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Interview with: Stephen Kleinberg
Interviewed by: Melissa Kean
Date: April 2, 2008
MK: This is Wednesday afternoon, April 2, 2008. I am Melissa Cane and I am interviewing Steve Kleinberg for the Houston Oral History Project. O.K., Steve, where did you grow up?
SK: I grew up in Scarsdale, New York, Westchester County just outside of New York City. I am a second generation academic. My father was Otto Kleinberg, Distinguished Professor of Psychology at Columbia for many, many years. And so, I tell people home ended up being somewhere Philadelphia and Boston all those years before I came to Houston.
MK: What is your high school?
SK: I went to Scarsdale High School interspersed with time in Geneva, 2 years in 9th and 10th grade at a French ______ outside of Paris.
MK: Because your father was . . .
SK: And my father left Columbia, took a leave of absence to head the ______ social science condition of Unesco in Paris. And so, at the age of 14, I was bilingual with French and English, and it has all disappeared. And then, I went back actually for 1 year later on and got ________ at the Sorbonne.
SK: And so, there were these interruptions but basically I grew up in Scarsdale, New York and went to Haverford College outside of Philadelphia.
MK: And how did you get to Haverford? Why Haverford?
SK: I was brought up as a Quaker. My father is Jewish but my mother was a Quaker. And so, the 3 of us were brought up as Quakers. So, that was always a very strong important influence in my life. We went down to look at Swarthmore, and my father had been a visiting lecturer at Haverford so take a look at Haverford, too, while you are on your way to Swathemore, and I liked Haverford much better, so I wanted to go there.
MK: What did you study?
SK: I majored in psychology. I took a lot of languages and a lot of history.
MK: What kind of psychology were you interested in?
SK: I went there as a premed and I was going to be a psychiatrist. I was taking all these premed courses. And then, I took philosophy as a freshman and I thought, wow, these are the question that seem to me the most important but I would go back to the chemistry lab because there you could get answers; whereas in philosophy, I kept getting frustrated by believing each person I had read. And then, I had my first psychology course at the end of my sophomore year and I thought, wow, here is a discipline asking the questions of philosophy and using the methods of the sciences. And it just seemed to me that is what I want to do. And my father was a psychologist and I said, well, I am not going to let him influence me into my ______ field, I am not going to let the fact that he is in it keep me out, so I became a psychology major and then went on for a Ph.D. in social psychology.
MK: It is telling me here you have an M.A. from the University of Paris.
SK: And then, I went to Harvard for the Ph.D. program in social psychology, and then got a fellowship and married my college sweetheart who had been at Bryn Mawr while I was in Haverford. We met in the Haverford/Bryn Mawr orchestra and I got this fellowship to spend 1 year in France. And my parents were in France. My father had just retired from Columbia and became a professor at the Sorbonne. And so, we went and spent the first year with them and I studied at the Sorbonne and have a _________.
MK: What does that mean?
SK: It is really clinical psychology. I got introduced by __________ who studied psycholopatholgie. I don't know what that is but knowing Kleinberg, it must have something to do with wine tasting!
MK: All right, so you went from Haverford to Harvard and then over to Paris and then back.
SK: I took a year off from Harvard to study at the Sorbonne where I actually did the research that led to my dissertation.
MK: Which was on what?
SK: It was on childhood and adolescents, and perceptions of the future. My claim was that unhappy children project their wishful filling of fantasies into the future because the future could be anything; whereas, adolescents have a sense of the future as something real. So, it was even child development. It was the shift from childhood to adolescence. It is a shift from a future that is open to wishful filling of fantasies to a future that is real. And adolescents see a real future. And so, when we compared happy and unhappy children with the happy and unhappy adolescents, and a whole set of questions about their perceptions of the future and the unhappy children were told extraordinarily wonderful things about the future, compared to the happy children who were very happy to just focus on their childhood and not care much about the future, unhappy adolescents told very unhappy and nothing stories about the future. Happy adolescents were filled with stories about the future and so it was kind of an X in the relationship and a really quite interesting study that I had done in France as a part of just being there and being able to do research. And then brought it back to Harvard and with some modifications, got it approved as a dissertation.
