HMH Honors Blanton, Chronicle at Guardian Luncheon
Houston, TX - Holocaust Museum Houston honored both the Houston Chronicle and Jack Blanton with its Guardian of the Human Spirit Award during a luncheon held on September 18, 2002. Over 600 attendees were impressed by the butterfly-themed décor and moving program. The luncheon committee consisted of E. William Barnett, Melinda Berkman, Janis Goldstein, Roslyn Haikin, Punkin Hecht, and Velva G. Levine and the event, chaired by Joe and Eleanor Zuber, raised more than $164,000 to help fund the Museum’s education and outreach programs.

David P. Bell, chairman of the board of Holocaust Museum Houston, opened the ceremonies with a look at the Museum’s outreach efforts, education programs, and its mission in light of current world circumstances.

“In the aftermath of September 11 and still today, one year later, this community and others throughout this region have called upon this museum to develop programs to teach the invaluable lessons of tolerance, acceptance, and mutual respect,” he said.

Eleanor Zuber followed with a general welcome and noted that through education, an important part of the Museum’s mission, a better future is possible. To highlight this theme, she introduced the guest speaker for the afternoon, Jenny McConnell, a teacher at St. Thomas High School.

“One of the most important educational experiences the museum provides for the students is the opportunity to hear the life stories of survivors who put a face, a name, and an individual and personal encounter to the six million Jewish lives lost in the Holocaust,” said McConnell. She went on to stress the importance of the survivors, but also mentioned the Museum’s library, the docents, the seminars and educational programs, and the collaborative efforts between the Museum and the Catholic Diocese of Galveston-Houston as important means of moral growth and understanding.

Following the lunch service, Janis Goldstein began the awards presentation with an introduction of the first honoree, the Houston Chronicle.

“The Houston Chronicle is honored today not because they are involved in the community, or because they are charitable in that involvement,” she said. “They are honored today because the Houston Chronicle embraces the causes most dear to it with a depth and scope that goes well beyond what is expected.”

“Believing, as our Museum does, that an educated and literate society is the best defense against the abuse of the public trust,” she continued, “the Chronicle gives of itself to build a community that will embrace tolerance, understanding, and diversity and will speak out against prejudice and unfairness of any kind.”

Jack Sweeney, publisher and president of the Houston Chronicle, accepted on behalf of the paper.

“This award honors all of the Chronicle people who work so hard and cherish and support the spirit of this community,” he said. He noted that the economy had made it difficult for many non-profit “guardians of the human spirit” and he was glad that the city’s newspaper could help with volunteers, free advertising, and even cash donations. He stated that a daily newspaper has an obligation to the community and should serve as an independent monitor of power and provide a forum for public criticism and compromise. He said the Chronicle shares a unique bond with the people that is reconfirmed and improved upon every day.

“Journalism’s first loyalty is to the community and its citizens,” he concluded.

Joe Zuber introduced the day’s second honoree, Jack Blanton.

“Let me tell you something,” Zuber said of his friend. “If you think you know Jack Blanton because of his accomplishments as a public person, you don’t know Jack!”

Zuber explained that Blanton is a family man, a devoted father and grandfather. He came up through the public education system and has had a continuing interest in education ever since. One example cited by Zuber was Blanton’s tenure as chairman of the Board of Trustees of Houston Endowment Inc., during which the foundation was able to increase the scholarships awarded by 50%. Also mentioned was Blanton’s service as chairman of the Board of Regents of the University of Houston System, when he was able to convince the state legislature not to cut the budget for higher education.

“Jack deserves this award not just for what he has done, but also for what he is,” stated Zuber, “a man with a giving, caring attitude who wakes up every morning with the goal of doing something for others.”

In his acceptance speech, Blanton spoke eloquently of the nature of Holocaust education and its impact on his own views. He listed the various elements of civilization and stressed the importance of education serving to transmit these elements from generation to generation.

“Civilization is not inherited, it has to be learned and earned by each generation. And if this transmission should be interrupted for one century, civilization would die and we would be savages again,” he stated. “That is why we need and must have a Holocaust Museum and why eternal vigilance calls on us to pay a price and we will properly and with much thanksgiving pay that price!”
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