Saturday was the L.E.A.P students second day in Dallas. Each of us was up before sunrise to get ready for the central focus of our trip to Dallas, The New Politics Forum Careers in Politics at Southern Methodist University. We began by enjoying a complementary breakfast in the hotel lobby which included cinnamon rolls, cereal, fruit and even a pancake making machine!
We arrived at the SMU campus at 8:30 a.m. and began mingling with other program participants during the breakfast social.
The program consisted of several prominent speakers that would give advice to students about political and public service involvement as well as share their personal stories.
The first panel of speakers included Texas Representative Rafael Anchia, Texas Representative Kennith Sheets and Chancellor Lee Jackson. These distinguished public officials shared their stories of success along with their occasional frustrations working in government. Chancellor Jackson described his aversion to social media while Representatives Anchia and Sheets spoke of their succeess with social media in campaigning and re-election. When asked what each of their frustrations with policy making were, Representatives Anchia and Sheets bemoaned fundraising. However, Chancellor Jackson had a very different view. Chancellor Jackson, however, described some of the things he’d like to see enacted (e.g., professional salaries, annual sessions) as some of his biggest challenges.
Next, we heard from Senator Royce West, the keynote speaker. Senator West was very personable during his speech and never was there a dull moment! Senator West spoke of his career path and his journey to a Senatorial Seat. He opened the speech with a story about his college football coach. His sophomore year of college, he approached his coach and said. “Coach, I just don’t want to play football any more.” His coach began to get angry and said, “Royce, you’re never gonna amount to nothin’!” West was later elected president of Student Government and had to approve the football department’s budget. Before the football coach’s presentation, West said, “How do you like me now?” While his speech was funny and memorable, it also had purpose. He outlined four main points in his speech:
1. Try to work through the problem and work through it the best you can.
2. You can’t serve yourself and the public at the same time.
3. Listen and work with people ragardless of their political affiliation.
4. Most issues are geographical issues, not partisan issues.
He really strived to convey the message that being a public servant was not an easy path and has no room for self-interested thinking.
Next, a panel of media experts spoke about their experiences working within the political realm. The guest speakers were Carol Reed, President of The Reeds PRC and Gromer Jeffers, political reporter for the Dallas Morning News. Carol Reed worked on Senator John Tower’s campaign in 1976. She has also spearheaded “landmark” projects with American Airlines. Gromer Jeffers is originally from Chicago and he worked his way up the journalism ladder in Dallas, Texas. One of his first tasks as a political reporter was to cover Barack Obama’s presidency campaign.
After the media experts panel adjourned, the SMU alumni’s panel convened. The students included Warren Seay, President of DeSoto ISD Board of Trustees, Kristina Kiik, U.S. District Judge Royal, David de la Fuente, former President of Dallas County Young Democrats, and Jonathan Boos, President of Dallas County Young Republicans. The alumni discussed their experiences in the political world, both good and bad. They also shared a unanimous view that the best way for current college students to get involved in politics was to work on a campaign that we were passionate about.
After the Careers in Politics Conference, we enjoyed a lovely dinner at Eatzi’s. Eatzi’s has a wide variety of foods ranging from brisket tacos to chicken curry. The brisket tacos were delicious; however, they don’t compare to the brisket tacos at Farmhouse Sweets and Eats in Huntsville, Texas. Many of us became adventurous and tried new foods such as hummus, chicken curry and shrimp salad. After dinner, we ventured over to Paciugo Gelato Cafe for desert. There were so many flavors to choose from; however I chose peanut butter chocolate swirl. The gelato was unlike Blue Bell ice cream in so many ways! Gelato is much thicker, creamer and sweeter!
We concluded our night with two short pit stops. The first being Dallas City Hall. City Hall was built by I. M. Pei for 70 million dollars in the 1970s. It is an intriguing design, and made for a peaceful stop after a long day.
The building was constructed to allay the Texas heat, while also providing an intriguing design and a new image for a City known, at that time, as the home of Lee Harvey Oswald.
The second pit stop was the Dallas Pioneer Plaza Cattle Drive. The many statues of cattle depict authentic cattle drives in the south. There were seventy bronze statues of longhorns running through the park along with three bronze statues of cattle wranglers driving the herd. There are also beautiful water features throughout the Cattle Drive that help to add to the authenticity of the art.
In conclusion, today was a very memorable day! We learned a lot about politics from officials and experts that have been in the industry for quite a while. We were also able to expand our cultural knowledge and appreciation for Dallas, Texas!