MK: When did you graduate from Harvard?
MK: 1966? Then what?
SK: Then I stayed at Harvard for 1 year as an instructor and then went to Princeton. I went to Princeton from 1966 to 1972. And then came here.
MK: Why did you come here? Why would you leave Princeton in 1972 to come to Rice University?
SK: Well, there were some reasons to leave. The main reason was I did not get tenure. Princeton was a wonderful place to teach but it was a little tiny town, 1-1/2 hours from any big city. 1972 was a period of tremendous economic decline. The stagflating (sp???) 1970s were beginning. And Houston was booming, right? This was an incredible period.
MK: It sure was.
SK: One of the signs of that is that salaries at Princeton were frozen the year before I left because the endowment had gone way down. I arrived at Rice and Hackerman gave every single person at Rice a $1,000 bonus. Do you remember that?
SK: Were you here then?
MK: No, I was in junior high.
SK: So, I thought, wow, maybe I have come to a good place here. But then, a friend of mine who had been an assistant professor at Harvard when I was a graduate student was Chad Gordon, who was the chairman of the sociology department at Rice.
MK: Which was new.
SK: Which was brand new, that's right. It was still a sociology . . . it had just broken off the year before, the sociology/anthropology department. And so, he said, "You've got to come to Rice and see what we have here and we think it is a wonderful place." I had never been outside basically the East Coast. And the 3 offers I got, 3 very firm and very good offers, one was from Rutgers University in psychology, one was from Washington University in St. Louis and the other was here. And I had to make that decision - am I a psychologist or a sociologist? And I had been at Princeton in the sociology department as an assistant professor of social psychology in the sociology department . . . because I wasn't sure yet, was I prepared to change disciplines after a Ph.D. in ________. Basically, I had decided it was either between Wash U and Rice and I think what sold me was the size and nature of Rice and the sort of pride of Rice. Well, Wash U was having all kinds of problems with the sociology department that then went defunct as you may know a couple of years later. And St. Louis was a city with all kinds of problems and Houston was booming and I had never been out of the East Coast and here was a different kind of world. And so, we came with what I tell people, that typical New York thing -- well, we will come down to Houston for a couple of years. Peggy was finishing law school, I was finishing a book on the research in Tunisia and a dissertation and we were going to stay for a couple of years and then go to a real place. And Rice turned out to be just a wonderful place, far better than I expected.
MK: No, it was an unusual time at Rice for a number of reasons. You know, we just had all the upset of the Masterson.
SK: Yes, that was just 1 year before I got here.
MK: Yes, and your department, as I said, it was very new.
SK: Very new, very small.
MK: Do you remember who was here?
SK: Five faculty were here. It was Chandler, Bill, Chad, me and then Lighter, Ken Lighter. Do you know that name at all? He was an assistant professor who did not get tenure. That was it.
MK: So, how did it feel? It felt exciting?
SK: It felt empowering. We were the department. I did not have big mentors with egos and stuff. It felt like we were building something. But above all, Rice was just a revelation. Here was a place with a faculty, more committed to teaching than Princeton's, more involved in research than Haverford's. A student body where . . . the cost of Rice was half the cost of Princeton and twice as high a percentage of students were on scholarship aid at Rice U than Princeton. So, it was a place that was twice the size of Haverford, half the size of Princeton, just was the place, I mean, the perfect university in many ways, a place that seemed to me to be a graduate program but above all, a commitment to first rate, world class undergraduate education, with students who could get involved in research early on. It was a place that was just sort of coming in its own in a city that was just undergoing this incredible economic expansion, this great boom. All of us regret it - why did I only buy one house instead of five houses and during a time when the rest of the country was having its stagflating 1970s and its Carter _________, Houston was booming.
