We woke up Saturday morning at 7:30, eager to begin the day’s activities. We soon left for the Southern Methodist University campus and, on the way, we were able to get a glimpse of the George W. Bush Presidential Library, which we were excited to see as our group will be visiting the library the next day. When we arrived at the at SMU’s Hughes-Trigg Student center we were able to enter and get acclimated to where we would be spending most of our day.
The New Politics Forum was hosted by The Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Life and the John G. Tower Center for Political studies at SMU. They were so kind as to provide participants with a complimentary breakfast array and time to socialize leading up to the first panel of the day.
Our group was the first to greet the event staff and we were able to meet many interesting students as they arrived. After enjoyable conversations, we were called to the first panel at 9:30.
On the first panel were three politicians, Representative Rafael Anchia, Representative Kenneth Sheets and Chancellor Lee Jackson, each providing unique perspectives. Rep. Anchia stressed knowing your constituents and being able to relate to them. Rep. Sheets centered his discussion on remaining true to yourself and what you believe in and not being beholden to others. Chancellor Jackson, a former State Representative, focused on professionalism, emphasizing the importance for young people to be well dressed and responsible on social media, but also by working hard and staying late. It was his easy going personality and his obvious breadth of knowledge and experience that made Chancellor Jackson the favorite of Brian, Coby and Zach.
The first panel was followed by the Keynote speaker, State Senator Royce West. He spoke of his work in the Texas Senate and shared his history that led him to elected office. Senator West engaged with the audience during his speech, speaking to each one of us directly at one point or another. He was inspirational and uplifting, and he spoke highly of the character, dedication and hard work it should take to be a public servant. The Senator’s speech was truly captivating.
After Senator West concluded we broke for a box lunch, making sure to sit with people we didn’t already know, to network, exchange business cards and make new friends.
The second panel was composed of consultant Carol Reed and Dallas Morning News reporter Gromer Jeffers, providing us the consummate “insider” and “outsider” perspectives. Both stressed taking advantage of opportunities. Ms. Reed particularly stressed loyalty and speaking your mind and Mr. Jeffers encouraged us to follow our passions while maintaining integrity. We were fortunate enough after the panel ended to have a short, personal discussion with Mr. Jeffers.
The last panel was the “We did it, so can you!” Alumni Panel, which consisted of SMU alumni Warren Seay, Kristina Kiik, David de la Fuente, and Johnathan Boos. During the Alumni Panel, Dr. Dennis Simon moderated as recent SMU graduates gave their personal insight into the field of politics. One NPF alumnus, Warren Seay, offered knowledge of his election to board president for the Desoto ISD school board at the age of 22, explaining that hard work, skill, and reputation play key roles in electoral politics.
The event was interesting, and provided us with the opportunity to see students from other schools. In some ways, these students are our competitors. In others, they are our partners. Zach struck a particular bond with a visiting member of the Dallas Young Republicans, Casey Bingham, a lawyer, who also graduated from Willis High School.
After the networking event, we ventured to Eatzi’s Market and Bakery for dinner, indulging in various entrees such as: lemon marinated grilled chicken, chicken curry potato salad, salmon croquette, and hummus. Dessert followed—various flavors of gelato (Italian ice cream) at Paciugo Gelato Café.
We then headed to the southern edge of downtown to see Dallas City Hall, built in 1978 by I.M. Pei. Pei designed the unique building in the shape of an inverted pyramid which appeared to lean toward the center of downtown, bringing the workers closer to the heart of the city. The building was commissioned to revamp the image of Dallas after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and it features one of the best views of downtown.
Moving down Flora St. we came to Pioneer Plaza which has a collection of metal cowboys and steer, depicting a cattle drive along the Shawnee Trail. These two stops concluded our long and educational day. After leaving the Plaza, we came back to the hotel to recoup and ready ourselves for our last day.