WAXAHACHIE — Resolutions are made every New Year by millions, possibly even billions, of people around the globe. Some succeed, many fall short, while others forget what it was they ever made a resolution to do in the first place. Then, there are those who have the means and drive to accomplish even the wildest of resolutions.
For a few hours Wednesday afternoon, Facebook was in the heart of Waxahachie as the social media founder and billionaire 50 times over, Mark Zuckerberg, checked the first stop on his “Year of Travel” off his to-do list.
After a few business stops and a court appearance in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, Zuckerberg set off to, in essence, ask the same prompt given to each of the approximately 1.7 billion users of his social media juggernaut: "What's on your mind?"
“He said today at lunch that one of his resolutions is that, while he has gone all over the world and met with all of these world leaders, he hasn’t really gotten to know his own backyard,” explained Ryan Pitts, son of former Texas State Rep. Jim Pitts. Both father and son were in attendance at Wednesday’s gathering. “So, he made a list of about 30 states that he has not spent much time in and, due to him doing the data center in Fort Worth and having offices in Austin, he decided that Texas would be his first stop.”
The first stop on his visit to the Gingerbread Capital was a tour of the Historic Ellis County Courthouse, led by Ellis County Judge Carol Bush. The group then crossed the street to have lunch at The Dove’s Nest, a Waxahachie staple well known for its white chili. There, Zuckerberg, Jim and Ryan Pitts, Bush, owner Cindy Burch, Southwestern Assemblies of God President Kermit S. Bridges, SAGU student James Lex, Waxahachie Mayor Kevin Strength and Waxahachie Councilman Mark Singleton indulged in good food and “really good conversation.”
“I think his intention was to go around and see how people are using technology in their everyday life and how we utilize technology here in Waxahachie, but it didn’t really go there,” said Pitts with a chuckle. “Mayor Strength and Councilman Singleton talked to him about Waxahachie and how we are really excited about the future, and that was kind of elaborated on. The one thing about Waxahachie [that was discussed] was that there is a real core group of people here and everyone wants to get stuff done.
"When the city and the citizens get a mission, everyone kind of gets behind one another. He asked what we would say our principals were in Waxahachie and Mayor Strength told him, ‘God, family and country’ and talked about how, even though we are growing, that we are still about family and this is our home, so we are going to make it our home.“
Lex, an SAGU student who is working on his MBA and an assistant director of media services for the university, said he was chosen to attend the lunch by Bridges because of his social media involvement with the SAGU Sports Network. During the meal, Lex said he was “awestruck” as he said directly across from Zuckerberg at the lunch table.
“We talked about a very wide range of topics, some were very ‘hot-button.’ We talked about Trump and Clinton, the view of Texans and how they thought of the presidential election,” Lex said. “I think Mark was very interested in that because of the way Ellis County is perceived as red but he was willing to listen.”
He then recalled one of the questions Zuckerberg asked involved the distrust some have with the media in general. It was at that point that Lex said he decided to interject.
“My main priority in that conversation was to simply listen because what do you tell someone who’s the fifth richest man in the world and controls probably the most powerful communication platform in the history of humanity? His goal and legacy will be uniting the world — what do you tell somebody like that? So he says to us, ‘There’s a strong indication that people don’t trust the media. Who do you think people trust?’ And I chimed in and said, there are two things,” Lex said. “One, where I volunteer with middle school and high school ages, they trust each other. So when there’s a disagreement or something they don’t know — they ask each other first. They don’t ask a parent, teacher, priest, or pastor. They ask each other. That’s who they trust.
“The second thing they trust is education. So if there is a social issue, which this age cares about, they care about professors dedicating their life to the field of study, and that’s where they derive their respect. When we discuss, it goes something like ‘my professor said, or this person spent their entire life studying this field, ’ and that’s what I’m basing it off of. He nodded and said, ‘yes.’ After it was all done, Mark came up to me, and he was like, ‘just wanted to say your ideas, I really agreed with them, and I think you’re on point.’ And I was like ‘thank you.’”
On his Facebook page, Zuckerberg described his trip down Interstate 35 while on his way back home to Palo Alto, California.
“[Today] I had lunch with community leaders in Waxahachie who shared their pride in their home and their feelings on a divided country,” Zuckerberg stated. “I met young moms in West who moved back to their town because they want their kids to be raised with the same values they grew up with. And I met with ministers in Waco who are helping their congregations find deeper meaning in a changing world.
“In many ways, I still don't have a clear sense of Texas. This state is complex, and everyone has a lot of layers — as Americans, as Texans, as members of a local community, and even just as individuals. But this trip has helped me understand just how important community is, and how we're all just looking for something we can trust.”
Zuckerberg concluded his post about his Texas travels by explaining that even though, as Americans, we all come with a different backstory, “we all want to find purpose and authenticity in something bigger than ourselves. Thanks to everyone who has shared their stories with me over the last few days. I'll remember this experience for a very long time.”
To follow along with Zuckerberg’s “Year of Travel,” visit www.facebook.com/YearofTravel.
*Additional reporting by Chelsea Groomer/WDL
Travis M. Smith, @Travis5mith