MK: And so, you felt like you could come here and buy a house?
SK: Buy a house and help be a part of a city that was coming into its own as a major league American and world city.
MK: Well, when did you get started actually doing research on Houston?
SK: I was always doing survey research of various sorts and drawing together public attitudes, focused especially on environmental issues that were coming to the floor in the 1970s, and energy issues. And then, what I tell people is that I get unfairly credited for having planned to spend 27 years of my life on Houston. It fell to my lap back in 1982 to teach a research methods class to sociology majors, a friend of mine had just started a survey organization called Telesurveys Research Associates. It was Dick Jaffe and Rosie Zamora who had been at the University of Houston and were separating out now to have their own research center, and I was talking to them about wouldn't it be great to do a survey of Houston during this period of extraordinary growth with minimum planning? We, Houstonians, have proclaimed us to be the epitome of what Americans can achieve when left unfettered by zoning and government regulation and excessive taxation! This city was world famous for having imposed the least amount of controls on development of any city in the western world, growing at the rate of 1,380 people a week, 230 cars and trucks every day, no planning, no attention to the public's faces, growing concerns out there about traffic and crime and pollution, but also exhilaration of all of this. So, we decided let's get the students involved in doing a professional serious survey of the costs of both, of the experience of this kind of growth. So, we did the survey. It was a one-time survey.
MK: Was this like a junior/senior level . . . a methods class?
SK: It was a methods class. I got a grant of $800.
MK: From where?
SK: From the Brown Innovating Teaching prize kind of thing. And Telesurveys said we will supervise the students and train them but you have to do the interviews. And this is just an incredible class of about 11 undergraduates, juniors and seniors, who helped shaped the questionnaire and then we all did the interviews on the telephone, going over there at the phone banks at Telesurveys.
MK: How long would one of these interviews last?
SK: These were shorter in those days than they got to be now but it was about 20 minutes, 15 to 20 minutes. But wonderful students. Tremendous dedication. I think I did 100 interviews and each of them did 50 or something. And 2 months after that first survey, the oil boom collapsed. Suddenly, in the space of the next 12 months, 100,000 jobs were lost in boom town Houston. And we said, my God, we'd better do this survey again. And so, that is a story. Then, for 26 years, we have tracked the cities that went into major recession and then recovered into a restructured economy and a demographic revolution. You can see I think more clearly in Houston than anywhere else in the country the contours of America in the 21st century, from a city that was riding the resource of the industrial age to continued prosperity, suddenly confronting a radically different world.
MK: But that only shows itself over a wide sweep. Year to year . . . it sounds like that second year, you saw something big happen.
MK: Is there another example of something like that? I mean, I only say this . . . as an historian, I see change unfold so slowly.
SK: Yes, it is only retrospect, of course, that you can look back and say this was the turning point. I tell people there were 3 years in Houston's history that were fundamental turning points. I always make the claim that everything that happened afterwards was different from everything that happened before. One was 1836, when this crummy little, mosquito infested swamp was declared to be the next great city of Texas for the Allen brothers and pictures of Swiss villages being sent back east saying come on down. The next, of course, fundamental of this company was 1900, the destruction of Galveston September 7. Four months later, Spindletop blowing and the oil age coming in and Houston dredging the Ship Channel to become the second largest port and all of Houston's history was about that until the third great date of May 14, 1982, when the oil boom collapsed and Houston went into major recession and recovered into a new world. And my great regret is that we did not do 4 or 5 years of the boom before the collapse. Who knew? But a very good case could be made that the world after 1982 was different from the 80 years of the 20th century.
MK: And can you tell me what are the big things that are different after the bust?
