William McKenzie is editorial director for the George W. Bush Institute, where he also serves as editor of The Catalyst: A Journal of Ideas from the Bush Institute.
Active in education issues, he co-teaches an education policy class at SMU’s Simmons School of Education and Human Development. He also participates in the Bush Institute’s school accountability project.
Before joining the Bush Institute, the Fort Worth native served 22 years as an editorial columnist for the Dallas Morning News and led the newspaper’s Texas Faith blog. The University of Texas graduate’s columns appeared nationwide and he has won a Pulitzer Prize and commentary awards from the Education Writers Association, the American Academy of Religion, and the Texas Headliners Foundation, among other organizations. He still contributes columns and essays for the Morning News and The Weekly Standard.
Before joining the News in 1991, he earned a master’s degree in political science from the University of Texas at Arlington and spent a dozen years in Washington, D.C. During that time, he edited the Ripon Forum.
McKenzie has served as a Pulitzer Prize juror, on the board of a homeless organization, and on governing committees of a Dallas public school. He also is an elder of the First Presbyterian Church in Dallas, where he lives with his wife and their twin children.
Related Articles and Resources
The Essentials of Making Presidential Decisions: A Q&A with Keith Hennessey
"Every decision that gets to the President’s desk is a hard one. If it’s an easy call the President never sees it because his advisors agree on the easy answer."
The Catalyst: Growing the Middle Class with Skills
We hear plenty these days about factory jobs being lost, but what about equipping workers for jobs that require such modern skills as using a computer on the plant floor? The New York Times and the Hechinger Report each recently ran stories on this challenge. The Times noted that "Yet rarely discussed in the political debate over lost jobs are the academic skills needed for today's factory-floor positions, and the pathways through education that lead to them." Perhaps, but the pages of The Catalyst: A Journal of Ideas from the Bush Institute are filled with proposals for gaining those skills. Anne Humphrey, director of the Bush Institute's Education Reform Initiative, explains in her Catalyst essay that high schools need to think of graduation as the starting line for students, not the finish line. For one thing, high school graduation may not translate into mastery of key subjects. Here’s how Humphrey puts it: What is a diploma worth if so many students
Presidential Leadership Scholar Nicole Isaac on Americans’ Shared Identity
This week, the first meeting of the third class of Presidential Leadership Scholars is being held in Washington, D.C. The goal of the program, which is a partnership among the presidential centers of George W. Bush, William J. Clinton, George H.W. Bush, and Lyndon B. Johnson, is to equip Scholars with the skills to become effective leaders. One essential skill is being able to develop practical solutions for both national and local challenges. Clearly, one of the nation’s most pressing challenges is moving beyond our current clash of values. Presidential Leadership Scholar Nicole Isaac, a member of the second PLS class, takes on this challenge in the latest issue of The Catalyst: A Journal of Ideas from the Bush Institute. She writes that we cannot forget the shared identify that unites Americans. No matter how may differences we might have, our identity is wrapped up in a common belief in freedom of speech, freedom from tyranny, and majority rule, among other values. Isaac is
State of Our Cities: Hispanic reading scores show some progress but not enough for success beyond high school
The progress of Hispanic students is really crucial for the progress of big states like Texas and California but also for a growing number of states. Their mastery of key subjects like math and reading will determine not only their own economic mobility but also the economic vitality and future leadership of cities like Dallas.
What’s Next: Policy Recommendations from the Bush Institute
Stabilizing the world. Growing the economy. Encouraging innovative leadership. These challenges are front and center as the nation prepares for a new administration and Congress. In a two-part series of recommendations, the George W. Bush Institute is offering solutions for the next four years in each of these areas.
A Conversation with Gov. Mitch Daniels
Freedom of speech appears in the First Amendment, and at the front of the First Amendment, for a reason. It ought to be the presumption, particularly in higher education, that speech should be protected except in the most extreme circumstances. Our basic rule of thumb at Purdue is that we will consider punishing conduct but never mere words. We may condemn or disassociate but we won’t punish yet alone try to prevent speech from occurring in the first place.
