- - Thursday, November 16, 2017

As a native Texan, as a veteran, and as Texas land commissioner, it is my solemn duty and my great honor to be the caretaker of the Alamo. Who we are as Texans started there and who we can be as Texans and Americans still lives there.

You may have heard or read stories about the Alamo recently. Let’s set the record straight about what we are and are not doing.

We are not changing the Alamo’s name or story. We are seeking new ways to tell that story, and tell it to rising generations, to keep Texas values alive.

We are preserving and protecting the Alamo and the story of the battle. It was the 13 days of siege and battle in 1836 that made this mission sacred, and it’s that same battle that gives us our sacred mission today. Simply put, we want to tell the story of the battle of the Alamo, proudly, purposefully and better than we ever have before.

The beautiful Alamo Church is one of only two buildings that remain from the battle in 1836. At that time there were great walls of stone that made a frontier fortress. There were acequias to bring in water. There were lodgings for soldiers, and a headquarters where Col. Travis wrote his famous letter calling for reinforcements. There was a great gate to the south. But just two structures, the church and the long barrack, are all that’s left. All the rest has been lost to history, lost to the growth of San Antonio, or just lost.

Today these priceless buildings are crumbling before our very eyes. The Alamo must be preserved so future generations can learn its story as we have. We will preserve it.

That’s what we are doing at the Land Office, in San Antonio and with people of good will across our great state and country. Despite what you may have heard, we are working tirelessly to ensure these sacred 300-year-old artifacts stand for at least another 300 years. This shrine will continue to be a place where 1836 lives and breathes every single day. It will always be called the Alamo, as it has been since 1803.

No, the United Nations will never have any say in what we do or say at the Alamo. Ever. In addition to reinforcing the Alamo, we must recapture its battlefield.

What does that mean, to “recapture the battlefield?” Well, under the streets in front of the church and Alamo Plaza, is the Alamo battlefield. You may not have known it, but that is sacred ground. It doesn’t look very sacred today.

Cars and buses and vending carts drive and stand where the defenders fought and died. In fact, the large trucks and buses driving past day in and day out vibrate the ground, rattling the Alamo and accelerating its deterioration.

Don’t we owe the defenders more than this?

Since I came into office in 2015, I have made protecting the Alamo and its story my top priority. The Alamo is the most sacred place and artifact in Texas. In order to protect it, we must recapture the battlefield from under the streets and keep the damaging traffic away from it. We must also reinforce the Alamo itself. Reinforce its aging, 300-year-old structures through preservation. Reinforce its story through our improved battlefield tours, our improved living history program, through exhibits such as Bowie: Man — Knife — Legend, and simply by honoring it.

The master plan that you have probably heard much about recently focuses on three main goals: preserve the Alamo, close the street to restore reverence, and build the world’s largest museum dedicated to the Battle of the Alamo and the Texas Revolution. That’s what we are doing.

David Crockett gave his life at the Alamo. He once said a simple thing that revealed much about his character. Crockett said, “Let your tongue speak what your heart thinks.” My heart thinks there is no greater symbol of Texas than the Alamo. The Alamo defines Texas. There is no greater honor than to reinforce this place and tell its story. Its story is the story of Texas. There is one name above others that echoes around the world, speaking courage and liberty to all who hear it — and that name is the Alamo.

George P. Bush is the commissioner of the Texas General Land Office.

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