Genius of Austin’s Jay Hormel is needed today to rebuild America

Shortly after I took a teaching job at Austin Community College, then Austin Junior College, in the mid-1960s, I was teaching B.F. Skinner’s theory of operant conditioning to a class. I told the students that Skinner’s formula can be applied to other things, not just rats. A student who was employed by Hormel Foods Corp. said, "I would like us to apply it to Austin and Hormel."

We did, and when finished the results showed that the community and company were outstanding in standard of living, quality of life, home ownership, and benefits and wages for workers.

I backed away from the details on the blackboard and asked, "Who is responsible for all this excellent achievement?" The student employed by Hormel said, "Jay Hormel did all that for Austin and the company, and he died over 10 years ago." I replied, "If he did all these remarkable things, then he was a genius and Austin has to be one of the most unique cities in the entire world."

Building upon this experience and learning more about the life of Jay Hormel in the years that followed, there is no doubt that Jay was a genius and Austin was a one-of-a-kind city. Today, Jay Hormel’s achievements are gone, destroyed by community leaders and others in the last 40 years, and Austin has become common with most all other cities in the country.

However, I believe there is a lesson in Austin for President Obama as he faces the huge and complicated task of re-building America. I think he can learn from the example of Jay Hormel as to how to define and shape his leadership. Therefore, I invite President Obama to come to Austin and study the genius of Jay Hormel and how he built the Austin community and his business into the best for the entire world to see and follow.


George Hillberg


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