Award-winning writer Lawrence Wright gives talk on the future of Texas and America

Graysen Golter

Lawrence Wright, a writer for The New Yorker and a Pulitzer Prize winning author, made a visit to UT on Thursday evening to talk about Texas, its culture and its role in the future of America.

A Texas native himself, Wright spoke to a crowd of more than 30 people about the shifts Texas has gone through in its history and the aspects that make its culture unique. He included its rise from a rural state to an economic power as a major producer of oil and coal, its political change from a blue to a red state and the artistic contributions it’s made through musicians such as Beyoncé and innovative films such as “Boyhood.”

He expressed concern that Texas is losing its “primitive juice” that makes up the state’s identity, and said Texas needs to reconsider the direction it’s heading in as its economy and culture change.

“The future, like it or not, is Texas,” Wright said. “It’s exciting to live in a society that’s still young enough to change. It’s up to us to make this the state we want it to be.”

The Plan II Honors Program hosted the lecture as part of the 2019 Julius and Suzan Glickman Centennial Lectureship. Because he is a longtime resident of Austin and an award-winning political writer, Plan II saw Lawrence Wright as the perfect candidate for this year’s speaker, said Mary Dillman, the alumni liaison and programs coordinator at Plan II. 

“People are talking a lot about the change in voting demographics here and what’s on the horizon, so (he) … speaks to the culture of Texas and the dichotomy that exists here in the state,” Dillman said.

The lecture took place at the Edgar A. Smith Building, with UT students and fans of Wright’s work in attendance. Finance, Plan II and Spanish senior Hasan Syed said Wright’s assertions about the environmental costs and damage Texas has created were accurate. He said while he has a generally positive outlook on Texas, the state does need to make changes, especially regarding the costs of urban expansion.

“There’s a lack of zoning laws, with things just being placed here and there because they’re cheap,” Syed said. “Now things are not as cheap. I think more efficient use of urban areas will be pretty important (in the future).”