SK: Three big things. Number one, the loss of the blue collar path to economic security. The big employers in Houston in the 1970s, which are Hughes Tool Company, Cameron Iron Works, good blue collar jobs in the oil field manufacturing world, you could drop out of high school with a strong right arm, go to work and as a roustabout in the oil fields or in the assembly lines of the oil field manufacturing world and expecting you were going to make a middle class wage. Those jobs have disappeared. It has happened in America 10 years earlier. It was postponed in Houston because of the oil boom. But now a world where what you earn depends on what you have learned. Education has become critical. We are in a global economy. Companies can produce goods anywhere and sell them everywhere. You compete in a global marketplace either on the basis of a willingness to work for low wages or having high levels of skills that enable you to attract the capital of the world economy. So, the result is a growing gap between rich and poor. Cross-America. Predicated above all else on access to higher education. One example in Houston is that we have the greatest medical complex in the world and we have the highest percentage of children without health insurance of any major city in America. So, that inequality is, number one, fundamentally a new thing; where the rising tide no longer lifts all boats and that incredible period after World War II when the richest 20% of Americans doubled their income but the poorest 20% of Americans doubled their incomes even faster; when 38% of all jobs were union jobs and the unions could negotiate with business to ensure that company profits were shared with the workers; when the average American man doubled his income on average between 1950 and 1970 and those were the years when they celebrated the stay-at-home housewife mother in suburbia; the average American woman gave birth to 3.6 children and the baby boom was launched upon the land. The average American man doubled his income between 1950 and 1970. The average male wage in America has stagnated in real terms between 1975 and 2000 only by wives going to work and often, children as well are families able to keep up with inflation. And meanwhile, there has been this remarkable redistribution of income, out of the hands of the poor and the middle class into the hands of the rich and the super-rich, in one of the greatest shifts that we have seen. It is across America, particularly clear in Houston. Fact number two: in order to make it in prosperity in the global economy in the 21st century, Houston has to be able to attract and keep the best and the brightest people in America working at the cutting edge of knowledge in biotech, bionanotech, bionanoinfotech, bionanoinfoenvirotech where the source of wealth for Houston from now on is knowledge, human resources rather than natural resources. And the result is we need to attract . . . the resource of the knowledge economy is housed between the ears of the best and the brightest people in America who can live anywhere. And suddenly, quality of life issues that were never important for Houston - when our location in the East Texas oil field was the basis for our wealth during the 20th century, it is essential to economic prosperity. You've got to turn Houston into a city where people who can live anywhere and will say I want to live in Houston . . . and you can see the tremendous effort that has been ongoing in the last 50 years led by the business community, recognizing downtown revitalization, planting trees, landscaping the bayous and turning them back into linear parks, building that incredible downtown Discovery Park that is going to open next month. All of that - we have spent over $4.5 billion in the last 10 years on downtown revitalization. Air pollution - we used to claim in cities through the 1990s that air pollution, we are doing fine, thank you very much, we are making progress every year, the EPA has promulgated draconian regulations based on bogus science and we can try to come in in compliance of those regulations, it is going to destroy the local economy, we are going to get the EPA off our backs! True, I think, through the 1990s, until another fateful date of October 7, 1999, when the headline in the USA Today newspaper was "Houston, cough, cough, we've got a problem, cough, cough." And the headline in the LA Times on that hot and balmy day was "New Smog Capital of America Declared." That was the day that for the first time in history, Houston surpassed Los Angeles in the number of dangerously polluted days and today, to a person, the business community now believes in all of its public and private pronouncements, it is talking the talk, not yet fully walking the walk, recognizing that environmental regulations far from being anti-growth and anti-business as we have always known them to be in this city, are essential to economic prosperity for Houston in the 21st century. This city has no prayer of making it to prosperity when the knowledge economy in the 21st century if it is perceived by people outside the city as not only flat and hot for much of the year but also ugly and dangerously polluted. It will not be able to attract the capital that will grow the businesses of the knowledge economy in the 21st century.
