald J. Trump.
The American Revolution. The Industrial Revolution. The Civil War. The Technology Revolution. All were watershed moment in the nation’s history, she said, brought about by social and political change that challenged the way citizens viewed their world.
In the early years of the 21st century, Hutchison argued, another political revolution is being shaped by stagnant wages, duplicative and contradictory federal regulations, high corporate taxes that disrupt business growth, and a loss of trust in institutions such as government and media.
“There has been an income stagnation that will always cause a lot of friction with people who are unhappy and looking for a change,” said Hutchison, who currently practices as senior counsel at Bracewell LLP, an international law firm. “And if I hear one thing anywhere I go in America, it is complaints about over-regulation at every level. It particularly hits small business, but big businesses are being stifled in creativity and their ability to put money into production.”
To also help address economic conditions, Hutchison suggested that schools place more emphasis on technical jobs – electricians, welders, masonry and metal workers, plumbers – where a demand for quality workmanship can lead to six-figure incomes in parts of the country. And above all, she said, there needs to be renewed attention on teaching values that were instrumental to the nation’s early success.
Having young people learn patriotic values will instill in them a love for the United States and democratic ideals that surveys now show aren’t as appreciated, she said.
In opening her lecture, Hutchison praised Elon Law and Elon University for their impact on legal education and in preparing today’s students to be future leaders. She specifically addressed Elon President Leo M. Lambert, lauding him for nearly two decades of service to the university.
“I so appreciate a person who wants to be a leader in a university,” Hutchison said. “If you stay 19 years, you put an imprint on a university. You’ve made Elon wonderful, and have made it special.”
Elon Law’s commitment to reinventing American legal education is also important, Hutchison said. The school offers programs and resources that were never even considered when she was in law school at the University of Texas. “What impressed me about Elon Law is that it’s trying to be something different and is giving students an experience,” said Hutchison, who called the law school’s new residency program “visionary.”
Prior to her U.S. Senate tenure, Hutchison served in the Texas House of Representatives and as Texas State Treasurer. She had also been appointed by President Gerald Ford to serve as vice-chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board.
Hutchison was one of only seven female senators following her triumph in a 1993 special election. During her time in Washington, she was elected to Republican leadership positions including chairman of the Republican Policy Committee. Hutchison was the highest-ranking Republican female prior to her retirement. Forbes magazine has ranked her one of the world’s 100 most powerful women.
Hutchison is one of only two women to serve in the Senate leadership, having first been elected Vice-Chairman of the Republican Conference prior to leading the Republican Policy Committee She was most recently the ranking member on the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation and the Appropriations Subcommittee for Commerce, Justice, and Science.
She served for 16 years as a member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense and was Chairman of the Military Construction Appropriations Subcommittee. She was elected to two terms as Chairman of the Board of Visitors for the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
Hutchison grew up in La Marque, Texas, and graduated from the University of Texas and UT Law School.
In June 2000, she and several colleagues co-authored “Nine and Counting: The Women of the Senate,” and in 2004, she released her first national best seller, “American Heroines: The Spirited Women Who Shaped Our Country.” Hutchison published her second bestseller, “Leading Ladies: American Trailblazers,” in October 2007. Her latest book is “Unflinching Courage.”
“Standing strong and advocating with grace and poise translated into 20 years of success in Washington,” Mia Faith Chamberlain, an Elon Law Leadership Fellow in the Class of December 2017, said when introducing Hutchison at the lecture. “Pioneer. Civil servant. Role model. Visionary leader. Mother. Senator Hutchison encompasses them all. She uses these remarkable gifts to make a difference in our world.”
About the Lecture:
The Distinguished Leadership Lecture Series presented by The Joseph M. Bryan Foundation is an integral part of Elon Law’s commitment to learning, lawyering and leadership. Endowed through a generous gift from The Joseph M. Bryan Foundation of Greensboro, North Carolina, the Distinguished Leadership Lecture Series brings accomplished leaders from a variety of disciplines to Elon to share their experiences and perspectives with students and faculty.
About Elon Law:
Elon University School of Law in Greensboro, North Carolina, is the preeminent school for engaged and experiential education in law. It integrates traditional classroom instruction with highly experiential full-time residencies-in-practice in a logically sequenced program of transformational professional preparation. Elon Law’s groundbreaking approach is accomplished in 2.5 years, which provides distinctive value by lowering tuition and permitting graduates early entry into their professional careers.