The Sam Houston Austin Internship Program kicks off each session with “Speaker Series,” and this week’s session placed double duty on the word “Speaker.” On Friday, the nine Austin Interns heard from three members of the House Speaker’s staff: Margo Cardwell (Counsel), Sydney Watts (Chief of Staff), and Cassi Pollock (Press/Media).
With lunch from Alonti’s (thanks to Malu Gonzales from TSUS for the recommendation), the students got two-hour overview of running a leadership office–as well as invaluable career advice.
Margo Cardwell emphasized the importance of discretion in the workplace, offering discussions of both office culture and the legal requirements of reporting office communications. She also explored the protections the Texas House offers against sexual harassment, and she offered the nine young women resources for addressing that issue, should they need resources. Cardwell then discussed her own career path, which involved an undergraduate degree in Washington, DC, law school at the University of Texas, and a series of legal/political jobs.
Without a master strategic plan to end up as Legal Counsel for the Speaker of the House, the jobs she chose made her both qualified and ideal for such a position. With six of the nine interns wanting to be attorneys, her advice was well received.
After serving as a reporter for several years for the Texas Tribune, Cassi Pollock now works as Press Secretary for Speaker Phelan. Pollock’s years covering politics and ability to write and communicate serve her well in her current role.
She emphasized the importance of writing skill for any office-legal-political job, a point echoed by Margo Cardwell. Pollock also underscored the need to stay true to your moral compass.
As a political reporter, she did her best to remain neutral and report the facts as she learned them and not to be swayed by her own–or others’–political leanings.
Sydney Watts has worked for two speakers, Bonnen and now Phelan, serving as the latter’s “Director of Administration.” She discussed basic management, tips for professional settings, tips for interns, and navigating the capitol.
One point she made was that no job is beneath any staffer. In fact, she pointed out that Margo might be “stocking the refrigerator” on one day, and the next she might be representing the Texas House in the court system. She highlighted the fact that the Texas House is one of the best places in the country for young people to work and to make a difference. In addition, she encouraged the interns to ask questions, particularly if (1) they were uncertain about something, (2) if they were curious, or (3) if they needed assistance with prioritizing tasks. For students in their first professional jobs with real responsibility, the advice was needed.
The students also had a chance to chime in, discussing what they’ve learned about things in the legislature, their biggest challenges, and aspects of Austin or the Texas Legislature they’ve found most interesting. Jessica Cuevas discussed the challenges of being an introvert and asserting oneself, Amor Sheffield discussed the challenges of being semi-introverted and having to speak to so many people in the Capitol all day long…
…and Breanna Demyers commented on the diversity of people from Texas’s 254 counties.
After the rewarding visit, we were able to take a photo in the House Gallery, with Ms. Cardwell and Ms. Watt (Ms. Pollock was, by this time, in a meeting).
It was a rewarding day for all of us, occurring in the midst of what is shaping up to be the most rewarding semester in our college careers.
One of the best friends to the LEAP Center is best-selling author Jeff Guinn. A former investigative journalist with the Fort Worth Star Telegram, Guinn is also the author of 25 books, both fiction and non-fiction. In fact, he is one of only 40 or so authors who has had both types of works on the New York Times Bestseller list. His latest is Waco: David Koresh, the Branch Davidians, and a Legacy of Rage, and it is a fascinating read.
The work focuses on the events leading up to the ATF’s “raid” on the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas in 1993, the extended “siege,” and the aftermath. The book explores the history of the Branch Davidian sect, touches on the institutional history of the ATF, and reflects in-depth on the failure that occurred. The failure was primarily one of preparation and communication, and the results were disastrous.
As a presenter, Guinn is a master, and we were fortunate to have some extra time to meet with him. Guinn met us for coffee a couple of hours prior to his BookPeople book discussion, and we were grateful for the chance to learn in a small-group setting.
Guinn is a wonderful storyteller, and we had two hours to discuss his work, his writing process, and the fascinating subjects he has chosen to write about.