MK: I have two questions, I guess really one. They are closely related. In order for these changes that have already, I think, begun coming about . . .
SK: It is a much more attractive than it was.
MK: Yes, really, over the last 10 to 15 years, I would say.
SK: Yes, reflecting this recognition on the part of the business community.
MK: Well, I was going to say, there has to have been a change in the thinking of the leadership and I am just curious about what you think about how the leadership of Houston has changed over the last 27 years. Either they are critical in my work and I see them as being radically different and I would just like to know what you think about the leadership.
SK: I think in some ways, there is no change. The central focus of the business leadership in Houston from its beginnings was what do we need to do to make money? That has been the great genius of Houston. That is why Houston has become the great city. We have culture and that is all nice, and we are open to new ideas because if you've got a good idea, we can make money together, let's talk. So, what is happening I believe and this real resistance to, on the part of many who have vested interests in the status quo but increasingly across the business community is a recognition that the strategies that we need to put into place in order to be successful in the 21st century are different from the strategies that work so well for Houston in the 20th century. And it is enlightened self-interest, and not religious conversion.
MK: But the goal is still the same?
SK: Right. The goal is what do I have to do to make money? I tell people my _______ picture of the oil man in Houston is I don't care about air pollution enough to . . . I mean, that is the smell of money, that is what we are about in this city, so what if kids have a couple of days when they cannot play out on the field, and old folks have to stay home, hey this is what Houston is about. But darn it, if I've got to help clean up the air in order to attract the capital that will grow my business in the 21st century, all right. And it is that enlightenment, it is that perception on the part of the Greater Houston Partnership that we were losing out on companies that should be moving to Houston and who said, we are not coming here because of the air pollution. We are not coming because my employees don't want to live in Houston. And I use as my example when I give these talks in the business community as my fall semester class at Rice where Rice is a world-class university, half of all the students at Rice now come from outside Texas to come to us and I asked the students in my fall class, "Those of you who came from outside Texas, thinking back to when you were a senior in high school, did you come to Rice in part because it was located in Houston or despite the fact that it was located in Houston?" And about 70% of students still say, "My friends in New York said why would you want to go to Houston to go to college?" And I tell the business community I will know that Houston has positioned itself for prosperity in the knowledge economy of the 21st century when well more than half the students who come from outside Texas to come to Rice will say one of the reasons I wanted to come to Rice was that it was located in Houston. That is the challenge. And so, theme number two is that the pro-growth strategies are radically different today than the ones that were in place and worked before 1982. And then, of course, the third fundamental shift is that virtually all the growth of Houston during the oil boom was Anglos pouring into this city because this is where the jobs were. By 1980, Houston became the fourth largest city in America and it surpassed Philadelphia, still an overwhelmingly Anglo city. The Anglo population during the 1970s in Harris County, Texas, grew by 28%. Then came the oil bust and between 1980 and 1990, the Anglo population grew by a grand total of 1%. And between 1990 and 2000, the Anglo population actually dropped by 6.3%. The first time in the history of Harris County the census found fewer Anglos than had been here 10 years ago. Meanwhile, during the last decade, while the Anglo population is dropping by 6%, the African American population grew by 22%, the Hispanic population grew by 74%, the Asian population grew by 76%, and by the year 2000, there were 3.4 million people living in Harris County, Texas - all of us minorities. It is almost true to say all the growth of Houston until the oil bust was Anglos pouring into the city from everywhere else in the country. It is absolutely true to say all the growth of Houston in the last quarter century has been immigration of Asia, Latin America, Africa and the Caribbean and the children of immigrants. And this biracial southern city dominated and controlled in an automatic taken for granted way by white men throughout all of its history has become one of the most ethnically and culturally diverse cities in the world.
MK: That is very interesting.
SK: And that is about as radical a shift as you can find.
MK: The question that that raises in my mind is given what you said earlier about one of the keys to prosperity here being intellectual capital, does that not suggest then that the city ought to be focusing intensely on educating its Hispanic, African American, Asian population?
