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Saturday, September 24, 2022


Houston’s first lady promotes local citizenship



Houston Citizenship Month started as Houston Citizenship Week in November 2009, when former Mayor Bill White approved the proposal. It has since flourished into 30 days of events and activities In November to celebrate civic diversity with organizations throughout the city. Kathy Hubbard, Mayor Annise Parker’s life partner, reached out to The Daily Cougar to discuss the importance of honoring the city’s diverse citizens.

The Daily Cougar: Citizenship month is being promoted by the theme of what it means to be a Houstonian and citizen of the city of Houston. How do you define that?

Kathy Hubbard: Citizenship has the traditional definition of being documented as belonging to a community. Nonetheless, we have many members of our community who have other nationalities per se, but are here for educational, diplomatic, commercial or for other reasons. Their presence benefits Houston and Houstonians as a whole. That is why our definition, our bigger view, encompasses all of these Houstonians as well.

TDC: The city has transitioned from Citizenship Week to Citizenship Month. Why the change?

KH: We now encompass the entire month because so many groups wanted to include so many events, but many could not logistically change an event they were planning to coincide with the week we selected. Therefore, it seemed like the right step to do was to expand it to a month.

TDC: Why is it important to recognize the diversity within the city as well as efforts being made in the city’s economy and business outreach methods?

KH: Recognizing diversity within the city is the only realistic approach, because it recognizes, honors, respects people as who they are. The business efforts of the city, the economy of our city, has a large international component. We have one of the largest ports in the world, which is commerce of goods. We have the largest medical center in the world, to which many from overseas come for healthcare services or to train and learn, so they can go back home and teach. We have many world-class educational institutions.

People get recognized here by what they do and not who their ancestors are. It truly is the American dream city and it is recognized many places around the world as an international city. It is recognized as the connection between North America and South America. We have a lot of things, as Houstonians, going for ourselves. We have the third-largest number of consultants in the country. Many trade missions are happening all the time. With the expansion of the (Panama) Canal, there will be even more international commerce.

TDC: Having a citizenship week or month isn’t something that other states have implemented. Is Houston paving the way for other states to do the same?

KH: We certainly could be and we have had other cities contacting Citizenship Month expressing interest, (asking) “How are we doing it?” They’re learning some surprising things such as our own budget … is perhaps $20,000 to $25,000, which is not much for the hundreds of events. These are community events, and we’re providing a hub. The only citizenship week that I am aware of is in Canada. Perhaps we will see more in the future around the country.

TDC: How many years have you been involved with Houston Citizenship Week — and now Month — and what has been your most memorable experience?

KH: I’ve been involved for four out of the five years of its life, and what’s most memorable for me is seeing the various communities coming together. I see so many wonderful connections, such as recently, two or three nature hunger assistance organizations contacting Citizenship Month who wanted to be in touch with (the other organizations’) CEO, and realizing that despite the different types of public groups, they’re still able to connect.

I’m starting to hear discussions and thoughts about what is Citizenship Month, what is a citizen? Spending part of our lives working on what is best for the community as a whole and not just our own families? What is independence, what is democracy? All of these things weave in and out of Citizenship Month conversations.

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