2023 Fall Lecture

Photo Credit: Shannon West- San Marcos Daily Record

The 2023 LBJ Museum of San Marcos Fall Lecture was held Thursday, October 26, 2023, from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. in the museum’s auditorium.

A Portrait of Lady Bird: Memories of a Friend, a Former Superintendent of the LBJ National Historical Park

The LBJ Museum’s Annual Spring Lecture featured David Vela. Vela was the former LBJ National Historical Park Superintendent and retired Deputy/Acting Director of the National Park Service. He was also the first Latino to be nominated by the President of the United States to serve as Director of the National Parks Service. Vela is also a national motivational speaker inspiring the next generation of public servants and conservation advocates.

The Lecture

Vela began the lecture by sharing a story of the time his family took a vacation visiting Grand Teton National Park during his youth which fostered his love of parks. After his introduction, he transitioned to talking about his time working as the LBJ National Historical Park Superintendent. Vela became well acquainted with the Johnson family during this time and shared how during his first time meeting with the former first lady at the White House she humbly asked him about himself.

He answered by stating that he was a legacy of the Great Society programs. From attending Head Start when he was a kid, and benefiting from food stamps when his father was pursuing his master’s program, Vela was now the superintendent of the national park bearing his name (Vela, 85)

Vela then told a story about a time he was at the Texas White House with his son during the Christmas Holiday season. His son was sitting right next to Lady Bird unknowingly. “Don’t ever forget this experience, and who you are sitting next to,” Vela said to his son.

Vela also shared about the time Lady Bird brought up how she wanted the park to be once she passed, “When I’m gone, and you open the house [at the LBJ park] to the Nation. I want people to think I just left the room, and I’m coming back,” Vela said. “It was one of the most memorable experiences I’ve ever had.”

Vela described how he felt when he heard Lady Bird had passed away, “It had just dawned on me that I had lost her. It was painful, but at the same time the respect that this boy scout gave to someone he didn’t know was so memorable to me.” Vela explained.

The First Lady left him a signed picture of herself as a tribute to their friendship with this inscription, “David, with heartfelt appreciation for your dedication and caring stewardship of this place I love so much.” Photo Credit: Shannon West- San Marcos Daily Record

Photo Credit: Shannon West- San Marcos Daily Record

We had an incredible evening learning about the National Park Service Agency and the various Parks across the nation. If you were there you had quite a treat. If you missed out, well… you just had to be there!