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Barbara Jordan Media Awards

April 23, 2016

Good Morning, Ladies and Gentlemen.  On behalf of our more than 52,000 degree seeking students, welcome to the University of Texas at Arlington – North Texas’ top research university and home to the National Champion Lady Movin’ Mavs and a number of Olympians who will be representing the nation at the Paralympics in Rio. Will all these athletes please raise their hands – congratulations on your achievements.

We are honored to host the 33rd annual Barbara Jordan Media Awards, celebrating the life of a true visionary and a trail blazer who not only dedicated herself to breaking barriers and building bridges but helped ensure focus on the dignity of the individual.

The event has special significance since it not only honors the legacy of a great Texan, and celebrates the achievements of a wonderful set of individuals who, through their respectful portrayal of people with disabilities, remind us to put the person first and not the disability; but also because the event assures that Barbara Jordan will continue to inspire us in the future – reminding us that challenges and disabilities can be overcome and each one of us can have a profound positive impact and make a difference in the world.

I’d like to recognize the Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities as well as our keynote speaker, Mayor Mike Moncrief, and his wife Rosie, both of whom continue to inspire all of us in Tarrant county by their leadership and community engagement.  Rosie and Mike – you set the bar high for all of us – thank you for all that you do, truer and more dedicated public servants and leaders would be hard to find.

From being designated a Center of Excellence by the National League of Nursing, one of only two in Texas, to over 20 graduate programs across all our Colleges and Schools being ranked among the very top in the nation, to three additional members of our faculty being named fellows of the National Academy of Inventors – bringing our number to 13 – the second highest of any university in the nation and over 1/3rd of those in Texas, to our recent designation in the elite group of R-1 Doctoral Universities – Highest Research Activity in the Carnegie  Classification of Institutions of Higher Education – the definitive list for the top Doctoral research universities in the nation, our reputation is on the rise.  While we celebrate these achievements, we are extremely proud of our focus on inclusion.  For the third year in a row UTA ranks fifth among national universities for undergraduate diversity and the Military Times ranked us as the top 4-year university in Texas for military Veterans and 16th in the nation, and home to the only disability studies minor in the Southwest.  Our students serve as model citizens, highly engaged in the communities they represent and in which we are situated.  From our Movin’ Mavs teams to student leaders such as Michael Lumus and our dedicated staff such as Penny Acrey – all represent the very best, not only through their own achievements, but through the quiet dignity shown as they overcome challenges and obstacles showing that disabilities do not define lives – actions and strength of character do. 

While the awards focus on media, I’d like to think that each of us here today will leave inspired by the enduring legacy of Barbara Jordan and the work of the individuals we honor today to help dispel misconceptions and reveal the dignity with which people with disabilities live their lives.  Together we can ensure that we not only focus on compassion, accuracy, and respectfulness, but also in human dignity – making the place in which we live much better for all.  

Thank you for being here and for all that each of you do.  I hope to see all of you back on campus next month as we host the Special Olympics in May.