SK: Yes, it does. That is exactly right. I will give you are few more statistics on this. First of all, this is a bifurcated immigration stream coming into a bifurcated economy. One group of immigrants are coming here from educational and income backgrounds that are far superior to the average black and the average U.S. born Anglo. They are African immigrants and Asian immigrants coming here with extraordinary educational credentials. And one group is coming with striking educational deficits, relatively average education of the average American, largely Latino. So, one piece is that not all immigrants are coming with those kinds of educational deficits but the other critical piece is that it is not just ethnicity, it is also age. The older folks in America in this time of increasing expansion of life, are overwhelmingly Anglos, and we have not seen anything yet. I mentioned the baby boom generation earlier. 76 million American babies were born in this country between 1946 and 1964 during that incredible period when the ___________, the average American man doubled his income, the average American woman gave birth to 3.6 children, the baby boom was preceded and followed by the baby bust generation so it has been like a big pig being swallowed by a python going through the system, not very healthy they tell us either for the pig or the python. The leading edge of those baby boomers turned 62 this year and we are going to watch a literal doubling in the number of Americans over the age of 65 in the next 30 years. And those baby boomers are overwhelmingly Anglos because it was not until 1965 when that viciously racist law was changed and for the first time in the 21st century, non-Europeans were allowed to come to America. So, the young people across America are disproportionately non-Anglo and considerably less privileged than the baby boom generation who are beginning to retire. No where is that more clearly seen than in Houston. Houston is a city of migrants who migrate when they are young men and women, we were Anglo migrants during the oil boom, we are migrants coming directly from Asia and Latin America, so in our surveys, probably the most powerful chart is that of all the people currently living in Harris County, Texas who are 60 years old or older, 71% are Anglos. And of all the people between the ages of 18 and 29, fewer than 26% are Anglos. If you look at 199,468 kids in HISD classrooms, from kindergarten to senior year in high school, 60% of those kids today are Latino kids and another 28% are African American; 88% are African American Latino, 82% of all the kids in HISD qualify for reduced or free lunch programs. And we know what poverty does to your ability to do well in school - it is a safe statement to make that if Houston's African American, Latino, young people are unprepared to succeed in a knowledge economy of the 21st century, it is hard to envision a prosperous future for Houston. So, that is the whole story of these two revolutions and it is true across America as a central question that all of America is facing - no where more starkly posed than in Houston, Texas.
MK: How much resistance do you get to this? I know you give a lot of talks.
SK: It is hard to resist it because there it is. I mean, one of the things I tell people is Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, "Everyone is entitled to their own opinions but they are not entitled to their own facts." That demographic reality is a fact. How we deal with it is up to us. I also tell people, look, you could close the borders tomorrow - not another immigrant comes through America - this is a done deal. 60-year-old Anglos are not going to be making a whole lot more babies. I tell the people, we will do the best we can, we will work on it any chance we get. You can go to the bank on this one. Every business in Houston is either going to learn how to capitalize on this burgeoning diversity in the city or find it harder and harder to grow their business. Every institution, every organization, every central major structure in Houston was built by, for and on behalf of Anglos. Every one of them has to transform itself to become Houston's institution. So, it is not surprising there is a lot of hostility towards owners, a lot of anger, a lot of fears, a lot of frustrations, a lot of new resurgent anti-immigrant sentiments that we pick up in our surveys, new concerns about ethnic relations, but it is the reality of Houston in the 21st century.
MK: How has the survey itself changed?
SK: It evolves in a continual way. We teach it as an undergraduate course at Rice with, again, these extraordinary . . .
MK: It is still a course?
