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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Professor analyzes Bush senior’s legislation

Rudder Tower played host to Vanessa Beasley, professor of communication studies and American studies at Vanderbilt University, Friday evening as Beasley lectured about the cost of equality in George H.W. Bush’s civil rights rhetoric.

As the seventh annual Kurt Ritter Lecture in Political Rhetoric, the event honored Kurt Ritter, professor emeritus and founder of the A&M Department of Communication.

“In Kurt, I saw a teacher who always, always put the education of our students first,” Beasley said.

The lecture was a part of the Aggie Agora political lecture series. Jennifer Mercieca, associate professor and associate department head of communication at Texas A&M, said the event was an opportunity to discuss the meaning of civil rights in the presidential legislation of 1990.


“We are deeply fortunate to get to hear about Beasley’s work on such a timely and important topic,” Mercieca said.

As presidents discuss race, Beasley said civil rights is one of the biggest stories our nation has told. Paying particular attention to two pieces of legislation, Beasley analyzed Bush’s responses to civil rights and posed questions about the former president’s views on equality.


“If we want an equal society, what are the costs of equality?” Beasley asked.

The first part of the lecture focused on Bush’s statements after passing the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

“In the first case, the job of the federal law and civil rights is to take the young people with disabilities and put them in employment positions so that arguably, they are less dependent on the government,” Beasley said.

Bush’s statements after vetoing the Civil Rights Act of 1990 shed light on his idea that equality comes with a price tag, Beasley said.


“In some tenses … their value is determined by their ability to stay independent from government resources,” Beasley said. “That’s not a political value, but an economic value.”


To end the lecture, Beasley questioned what it really means to live in a country that professes equality, but is motivated by money.


“It drives the notion that we can divide citizens between ‘makers’ versus ‘takers’,” Beasley said.


Kirsten Worden, English freshman, said she gained a new perspective from the lecture.
“It’s enlightening to think about the way that our cultural expectations affect the rhetorical constraints of presidencies,” Worden said.

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