Enhancing the Economic Vitality of our Neighborhood
This morning, President George W. Bush opened an economic conference hosted by the North American Strategy for Competitiveness (NASCO) with a reminder that growing jobs, closing wage gaps, and strengthening small businesses in the U.S. depends on the continued success of free and fair trade. “How do we make sure that our country is economically competitive in the world and that Americans are able to get a good job at a good wage? By making sure that the environment is right for investment and the environment is right for the growth of small businesses,” said President Bush. “It’s really important for the American citizen to understand that it’s the small business person who benefits from trade, and the entrepreneur benefits when he or she is able to find new markets.” As one example, the President explained that workers in trade-intensive industries earn 18 percent more than workers in industries not related to trade. He also obse
State of Our Cities: Why Improving Algebra Completion Rates Matters for Hispanic Students and the Economy
The progress of Hispanic students is undoubtedly one of our top domestic challenges, if not the most important one in states like Texas and California. Hispanics make up more than half of the student population in our two most populous states. What's more, the most recent data from the Pew Research Center shows that states like South Dakota and Tennessee also have growing Hispanic student populations. Growth in the nation’s Latino population overall has slowed over the last few years. Still, Latinos accounted for 54 percent of America's population from 2000-2014. For these reasons, and their implication for the future, I have been interested in students like Jannet Barrera, the Texas A&M graduate who now is working on her master’s with the hope of earning a Ph.D. The success of students like Jannet, who is the first in her family to attend college, will influence the type of leaders, doctors, educators, engineers, and innovators the nation will develop over at l
Victor Cha on America's Role in Asia
This is an admittedly complex landscape. There are power rivalries and unresolved histories, but there also is prosperity.
Discussing North America
On Monday, President and Mrs. George W. Bush hosted a dinner for policy makers, business executives, and Bush Institute leaders to discuss North America becoming an even greater economic powerhouse.
We Need to Keep North America Working
It may be fashionable to question the relationships across North America, especially the U.S. relationship with Mexico. But the reality is, North America works.
Preparing 21st Century Workers
This series of commentaries and analyses, which come from leaders and experts in the Bush Center’s Domestic Excellence Center, shows how workers as well as communities can become more prepared for the transitions that await them.
Helping Workers in Cities Make Transitions
The Bush Institute talks with Benjamin Rand, associate vice chancellor of the Tarrant County College District, about how workers and cities can make transitions.
What We're Reading: A Case Against Protectionism
Agustin Carstens, governor of the Bank of Mexico, discusses the economy in the Financial Times.
What Happened to the Issue of Debt?
We should be glad that the annual budget deficit has declined substantially as a percentage of the gross domestic product. The deficit was 2.5 percent of GDP in 2015, as compared to 10 percent in 2009. The GDP comparison matters because it shows whether the deficit is a drag on the economy. A low percentage generally shows it is not. But what we should worry about is that the federal debt continues to go unaddressed. The debt, which is the accumulation of our annual deficits over time, now stands about $19.4 trillion. (You will hear people talk just about the public debt, which is the portion of the debt that is borrowed from the public at large, but does not include money borrowed from the trust funds for Social Security and Medicare. The 19.4 trillion figure includes those government trust fund borrowings.) GOP House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., continues to warn about the dangers of that large number and the pressures that keep driving it upward. But otherwise the t
Why Leadership Matters
We will need plenty of leaders who know how to build consensus if we are going to deal successfully with such domestic challenges as poverty, race, and income inequality.
Data: A Parent’s Friend
Despite complaints about testing in schools, information from reliable, independent exams can be a boon for parents.
Oscar Biscet Talks with the Bush Institute about Cuba’s Future
The whole world knows that there is a totalitarian dictatorship in Cuba that violates the most elementary human rights. This medal will make people look at these issues. That is its symbolism.
