What it means to be a Texan, officially

Published 7:43 am Sunday, July 26, 2015

By U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas

As Texans, we have a style of our own – from our hospitality to our headwear.

But you may be surprised to hear the iconic symbol of Western culture, the cowboy hat, only became an official state symbol a few weeks ago courtesy of the 84th Texas Legislature.  This makes Texas the first state to designate an officially sanctioned hat.

The cowboy hat is just one of dozens of items ranging from food to flower to fossil that are Texan enough to be deemed official state symbols.  You’ve heard our unofficial motto, “Everything’s bigger in Texas” – well, that includes our number of official state symbols.  According to the Texas State Library and Archives, 76 items, things, or activities have now earned official status.

Many are obvious: the official state jig is the square dance.  The official flower is the bluebonnet.  You’ve seen the state flag, and of course you’ve heard our official state song, ‘Texas, Our Texas.’

 Our state bird is the mockingbird, so named for the way it mimics the sound of its neighbors. It’s only fitting the mockingbird represents our state, as they are known for their pride and their fierce protection of their nest.

Texans are a loyal bunch, which is why our state motto is “friendship.”  Texas hospitality is alive and well in the Lone Star State – which is, of course, our state’s nickname.

The more than 268,000 square miles that comprise our state are home to three official state mammals: the longhorn, the armadillo, and our official flying mammal, the Mexican free-tailed bat.  Anyone who has stood on the Congress Avenue Bridge in Austin knows that one well.  And those three mammals don’t even account for the official state horse (American quarter horse) or our state breed of dog (Blue Lacey).

Just a few months ago the Texas Legislature gave Texas our newest official state symbols.  Lawmakers in Austin passed a bill declaring #txlege one of three official hashtags to help Texans follow their representatives on social media.  They designated the official hashtag of Texas as, you guessed it, #Texas.

And while we couldn’t possibly capture the essence of the Lone Star State in even one hundred items, our 76 official symbols bring pride to our almost 27 million residents and give an idea of what it really means to be a Texan to our millions of annual visitors.  Now that’s something to hang our state-sanctioned cowboy hat on.

 Senator John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas, is a member of the Senate Judiciary and Finance Committees.