On the Road and off to Lunch
On the eve of Sine Die and the end of the Texas legislative session, the LEAP Ambassadors made their way to Austin, Texas to attend the New Politics Forum’s annual Campaign Bootcamp event.
The Ambassadors, in an effort to expand their cultural palate, visit local food establishment while traveling. Accordingly, in San Antonio, we stopped for lunch at The Point Panaderia & Cafe, a Puerto Rican restaurant. We enjoyed various new sandwiches, such as the pineapple-laden Tropical Express, chicken with guacamole, tripleta, and plantains.
Puerto Rican food was not chosen randomly. Generally speaking, it fits in with the Hispanic culture of San Antonio, and more specifically, Yvette Mendoza–one of the Ambassadors–is half Puerto Rican.
Culturally enriched, we hurried to the Texas Supreme Court Building for our first big stop of the trip.
Supreme Court Tour with Justice Jeffery Boyd
When we got to Austin, the LEAP Ambassadors experienced an exciting and in-depth tour of the Texas Supreme Court building in Austin, which was graciously given by Justice Jeffery Boyd and arranged by Blake Hawthorne.
Our tour began inside the courtroom, where we socialized with Justice Boyd and learned about his past work as a Deputy Attorney General of Texas, general counsel for Governor Rick Perry, and his time at the Thompson and Knight law firm.
As we stood in the courtroom, we admired the familiar faces on the painted portraits all along the wall of former justices, including Robert Gammage, an alumnus and former Professor at Sam Houston State University.
Justice Boyd then took us through a “secret door” into the robe room, where all nine justices don their robes before they head to the bench. Justice Boyd then explained that almost everything the justices do, including the order in which they sit or hang up their robes, is dictated by seniority.
We then had the unique opportunity of sitting at the justice’s bench.
Justice Boyd was kind enough to take pictures with each LEAP Ambassador.
We proceeded then to the third floor, where Justice Boyd thoughtfully took us to see the justices’ offices, including his own.
Justice Boyd’s office has Abilene Christian University and Pepperdine Law School (his alma maters) merchandise, as well as a wall filled with law books. Just outside is a full-length balcony that overlooks the Texas Capitol.
To wrap up our tour, Justice Boyd took us across the hall to the conference room, where the justices deliberate about cases, and he showed us some additional spaces, and provided a wonderful explanation of the judicial process.
The tour was extremely informative to each one of our ambassadors, many of whom have hopes to either work on campaigns, run for office, or pursue a legal career.
On behalf of the LEAP Ambassadors, we truly extend our gratitude to Justice Boyd, and thank him for taking time out of his day to make our day one of the most memorable one with LEAP yet.
Campaign Bootcamp – Day 1
Despite the event being virtual this year for the second time, the LEAP Ambassadors were eager to kick off Campaign Bootcamp. The mission of the bootcamp is to draw out aspiring students who are interested in politics and would like to one day participate in or run a campaign by teaching the various aspects of the process. The main objective is that by the end of the event, students will be knowledgeable enough to have the opportunity to be hired on campaigns through skills they pick up and the connections they make.
At the beginning of the event, Cole Wilson welcomed us and introduced the first keynote speaker, Judge Krier, the county judge of Bexar County, San Antonio. Krier gave us a brief yet inspiring speech about the importance of civic engagement, then left to go vote in the San Antonio election.
We then began our first lesson: Campaign 101. Our instructor, Meagan Gardner, spoke about the vital and foundational facets of running a campaign.
In this session, we learned about what a campaign is, what is needed to win a campaign, and received a quick overview of the elements of a successful campaign.
Gardner was informative and passionate about the work done on campaigns, and even shared a few of her experiences. We then had the opportunity to ask questions related to what we learned, any advice, or further questions about her experiences. Three of us took advantage of this opportunity, and asked Gardner about her favorite campaign, her greatest challenge, and how she managed to continue to secure jobs after each campaign ended.
After this was the Voting 101 session with Matthew Hurtt, who opened the session by asking the participants to what experiences they have had with campaigns, if any. Within this session, we were taught how to seek out the right people to be involved in campaigns, and how to ensure such people follow through in participating through the election and beyond. Hurtt provided us with a new perspective on how to study demographics such as political affiliation, age, and voter turnout, as well as how to apply our understanding of those demographics to shaping and delivering our message. The key takeaway was to develop personal relationships with voters and volunteers to increase their dedication and engagement within the community.
The event concluded with an introduction to our group members and some time for us to socialize and network, then we broke for dinner. We are very grateful to all of the speakers who joined us today, and we can’t wait for Day Two!
Upon completing our first day of the Campaign Bootcamp, the LEAP Ambassadors had dinner at another local establishment, a LEAP go to: Kerbey Lane Cafe. The restaurant has a diverse menu, which often makes it ideal for a group of students with diverse tastes (and exposure to food), and they also have a seasonal menu, with many ingredients at their prime in the summer. At this late hour, we weren’t particularly adventurous, but we did enjoy their great “Kerbey Queso,” the Greek Chicken…
…and a few more treats to cap our day.
With dinner over after 10pm, and blogs to write, and a campaign to work on, we called it a night, retreated to our rooms, and began burning the midnight oil.