Dallas/Fort Worth Leaders Head South for Opportunity
The fact that Dallas' Mike Rawlings, a Democrat, and Fort Worth's Betsy Price, a Republican, went looking for markets for Texas products and investment dollars for Texas firms runs counter to what we are seeing and hearing this election year.
The Catalyst is Launched
The Bush Institute launched its new digital publication, The Catalyst: A Journal of Ideas from the Bush Institute, with an event this week at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.
Teamwork Matters in the Making of a Great Principal
There is much we don’t know about education, but this much we do know: Dynamic principals drive student achievement. Stand-out leaders...
Principal Leadership: The Instructive Journey of Katie Lundgren
This week, Katie Lundgren begins her second year as leader of Marie Reed Elementary School in the Adams-Morgan section of Washington, D.C. She...
The Dalai Lama’s Realistic Message
It's tempting to dismiss the rhetoric of religious leaders when they laud ideals like the common humanity of all individuals. The comments may...
Baseball and Society
“Baseball is our national pastime.” Calvin Coolidge was the president who put those words together. But the nation’s 30th...
Mexican trucks are finally coming, but will our roads be good enough?
The U.S. Department of Transportation brought some good news Friday to the cause of open markets across Mexico, the United States and Canada. The...
Joseph Kim: A Story of Human Rights in North Korea
Twelve years ago, the trajectory of Joseph Kim's young life gave no earthly hint that the North Korean boy would end up a university student in...
What Happens in College Also Affects the Immigration Debate
We often think of the immigration debate in terms of border crossings, guest workers and the status of illegal immigrants. But there is another big...
Here’s How to Keep Fracking Alive and Conserve Water
The way Brent Halldorson sees it, the debate over hydraulic fracturing is offering up a false choice. In states like Texas, Colorado and New York,...
Yellow Lights are Flashing
The Texas Education Agency reports that Latino graduation rates hit their all-time high of 85.1 percent in the 2013-2014 school -year....
Note to Texas and Other States: Countries on the Make Are Dead Serious About Testing
This blog originally appeared on Huff Post Education Blog.Some Texas superintendents are flexing their muscles again. Last year, a passel of them...
The Hard, but Necessary Work of Growing Great Principals
Early one morning this winter, three future principals bundled up for a ride-along with Mike Miles, the Dallas school district’s...
25 years after Tiananmen Square, religious freedom in China remains elusive
This post originally appeared on CNN's "Belief Blog". ...
America 2025: How to Start Securing Enough Water
This post originally appeared on Huffington Post Impact. ...
Dallas ISD’s teacher of the year demonstrates winning formula for engaging students
This post originally appeared in the Dallas Morning News.Chatter is the first thing you notice in Josh Newton’s class at Townview High...
America’s schools are where immigrant students enter the larger culture
America’s rapid demographic change is one of the most important elements in the nation’s modern narrative. ...
Dallas Superintendent Mike Miles on running a big urban school district
Mike Miles is about to finish his second year as superintendent of the Dallas Independent School District. The district of nearly 160,000 students...
English language learners: Q&A with Sharon Vaughn
One of the most significant challenges in states like Texas and California is making sure their large number of immigrant students receive a...
Maximizing North America’s Economic Potential
This week, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation held an event at the George W. Bush Institute to discuss North America’s growth potential....
Can We Make This the North American Decade?
There was a period in the 1990s when the world was focused on Europe as a major economic power. The continent was integrating through the European...
Universities as agents of change
A question has been replaying in my mind ever since Tuesday’s meeting of Texas university leaders here at the Bush Institute and SMU. I...
Martha Dominguez Understands the New America and the Need for Academic Rigor -- Will the Rest of Us?
This post originally appeared on Huff Post Education.Martha Dominguez is my new hero. Really. And Texas ought to be listening to the El Paso...
Highlights from the Convening of Texas University Leaders by the Bush Institute and SMU
Here are some takeaways from panel discussions the Bush Institute and SMU hosted Tuesday with university leaders from around Texas:First, when we...
