LBJ School students honor Barbara Jordan's life, legacy with annual forum | LBJ School of Public Affairs | The University of Texas at Austin

Twenty years ago, a group of LBJ School students came together to create the Barbara Jordan National Forum, a week-long tribute honoring the memory of well-known politician, policymaker and educator Barbara Jordan, who ended her career as the Lyndon B. Johnson Centennial Chair of Public Policy at the school. 

Every year since, LBJ students have planned and executed the annual Barbara Jordan National Forum, which includes events from keynote lectures to service projects focused on democracy, equality and social justice issues.

"Serving as a Barbara Jordan National Forum co-chair has been the highlight of my time at the LBJ School," said Erin Smith (MPAff '17). "I am grateful for the opportunity to honor Professor Jordan alongside a team of passionate and inspiring friends. The experience has been a rewarding challenge—to give back to our LBJ community, and to ensure a commitment to justice imbues our public policy work in the years to come."

The student-driven forum exemplifies the LBJ School as one of action and relevant contributions to today’s social dialogue. Throughout the forum week, LBJ School student organizations lead programming on social justice issues.

Another forum co-chair, Cassie Gianni (MGPS '17), said, "A key element of the Barbara Jordan Forum is engaging with students as both learners and as a leaders. The week is full of events that are envisioned and organized by students for students."

She continued, "It has been a pleasure collaborating with my peers to realize a dynamic week full of educational opportunities."

Throughout her career, Barbara Jordan was a groundbreaker. Her successful career is marked by “firsts”—the first African-American congresswoman from the South, the first woman elected to the Texas Senate, and the first African-American women to deliver a keynote at the Democratic National Convention.

As a community, the LBJ School is dedicated to making tangible contributions to society through active participation. This spirit, often marked by pushing through perceived boundaries, infused everything that Jordan did.

"The more I learn about her life and legacy, the more I realize the privileges and opportunities I have taken for granted," said forum co-chair Roosevelt Neely (MPAff '18). 

"The rights and ambitions I have today are only possible because Barbara Jordan and contemporary heroes of history boldly rebuked wrongs long approved of by the majority," said Neely. "Honoring her legacy demands that—wherever we are and whatever we do—we serve ethically, with perseverance, to ensure a just society for all."

As Jordan said in her 1976 DNC keynote, “We are a people trying not only to solve the problems of the present, but we are attempting on a larger scale to fulfill the promise of America.”

The 2017 Forum, guided by the theme, "Emboldened Public Service: Challenging Wrongs for a Just Society," featured separate luncheon keynotes by author Mary Beth Rogers and Texas Representative Senfronia Thompson (D – Houston).

If you missed the 20th anniversary Forum, you can watch archived footage of our keynotes on the LBJ School's Facebook page:

Some recent keynote speakers for the forum have included Vanita Gupta, past principal deputy assistant attorney general and acting head of the Civil Rights Division at the U.S. Department of Justice; LBJ alumnus Texas State Senator Rodney Ellis; Julian Bond, American social activist and leader in the Civil Rights Movement; and civil rights attorney Lani Guinier, the first African-American female tenured professor at Harvard Law School.