Lone Star Book Reviews
of Texas books appear weekly
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Dr. Robert Brescia, executive director of the John Ben Shepperd Public Leadership Institute at Odessa, Texas, is eminently qualified to speak about Americanism, leadership, ethics, and public service. A graduate of the Army War College and the Command & General Staff College as well as many other military schools, Brescia has twenty-seven years of public service as a soldier, NCO, and commissioned officer in the U.S. Army. His qualifications and awards include the U.S. Army Ranger Tab, Airborne qualification, the Department of the Army Staff Identification Badge, two citations of the Legion of Merit, four awards of the Meritorious Service Medal, the Southwest Asia Service Medal, the Kuwaiti Liberation Medal, and the Silver Rose.

In his subsequent automotive global business career, Brescia was recognized as one of the top five logisticians in North America. He graduated with distinction from the Executive Leadership Doctoral Program with George Washington University.

He is the author of a recent book, Disruptive Power in American Discourse. He is a co-author of RFID for Dummies, a well-known guide on Radio Frequency Identification technology. Dr. Brescia has also written numerous articles and delivered presentations on the practice of leadership and is a regular columnist for the American Society for Public Administration’s PA Times. The Texas Civil Rights Project recently recognized him as one of their Heroes and Leaders for 2015.

Public Affairs

Robert Brescia

The Americanism of John Ben Shepperd: The Life and Legacy of a Great Texan

Infinity Publishing

Paperback, 390 pages, with numerous b/w images, 978-1-4958-0831-9, $22.95 (hardcover format also available)

November 1, 2015

John Ben Shepperd (1915–1990) was a Texas secretary of state and Texas attorney general in the 1950s. After he left state government in 1957, he continued in public service as director, chairman, or president of thirty-two organizations that ranged from the Texas Historical Commission and U.S. Jaycees Foundation to the Baylor College of Dentistry and University of Texas Centennial Commission.

Shepperd was a major proponent of “Americanism,” which the author of this book, Dr. Robert Brescia, describes as “a complex ideology...a worldview or conviction giving special importance to our nation within the world of nations. It is a belief in the preeminence of our ‘way of life’ among all others – that our way of American life is special and more desirable than others.”

Dr. Brescia is executive director of the John Ben Shepperd Public Leadership Institute in Odessa, Texas, which works “to provide young Texans an education for and about leadership, ethics, and public service,” he writes.

Along with Americanism, John Ben Shepperd was an unabashed booster of Texas, no matter where on the continent or overseas he happened to be. Indeed, the former Attorney General’s speeches show that he often used humor and self-deprecation to drive home his points. For example, in 1957, addressing the Illinois Bar Association Lincoln Day Luncheon and later the Arizona State Bar Convention, he told his audiences:

“I talk about Texas when there is the slightest indication of interest in the subject. And frankly, you have indicated the slightest interest in Texas of any group I have ever appeared before. But if I came this far away from God’s country and didn’t talk about Texas, you’d think I had been ex-communicated, or was dead, or running for a national office or an unmitigated fraud. Besides, I want to get back in when I go home.”

The book’s subtitle, “The Life and Legacy of a Great Texan,” promises more biographical detail than is offered. And there is virtually no hint of some controversial chapters in John Ben Shepperd’s political career. But there is some legacy burnishing for “one of Texas’ greatly underappreciated leaders.”

And, the book lives up well to its -subtitle: “A Compilation of Former Texas Attorney General John Ben Shepperd’s speeches, writings, quips, and quotes [sic].” The author writes that Shepperd was “a master orator, frequently sought after by civic groups throughout the United States to deliver rousing speeches about Americanism, Texas, leadership, public service, ethics and a host of civic-related topics.”

Only highlights of his speeches are presented, to minimize duplications and maintain focus on his messages about Americanism, American exceptionalism, patriotism, and nationalism.

Even in the 1950s, John Ben Shepperd frequently cautioned his audiences about “the steady and unnecessary encroachment of a centralized federal bureaucracy upon the historical rights of our state and local governments.”

But no matter your political persuasion—conservative, moderate, or liberal—his thoughts on the importance of voter participation continue to ring true as the 2016 elections approach: “If you  ignore the issues and vote your prejudice, you’re not using a Constitutional right—you’re exercising a Constitutional wrong,” he said. And: “If you are ever in the position of having to flip a coin at the polls, you’re gambling the fate of your country on heads or tails.”

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