Expanding Free Press in a Closed Society
Normando Hernandez is a Bush Institute fellow in human freedom and an independent journalist. In his latter role, he provides alternative sources...
What’s Next for Dealing with Post-Traumatic Stress?
The central question going forward from yesterday’s summit on veterans issues at the Bush Institute is this: How do we get to the point in...
Students, schools and taxpayers alike could benefit from an annual review of a campus’ productivity
Charles Miller is the godfather in Texas, if not the country, of the growing school of thought known as educational productivity. The Houston...
Michael Podgursky on Reforming the Compensation of Educators
In this video, Michael Podgursky takes his expertise in the economics of education and applies it to how educators are compensated. Podgursky, who...
Sandy Kress on how states can help school districts become more productive
The George W. Bush Institute has commissioned a series of scholarly papers examining the productivity of school districts. In short, how much bang...
The Productivity for Results Series
The way of the world these days is for large organizations to work more efficiently, using technologies, data and goals to produce their goods and...
Economic Growth and Managing Resources Go Together
Former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson told a Bush Institute audience this week that he is now working on initiatives that promote sustainable...
Why keeping standards high will help The New America
Here are three important facts to consider:At least half the students in California's public schools are Hispanic;Just over half of the...
Movin’ on up the Economic Ladder
The most intriguing story of the last few days was the one about how it is as possible now for a child to move into the top 20 percent of income...
Should Washington Lift the Ban on Crude Oil Exports?
It’s hard not to pick up a paper today and read about America’s energy boom, whether from shale gas or crude oil.As one example of the...
Note to Suburban Parents: Annual Testing Can Help You Know if Your Child’s Teacher is Adding Much Value
No question here: Suburban parents got the ear of Texas legislators last year and persuaded them to start rolling back the state’s once...
The dirty little secret is that accountability can help suburban schools, too
This weekend I was with a friend who talked about the blizzard of tests that her child must take in the Dallas school district. She is a really...
Religious Intolerance’s Impact on Human Freedom: Q&A with Douglas Johnston
Douglas Johnston is president of the International Center for Religion and Diplomacy in Washington. A U.S. Naval Academy graduate, Harvard...
We all want our kids to get ahead, right?
There is probably not a parent alive who doesn’t want to see their child or children move ahead. They want to see them find their strengths...
Without Enough Water, You Can Forget Much Economic Growth
The Wall Street Journal ran a story earlier this month detailing how California is getting hammered because of the drought drying up the Golden...
Yes, Accountability Matters, and it Matters for Students, Teachers and Principals
This post originally appeared on HuffPost Education.Twelve years later, where are we?That's the question surrounding the school accountability...
Well, Yes, You Can Be Green and Grow
The Boston Consulting Group released a study late last month that shows just how much natural gas production can impact American families. ...
After a raucous election year, and the beginning of a new administration, what should happen now?
Views on North America from the Governor's Mansion to the White House
Growing up in Texas and then becoming its governor before being elected the 43rd President of the U.S., George W. Bush has spent his life in the center of North America. He reflects on his personal relationships and those of the U.S. with our North American neighbors.
A Stable North America Translates into Greater Security
Canada has long enjoyed a prosperous relationship with the United States. But former Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird watched North America as a whole grow in strength and security because of free trade on the continent.
A Portrait of Presidential Leadership
Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer Jon Meacham talks about presidential leadership with William McKenzie, editor of The Catalyst.
The Raging, Trading Pragmatist
Ron Kirk describes himself as a pro-business, pro-trade Democrat. As U.S. trade representative in the Obama administration, he helped broker the Trans-Pacific Partnership. But as the mayor of Dallas, Kirk watched a newly-signed North American Free Trade Agreement have a significant impact on the region.
Foreign Policy Starts in the Neighborhood
Over the past four decades, George Shultz has had a unique perch from which to watch the North American continent grow in prosperity. But while North America stands as a global powerhouse, the former secretary of state reminds us that we still have room to grow.