SK: It is still a regular course every spring. Limited to no more than 10 people because they all end up writing major research papers and analyzing the data but they are just . . . I mean, we go back and look at the survey and we ask what question . . . about one-third of the survey questions are repeated every year - they are the basic demographics. Over one-third now are questions that we are tracking every other year. There are a whole series of alternating questions about abortion, homosexuality, ethnic relations, and attitudes towards immigration that we have been sort of tracking in this regular way and then every year, about 20% of the questionnaire is brand new. But then what happens, of course, is that we have looked back on the questionnaire of two years ago and we say, whoa, we should maybe ask that question we first asked. So, it is getting harder and harder to add new questions and the survey is getting longer and longer. But it has this incredible richness that you never could get with one survey because you get 65% feeling X, well, is that high or low, is that good or bad? What direction is that taking us in? How does that compare to the past? To have identical questions asked in exactly the same wording and the same context of the questionnaire of a sample drawn exactly the same way interviewed in the same last 2 weeks of February and first week of March . . .
MK: Students still do the interview?
SK: Students help develop the pilot interview, do the pilot survey and then we all go and test that out and get trained in how to do images and then come back, regroup and refine and revise the final questionnaire. And then, we give it to the professional interviewers. And so, while the interviewing is being done, the students are reviewing the literature on the hypotheses that they want to test and they go away for spring break and when they come back, the data are available and they analyze it and write journal-type articles ________.
MK: And then you print it up?
SK: And then, we have printed, every 3 years or so, a full, honest-to-goodness printed report. We put on that we have a website that we keep continually up-to-date. I write a summary each year of the central new findings from that year and then I sit down with the Chronicle reporters and that comes out and I put that on the website as well. And we are moving towards building a center that will ensure that this can continue, have a full-time executive director to free me as a faculty director to do the more academic sociology and have the Center undertake the public sociology that is so relevant and so important as this survey has become such an institution for the city as well. So, it has been very, very interesting to watch this process.
MK: Really, this is just awesome.
SK: There is one other thing I was going to mention that we say when you look at this extraordinary demographic transition that has occurred in Houston from the demographics, from an un-Anglo world to a world where all of us are minorities and Houston is about 4 years ahead of Texas. Texas in August of 2004 joined California as the 2 largest states in the Union, both of which are majority/minority states and by 2040 to 2045, the majority of all Americans will no longer trace their ancestry to Europe. The American future is here. How Houston navigates this transition to build a truly successful, inclusive, multi-ethnic society will have enormous implications not just for the Houston future but for the American future. This is where the American future is going to be worked out and it is part of what I think makes this particular era in Houston of such sort of transcendent significance. It is not just what kind of city are we building but what kind of a city, what kind of state, what kind of country will we build together in the 21st century?
MK: I've got nothing else.
SK: That is the danger of bringing someone in who gives you all these talks.
MK: No, this is great.
SK: Is that O.K.?
MK: Yes, this is great.
DG: The one thing that I am curious about is ________ do you think the city has had an impact on the way we are responding to ____________?
SK: Well, people have come to me and said, "We are doing things differently now because of what you said. And I have gotten that about 5 or 10 different times from different groups that are . . . one of the classic ones is, I don't know if you know Jose Pablo Fernandez. I was just talking to him yesterday. Jose Pablo Fernandez who founded these Centro ________ and training immigrant parents in how to use computers and have access to the Monterrey Institute and to model the importance of education. He says I made him do that. When he first came here, he was the head of something called the Mexican Cultural Institute. And he saw his function as keeping the Mexican culture alive in one of the areas where there is a large number of Latino immigrants. And he asked me to come to lunch and we talked about . . . he asked me what I thought was the biggest issue facing the Latino community - I said education. And he said, "Tell me some more about that." So, I just elaborated on why that is so absolutely critical. And he went back to the drawing board and he said, "We've got to deal with education. We can't deal with Mexican culture." So, things like that do seem to happen and people keep saying . . .
MK: And I think the people downtown . . . this is just personal anecdotal . . . my sense is they are not eager about this. They are not happy about this.
SK: Oh, of course not, but none of us would have chosen _________.
