The Lyceum is a name proud in history and rich in promise. The Lyceum concept itself is more than 2,500 years old and dates back to ancient Greece and the gathering of Aristotle and the leadership of Athens to discuss, debate, and define the critical issues of the day. In the United States, the idea called “lyceum” has been alive since 1826 when Josiah Holbrook of Connecticut dreamed of “seeing established in every town and village a lyceum for the discussion of issues and the dissemination of knowledge.” By 1834, his dream was realized with some 3,000 lyceums established. These early lyceums were intended to be the focal point of a community’s educational base including not only forums for speeches and debates, but also libraries. In 1839, a lyceum was established in Austin, the Republic of Texas, with Sam Houston as an honorary member. This forerunner to the present Texas Lyceum debated questions concerning annexation, slavery, temperance, and Indians - the philosophical and practical concerns of life on the frontier.
In 1980, a group of young Texans from business, professional, and academic communities came together at the Bent Tree Country Club in Dallas to discuss an idea: that Texas was at a turning point in its history. It had an opportunity, indeed a responsibility, to become a great state. To achieve that destiny, however, it had to overcome problems that are common to vibrant, growing societies such as water, transportation, support for education, long-range planning, and others. To address those problems they concluded that there was a need to bring together the various segments of the state in a non-partisan, non-political, and non-adversarial setting. The Texas Lyceum Public Conference was born and the first one was held at the Fairmont Hotel in Dallas.
Since that initial conference, much has happened to the Lyceum, our state, and our country; but one thing remains unchanged: “the Lyceum concept.” In 1981, Tieman H. Dippel, Jr., then Chairman of The Texas Lyceum, wrote: “The best description one might give the Texas Lyceum concept is that it is an idea in evolution about a state in transition. It is many things to many different people, all attracted by a common tie: the belief that Texas is a unique place and that it has the opportunity to play a major role in the evolution of American society.” More specifically, the Lyceum concept suggests that for Texas to survive and prosper we must develop an agenda and mobilize the will of her citizens to carry it through. To do so, Texans must be educated as to the choices they face in non-partisan and non-political forums of depth and integrity and involving all of the state’s institutions, both public and private. In such a setting, trends can be identified, information provided, and thoughtful discussion can be had leading to a broad consensus that will help form the future agenda for Texas.
To that end, the Texas Lyceum is an association of Texans whose purposes are:
The Texas Lyceum is comprised of a Board of Directors from across the state. These 96 men and women have demonstrated leadership abilities not only in their own community, but across the State. They are active, involved and interested; they are eager to contribute their talents and time to the betterment of Texas. The Lyceum acts as a catalyst to bring together diverse opinions and expertise to focus on national and state issues, and seeks to emphasize constructive private sector, public sector and individual responses to the issues.
From the time of its formation, the Texas Lyceum has held to Aristotle’s belief that free and open discussion of the issues facing a society will lead to the intelligent formation of a consensus which will shape a successful agenda for the future of that society. Texas is a great state and it is also a great state of mind. Texas is successful because of the “can do” attitude of her citizens and the care which each brings to the effort of planning her future. Without her citizens’ active participation, there is no future for Texas and without your active participation, there is no Lyceum. Texas gives us rich and proud traditions to uphold and a challenging future to accept.