By Kaitlyn Tyra,
Although only an emerging Republican myself, I know that when Republicans have a chance to celebrate the legacy of Ronald Reagan, they will gather and celebrate. Not surprisingly, almost 200 students, local Republicans, and elected officials gathered last week for the annual Walker County Republican Party’s “Reagan Dinner,” to celebrate the legacy of the nation’s 40th president.
The event, held at the Lowman Student Center Ballroom on SHSU’s campus, featured a three-course meal, posting of the colors by the Cadet Color Guard from the Civil Air Patrol Sam Houston Composite Squadron, fine fellowship, lively entertainment from SHSU’s Jazz Band, and speeches by Congressman Kevin Brady and Dr. Jon Taylor, Chair of the St. Thomas University Political Science Department.
It was perhaps appropriate that Dr. Taylor was the keynote speaker, inasmuch as the event provided a political and community education for the SHSU students on hand, including myself and other members of SHSU’s Center for Law, Engagement, And Politics. With our seats sponsored by Representative John Otto and Senator Charles Schwertner, we were able to converse with and learn from legislative staff.
We also received a crash-course lesson on local community leaders. Republican County Chair Linda McKenzie welcomed us and the many elected officials that were on hand. District Judge Don Kraemer gave the invocation. Justice of the Peace Mark Holt (Pct. 3) led the US and Texas pledges. County Court At Law Judge Tracy Sorensen sat with students, and provided insight on the duties of a newly-elected judge. Other local elected officials on hand included: 10th Court of Appeals Justice Al Scoggins, District Judge Hal Ridley, County Judge Danny Pierce, District Attorney David Weeks, Sheriff Clint McRae, Tax-Assessor Collector Diana McRae, County Clerk Kari French, Justice of the Peace Janie Farris (Pct. 1), Justice of the Peace Mike Countz (Pct. 2), Justice of the Peace Stephen Cole (Pct. 4), and Constable Steve Hill (Pct. 3). For a group of students transplanted to SHSU, it was a welcome introduction to Walker County.
Congressman Kevin Brady provided a thorough update on the US Legislature, particularizing on the push to create middle-class jobs in the US and on Congress’s recently-passed legislation to allow for construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline.
Dr. Taylor, while keeping with the national theme, focused on Reagan’s Republican legacy and, especially, “his optimism, his utter faith in this nation and her people, and his belief that our best days…are always ahead of us.”
For students in their late teens and early 20s, it was an appealing message and an appealing evening. It was an evening filled with lessons on President Reagan, the responsibilities of elected officials, and enjoyable conversations.
The LEAP Center at SHSU is a bipartisan organization offering unique learning opportunities related to fine arts, history, civil rights, literature and, in particular, law, engagement, and politics. The students recently attended an event sponsored by the Harris County Democratic Party featuring Sissy Farenthold and former Governor Mark White, and will be touring Little Rock, Arkansas this week, with stops at Little Rock Central High, the Douglas MacArthur Museum of Military History, the Clinton Presidential Library and The Old Mill, the last surviving set of Gone With the Wind.