MK: But I think they are paying attention.
SK: I tell people these are the cards that this generation has been dealt. How we play those cards . . .
MK: It is what it is. Yes.
DG: Well, a recurrent theme in our ______________.
SK: Change is always difficult and these are extraordinary profound changes. And there is that famous saying that nothing fails like success. We were so successful with an ideology that was at the far extreme of American individualism which is at the far extreme of all countries of the world practically. No taxes, no regulations, nothing that would . . . this was a businessman's town, you came down here to make money, and entrepreneurs with vision were free to put their ideas into practice with the least amount of interference of any place in the world and we made money, and we were extraordinarily successful. And it had a whole lot more to do with our location of the east Texas oil fields than it did with our ideology, I am afraid. But that ideology is a very important one. But what is so powerful and positive for Houston is that in our DNA is this idea of succeeding and this idea of being open to ideas that can make us succeed. And so, what we talked about earlier, this tremendous challenge, this shift from saying environmental regulations are anti-business, anti-growth, get them out of here, to environmental regulations are essential to economic prosperity, that is a big, big shift and it is not surprising that not everybody . . .
MK: Well, you have to take a step in between is what makes it harder, right? It was clear that environmental regulations were anti-business when all you could see about environmental regulations is they were hindering your ability to exploit your resources _________. You have to insert another step to say we can't get the people we need if we have a polluted city, so we are going to have to have environmental regulations in order to attract the people.
SK: And it is going to interfere with my business but I've got to be willing to do it . . .
MK: But I have to do it anyway. I have to make a balance.
SK: Not surprising that it is not easy to get to.
MK: It is harder. It is not surprising that it is not easy. It is more complicated and it involves sacrificing one good thing for another.
SK: And short term versus longer term which is also not easy for us to do. But in the DNA of Houston is this belief that we can solve these problems, we can transcend these issues, we can succeed. And so, that is where I think there is room for some hope. But the jury is out. This is a tough set of issues that we are facing and they cannot be solved by just accelerating economic growth and making people richer. We've got to figure out a way to collectively . . . one of the clear examples of the challenge we face right now is that everybody knows that there will be another one million people moving into Harris County in the next 20 years. There will be another 3-1/2 million people moving into the Greater Houston area. What is going to happen to the remaining green spaces? Where are they going to live? We have got to, for the first time in Houston's history, seriously think about _______ that growth, providing incentives for good density. We are building a light rail system that is going to add another 30 miles. There will be 55 transit stops along the light rail system. That is where you want density, high rise. You don't want high rise on Ashby in Southampton because there is no way anyone can get to and fro except by the automobile. You want to have high rise in places where you can walk. And the light rail provides the beginnings of a structure that can stimulate good density downtown and ensure that we can have additional parks and buy up green space and make the Houston area a more beautiful and a more attractive place even when it has another one million people living here. But it will not happen without any ability to think collectively, to think about what kind of a city we want to build together. And that is something Houston has not been good at, that collective thought.
MK: When you think about something like the new park downtown, that is largely - it is collective but it is private collective.
SK: Private public.
MK: That's right, and that is where we have been good, is the private relationships of the downtown business community have enabled a lot of things to happen here. I think what you are suggesting is something different though, that we actually need to open up that private group as well as the public factor. That is a little more complicated.
SK: The real place where all of this is going to come down on us is the global warming issues and the climate change. We have got to move out of dependence on oil and gas. As David _______ said in that famous speech now that he gave to the Center of Houston's Future last year -- poor John Mendelson is following him and he says he is a hard act to follow -- but at that annual luncheon where he said the real question is Houston is the energy capital of the world, that is amazing. Energy is the most incredible and critical resource on the planet. Houston is the energy capital of the world. It will not be 20 years from now if we don't find a way to move that energy out of fossil fuels and oil and gas into wind and solar and other sources and use our knowledge to make that happen.