Remarks from Commissioner George P. Bush as delivered at Cannon Fest at the Alamo on October 2, 2017
Welcome to Cannon Fest, and welcome to the Alamo. As a native Texan, as a veteran, and as your Texas Land Commissioner, it is my solemn duty and my great honor to be the steward of the Cradle of Texas Liberty. Who we are as Texans started here and who we can be as Texans still lives here.
We’re here today to save a piece of our history for future generations. Our efforts to preserve and protect the Alamo are first and foremost about preserving and protecting the story of the battle itself. It was the 13 days of battle in 1836 that made this mission sacred … and it’s that same battle that gives us our sacred mission today. Simply put, we want to tell the story of the battle of the Alamo … proudly, purposefully and better than we ever have before.
And that’s why these cannons today are so important. These cannons were used in the Battle of the Alamo on March 6, 1836. They sat on platforms of new wood on the perimeter of this fortress, trained on the enemy. Heroes died manning them.
As you can see, they’re in rough shape. The elements and passing of generations have taken their toll. We want everyone who loves history and loves Texas to own a little piece of these guns by helping us restore them. We need 45 thousand dollars to restore them. Texas A&M is standing by to do the work. We need these cannons to last so future Texans can see 1836 for themselves. And we need your help. We’re launching this fundraiser today to give you a chance to help save them.
Today is October 2nd — one of the greatest days in Texas history. 182 years ago, today, in a town about an hours’ drive from this sacred place, Santa Anna sent his troops to Gonzales take a cannon and subdue a people. But those Texans would not lay down their arms for any tyrant, and their defense of that simple, bronze, six-pound caliber cannon sparked a revolution.
It has never been a good idea to try to disarm Texans.
The people of Gonzales kept their cannon. Santa Anna did not keep Texas. And now we all have a chance to be part of keeping our history alive and well.
Today the word “Texan” is synonymous with courage and the defense of liberty, especially at great cost. Texans will not be pushed around. Texans fear no one.
People the world over respect Texans. And if you travel the world, and tell people you’re from Texas, chances are, the first or second question has something to do with this place. The Alamo.
Ever since the events of 1835 and 1836, Texans have stood up against long, overwhelming, even impossible odds. That’s been part of our character from Gonzales, through the battle here and the tragedy at Goliad, through the victory at San Jacinto to today. We honor those heroes, but we can do more.
In 1836 Texans faced long odds and suffered crushing defeats, especially here. But they never gave up, and eventually they won. We won. We face some long odds today too, but once again we will succeed.
The beautiful church you see behind me is one of only two buildings that remain from the battle in 1836. There were more buildings here then. There were great walls of stone that made a frontier fortress. There were acequias to bring in water. There were lodgings for soldiers, and a headquarters where Col. Travis wrote his famous letter calling for reinforcements. There was a great gate to the south. But these two structures, the Church here and the Long Barrack there, are all that’s left. All the rest has been lost to history, lost to the growth of San Antonio, or just lost.
Today these priceless buildings are crumbling before our very eyes. They once suffered the ravages of battle, but now they suffer the elements, the growth of this great city around them, and simply from old age.
The Alamo must be preserved. We will preserve it. Together.
That’s what we are doing at the Land Office, in San Antonio and with Texans of good will across our great state. We are working tirelessly to ensure these sacred 300-year-old artifacts stand for at least another 300 years. This shrine will continue to be a place where 1836 lives and breathes every single day.
We Texans want the Battle of the Alamo remembered. We want the Defenders of the Alamo to be honored. And we want the Alamo battlefield recaptured.
What does that mean, to “recapture the battlefield?” Well, behind you, under the streets and Alamo Plaza, is the Alamo battlefield. You may not have known it, but you stand on sacred ground. It doesn’t look very sacred, does it?
When you crossed the corner at Houston street, you walked on sacred ground. If you stand on the steps of the federal building over there, you stand near where Col. Travis fell. This is all sacred ground. Those cars and buses and vending carts are all on sacred ground.
This sacred ground is now covered over with pavement. We drive over it. We buy and sell on it. It doesn’t look like a battlefield at all. Don’t we owe the Defenders more than this?
Is this acceptable? Is it acceptable that where Texas heroes died we have a street? That we have huge trucks rumbling by, vibrating the ground, shaking our precious Alamo and causing more damage to her, every single day?
I say no.
This is not acceptable. I’m sure you agree. So, we must recapture the battlefield, to honor the Alamo’s gallant Defenders. We must respect this sacred place. We must, and we will, ensure 1836 lives here every single day.
Against the canvas of history, each individual life can look small. Each step forward can look like standing still when you’re far enough away.
But when you begin to stack those lives together, when we combine the marks they each made and the steps they took, we end up with a vibrant picture of freedom. We end up with the Texas we know and love today.
Places like this one, and artifacts like these cannons, teach our children, and each of us, how important our history is. And they teach us how important today is, too. The men and women who lived and died in this place, manning these cannons, didn’t know they were living history. They were striving to make a better today, and in the process created one of the greatest histories this world has ever known.
May we be worthy of calling ourselves their successors.
So please donate to help us restore these magnificent guns. We must restore these cannons, we must recapture this battlefield, so we can reinforce the Alamo itself. Reinforce its aging, 300-year-old structures through preservation. Reinforce its story through living history, exhibits, and simply by honoring it. We can’t do this on our own. Without you, we won’t be able to ensure future generations of Texans have just as much access to their history as we have. We need you to join us.
Please enjoy yourselves as you experience this magnificent place. The Alamo has an incredible story to tell you. Step back in time with our living history staff and learn about 1836. See the Alamo movie and exhibit in the Long Barrack. Enjoy the interactive exhibit on the life and knife of Jim Bowie. Most importantly enter this sacred church with reverence and respect and when you do, gentlemen, please remove your hats.
David Crockett gave his life here. He once said a simple thing that revealed much about his character. Crockett said, “Let your tongue speak what your heart thinks.” My heart thinks there is no greater symbol of Texas than what you see here. There is no greater honor than to reinforce this place and tell its story. There is one name above others that echoes around the world, speaking courage and liberty to all who hear it — and that name is the Alamo.
Thank you for coming today, thank you for helping us preserve these cannons, thank you for reinforcing the Alamo today, and may God bless Texas.