Personal note to George W. Bush: Wasn't that a great graduation ceremony last Thursday night? I know you are terribly proud of your daughters, Barbara and Jenna.

You probably remember Kristy Reyna -- she was the only one of the 400 Austin High graduates who was in a wheelchair. Kristy was the young woman with the million-dollar smile -- always reminds me of Magic Johnson's. That smile and the big thumbs up as she rolled across the stage lit up the whole Erwin Center. I think she got a bigger hand than your daughters. It was a lot harder for her. The entire Reyna clan was there, on their feet, cheering madly.

Kristy was born 21 years ago with spina bifida and has been through 10 operations to correct some of the effects of that birth defect. So it took her a little longer to get through school. Her mother is Hope Reyna, single mother of five, who supports her children by working as a housekeeper. (Let's hear it for Big Rudy, who kept up the child support and who was there to see their second-oldest child graduate.)

For many years, every year on Kristy's birthday, Hope got on the Greyhound bus and rode six hours down to San Juan to pray at the shrine there for a miracle for Kristy. Then she got back on the bus and rode six hours back to Austin. I believe that miracle came last Thursday night, when Kristy graduated high school.

Governor, I think you should know there is not one single thing you have ever done in public office that has helped the Reyna family. If you've ever wondered why I seem a little sour about your record, chalk it up to the Reynas.

I know you've helped the oil industry, and the insurance industry, and the funeral industry, and the herbal-diet industry, and the utility industry, and all those air polluters with your new voluntary clean-up program -- all those people who have given so generously to your campaigns. But everything you have ever done that touched the life of the Reynas has made it harder for them.

When Big Rudy wasn't working, the other kids had no health insurance. Kristy got Medicaid and SSI from the federal government. (The Republicans in Congress wanted the SSI taken away on the grounds that poor parents like Hope might have coached their children into "faking disability." You should come and see Kristy's "fake disability" some time.)

You wanted to keep 200,000 Texas children like the Reynas off the new federal children's health insurance program, even though it would hardly cost the state. But then, maybe you agree with your Health Commissioner Reyn Archer that health insurance isn't important.

You tried to make it harder for poor moms like Hope to apply for Medicaid for their kids. You got a tax cut for property owners, but Hope doesn't own any property -- she pays the same regressive sales tax everyone else does, but it eats a bigger proportion of her income. It's nice that the high-tech industry you favor has made Austin boom, but it's also made it impossible for people like Hope to buy a house and it has forced up rents.

And now, let's talk about something completely different. The New York Times ran the saddest story last week, about the Guatemalan squatters who are burning down the great rainforest in the Peten region in the north of that country.

Illegal loggers cut down the great mahogany and cedar trees while land-starved peasants torch what remains to clear the land for cornfields, reports the Times. Of course, the jungle soil is so poor they produce only two or three crops, then the squatters have to move on and burn more rainforest. All this is taking place in a national park, but it is protected only on paper.

The director of the Guatemalan Wildlife Conservation society said to the Times: "How can Guatemala prioritize conservation in the face of overwhelming pressure? When you're hungry for tomorrow, it's impossible to think 20 years down the road."

So, what's our excuse? As they say in AA, denial is not just a river in Egypt. Every year the reports on global warming get worse. Every year the evidence accumulates. Every year the forecasts get grimmer. The insurance industry, which can think 20 years down the road, knows what's coming. Even some oil industry execs are starting to talk about it.

But our government is following the lead of such great thinkers as Jesse Helms. The senator gets apoplectic at the thought of ratifying the Kyoto Accords to cut greenhouse gases. What an indictment of our ability to respond intelligently this is. And we have no excuse.

Molly Ivins is a columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. To find out more about Molly Ivins and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at COPYRIGHT 2000 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.