Wildflower is published quarterly by the Wildflower Center. Its content is national in scope with articles about the conservation and use of native plants as well as news from the Wildflower Center. A subscription is provided to Wildflower Center members as a benefit of membership.
Letter from the Executive Director - Winter 2002On December 22 we will celebrate Lady Bird Johnson's 90th birthday and the 20th anniversary of the institution she founded. On her 70th birthday Mrs. Johnson launched the National Wildflower Research Center, which later became the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Many people have asked me what it is like to work with Lady Bird Johnson. As I think back over the five years during which I have known her, there are a number of attributes about Mrs. Johnson that come to mind. She is a leader and a visionary. She is also positive, gracious, curious, inclusive, and eloquent. Over the past 20 years she has nurtured our institution by articulating a vision for an America where the natural beauty of the landscape and its wildflowers and native plants are conserved, restored, and celebrated. She is engaged in life at the Center and has attended every board meeting, except one that occurred when she was hospitalized last spring. Mrs. Johnson attends other important Center events, including volunteer recognition and fund-raising events and seminars. And, she comes to the Center often just to enjoy the seasonal parade of wildflowers. When Center visitors recognize her and want to say hello or have their picture taken with her, she is unfailingly gracious and accommodating. In late October she visited the Center's new Ann and O.J. Weber Butterfly Garden. A swallowtail that had just emerged from its chrysalis landed on her hand. Much to her delight, several children -- unaware that they were in the presence of a former First Lady -- ran over to share the moment with her.
At Wildflower Center board meetings she carefully listens to the discussions, usually waiting to speak until others have taken their turn. Her questions and comments are usually the most direct and profound. She expects staff to be prepared and wants to know everything about the Center. Her questions range from the current financial condition to what is in bloom in our gardens. She is the most eloquent person I have ever known, capturing in a few words or sentences the heart of complex issues. As one friend and Center board member has said: "When Mrs. Johnson speaks prose, it comes out poetry." A recent stoke has impaired her speech, but not her spirit. She expresses with her eyes and gestures the joy she feels at seeing an old friend or a lovely flower. She intently follows the discussions that take place around her. Totally unassuming, she laughs often, even at herself. And, she always expresses her gratitude and support for the staff, board members, volunteers, and members of the Center. Indeed, as I think about the future of the Wildflower Center, I trust that it will be all of these qualities that will mark its character for a long time to come. Each day Mrs. Johnson gives us a living legacy of positive and gracious but determined action for a vision of a more beautiful world -- a legacy that will nourish and sustain us into the future. Thank you Mrs. Johnson, and happy birthday!
Robert G. Breunig, Ph.D.