Former United States President George W. Bush, former Dallas Mavericks legend Dirk Nowitzki and owner Mark Cuban were all at American Airlines Center Thursday night to participate in a conversation about American immigrants and their importance to a diverse nation and for American society.
The discussion was moderated by Shonn Brown, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Texas Women’s Foundation and Global Legal Officer of Kimberly-Clark Corporation.
President Bush recently published a book titled Out of many, one: Portraits of American immigrants, which is a powerful new collection of oil paintings and stories. Nowitzki was one of 43 four-color portraits the president painted.
The stories written by the president remind readers of the many ways America was enriched by immigrants who came to America in search of a better life. Here are the highlights from Thursday’s discussion:
MODERATOR: Why did you undertake this project?
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: First of all, I was a little concerned about the tone of the immigrant debate, and I was afraid, and I rightly think of some missing, that Americans are starting to not really appreciate what immigrants are doing for. our country. So I decided to paint a few of them, and one of them is here.
MODERATOR: Why did you choose to paint a portrait of Dirk?
PRESIDENT BUSH: First of all, Dirk is a well-known figure. So in the book, some people are well known, some are not well known, but there are some commonalities between them. And one of them is that they give back to the community in which they live. I had heard Mark talk about Dirk’s contribution to Dallas when he retired and I started to lean into it and he was a man who was not only famous but who should be more famous. for the way he helps people. And that’s why I put it in the book. And Americans need to know that immigrants make contributions in all kinds of ways. They are good for the economy, they are patriots, but they are also full of compassion in helping others.
MODERATOR: And (Dirk) also has a Mavs jersey (in the portrait)?
PRESIDENT BUSH: I tried to capture his humanity, and he has keen eyes too, which must have been pretty scary if you tried to climb up against him under the basket. I’m happy. As you can see, I am not mixing colors. I tried to create more ambiance than what the real face looks like. I knew this portrait was going to last a while, so I made her look really skinny.
MODERATOR: Have you ever had your portrait painted by a president, and now you know he made you look skinny on purpose. . .What did you think of that?
DIRK NOWITZKI: I think it’s a great song. It made me look skinny which is great forever. It’s really good and really nice. It was an honor to be in this book and to be invited to be in the book, so it was a great honor for me.
PRESIDENT BUSH: I think if people look at this portrait, they’ll say he’s a determined guy. He comes to America as a talented athlete, but he didn’t know anyone. He sort of spoke the language, but I guess that’s not very good.
NOWITZKI: A little, but super shy.
PRESIDENT BUSH: But determined.
MODERATOR: Mark, President Bush included a whole lot of you in the book. And that quote is: “For all of his accomplishments in the field, it is Dirk, the person, the father, the philanthropist and the friend that makes him so special to you and to all of us in Dallas.” So tell us a little more about it?
CUBAN BRAND: Dirk, since I’ve known him, has always been about not only accomplishing what he could in his career, but also really wanting to give to him and be part of the community because he appreciates and shows it by not doing not things when the camera is on, but does things when the camera is off. Going to visit kids, showing up to places he’s not even invited – he’s not always welcome either – but he always shows up to help. And he knows I feel that – he’s got a heart of gold. And that’s why I felt this.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Do you remember when he played that softball game? He looked a little weird there.
NOWITZKI: It’s not my first sport.
MODERATOR: Mark and President Bush, I know you both talked about some of the frustrations with the student visa system. We bring and educate bright young minds to America, but then they go home. Why is it important that we tackle this?
PRESIDENT BUSH: It doesn’t make sense for a country to educate someone who is talented and then ask them to come home. In the case of DACA, they don’t have a home. So I painted a kid whose mother took him at age four on an inner tube and he comes to East Texas and he ends up being a good engineer. But if the DACA had not been put in place, the government would not have sent it back anywhere. And that doesn’t make sense. We bring people here and they’re really smart and they go to Stanford, SMU, and they have entrepreneurial ideas – something Cuban knows a lot about. And there should be a way for them to make their dreams come true here.
MODERATOR: Mark, what about you?
CUBAN: They come here for a reason, and America is the most entrepreneurial country in the world. And it’s not like we’re the only country with great colleges – Germany, France. You can go anywhere. But they come here because not only can they be educated, but generally in the past they could stay and live the American dream. And not only that, I am a big supporter of American exceptionalism. And when we educate the best and they stay, it encourages my children, who are 11, 14 and 17 years old, it’s competition. It makes you stronger, it makes you better, it makes you brighter. And so I agree with President Bush that it’s crazy that we educate some of the greatest minds in the world – who choose to come here, because they see what can happen in this great entrepreneurial country – and then we send them home. It just makes sense that it is. And when we don’t send them home, some of the world’s greatest businesses are built – from Google to today’s CEOs of Uber. It’s just a long, long list. When you stumble upon the biggest tech companies, it’s inevitable that you will see immigrant after immigrant, and that’s a good thing …
PRESIDENT BUSH: And on a lesser scale, there are a lot of jobs in the Metroplex that people don’t do. And yet, many small businesses need workers. And we need a workers’ program that recognizes that people are willing to work hard to support their families. I used to say that family values don’t stop at the Rio Grande River. People come here and do hard, hard work, and we should have a system that makes this legal so that they don’t have to stealthily cross the border in the first place and then they can go home to be with their families. . And so the worker visa program is also broken.
MODERATOR: Mavs are used to bringing immigrants on and off the field, as I understand it. And you really practice what you preach and are intentional about it. Explain why you think this is important and how you have implemented it in your practice.
CUBAN: To be the best, you have to hire the best. To hire the best, you need to have an open mind to be open to everyone, regardless of gender, race, color, ethnicity, home, nationality, because that makes the cake grow for them. United States of America. We compete against China every day, and if they want to send some of their best and brightest and we can keep them, I’ll take them. What if someone from Mexico wants to come here because they want to be part of the Mavericks or one of my companies? Absolutely. I don’t consider that, well, there are Americans losing their jobs. When you have productive people, businesses grow and you hire more and more people. The problem is not that there is someone I am not hiring. The problem is, more often than not, you can’t find enough great people, so there’s room for both. As long as you do a good job of hiring, training, and supporting, and when you do that, the economy grows.
PRESIDENT BUSH: By the way, by reforming the system, the border is more secure. And that’s important for the people who are listening.
MODERATOR: So Dirk, we talked about the great value you’ve bought from the folks in Dallas and beyond, really. I wanted to ask you about the green card process. Many Americans don’t understand how difficult it is. Can you give us some information and talk about it?
NOWITZKI: It is definitely a long process. It’s a very thorough process and it can take years, but I’m very happy to be a green card now. I think you have to be a green card holder for five years and then you can get dual citizenship. Of course my family loves it here. It has been with us for a long, long time. My kids were born here, so we love Dallas, we love Texas and America, so this is where we will be.
PRESIDENT BUSH: You talk about dual citizenship and it’s really important that a guy like Dirk can fit well into this society, but he doesn’t have to give up his heritage and traditions. And you can be both, and that’s why the book is called Out Of Many One. We all bring different cultures, different histories, but we are one nation.