Guinn was equally captivating inside BookPeople. Speaking to a packed house and working with a moderator we knew well…
…Guinn answered a series of questions from Professor Mike Yawn…
…provided some asides…
…and took questions from the packed house.
He also did a show-and-tell of sorts, presenting a self-published book by Cyrus Teed in the early 20th Century.
This book formed the basis for much of Koresh’s philosophy. As Guinn puts it: the book changed history. (As a side note, Yvette Mendoza was put in charge of the book that changed history, and was described for the rest of the evening as the “book lady,” the only time her name and book have been in the same sentence.)
Guinn even passed the book around the packed house, allowing the audience to see the origin of Koresh’s philosophy.
Koresh’s philosophy was largely intact prior to his assumption of the Branch Davidian leadership, but through his charisma, he was able to attract more than 200 devoted followers in the Waco “compound.” Koresh taught that “Babylon” (the government) would prompt a conflict, which would result in a temporary defeat for the Davidians. Ultimately, however, the Davidians, led by Koresh, would prevail in an afterlife and achieve immortality.
The audience enjoyed the hour-plus with Guinn, just as we enjoyed our three-plus hours with Guinn.
The book line wrapped around the store, and we joined in, getting our books signed.
Although we were in Austin, Guinn made us feel at home–quite the feat, since Guinn is from Fort Worth! It ended with warmth, and a promise by Guinn to come to SHSU.
The LEAP Center is very proud of five of the Austin Interns for participating in this event after a long day of work (thank you Jessica, Yvette, Morgan, Ingrid, and Ashlyn) and also very proud of Olivia Discon, Michelle Cardenas, Rachel Hill, and Daniella Luna for driving in from Huntsville (and driving back) to pursue a unique educational opportunity.
Continuing our pursuit of understanding Texas history and politics, we embarked on Tuesday, January 17 to the Texas Capitol to experience the gubernatorial inauguration. We arrived on the north side of the capitol building at around 9:15, which allowed us to secure spots to stand.
2023 Gubernatorial Inauguration
We started the morning by taking some photos and enjoying the view of the capitol building from our vantage point.
Meanwhile, Jessica Cuevas took photos from a closer vantage point, and Professor Yawn was perched in the media gallery.
There was, understandably, a heavy police presence for the event. There were State Troopers, police dogs, and even snipers viewing the inauguration atop an adjacent building.
At 11, the inauguration promptly began with the pledge of allegiance and the singing of The National Anthem by the two-time Grammy Award winner: Tanya Tucker, followed by introductions of such notables as Lee Majors.
Preluding the event, the nationally recognized Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band performed several songs including “Noble Men of Kyle,” and “Patton Theme.” The Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band is a military-style marching band and is the largest of its kind in the nation.
After an impressive introduction, we witnessed the inauguration of both Lt. Governor Dan Patrick and Governor Greg Abbott. Following this, each addressed the crowd with a speech that outlined each politician’s agenda for the upcoming legislative session.
Although there were notable differences in their speeches, both the Lieutenant Governor and Governor expressed their shared intentions to lower taxes, increase border security, and boost the Texas economy.
One thing that I personally enjoyed about the event was the diverse religious representation within the program. In all, we heard from three different religious figures: a Jewish rabbi, a Catholic bishop, and a Christian pastor.
After the ceremony, we were serenaded with more musical performances from the Texas A&M Singing Cadets and the University of Texas Longhorn Band who performed a beautiful rendition of “Yellow Rose of Texas”.
Following the formal inauguration, we gathered with the SHAIP interns, some alumni who are now in staff positions (including three Chiefs of Staffs), and even the President of Sam Houston State University!
All in all, attending this event allowed me to enrich my conceptual understanding of governmental proceedings by adding an experiential aspect to my knowledge. The richness of the environment, with drones, helicopters, protests of sorts, and similar scenes were unlike anything I had ever seen.
Although I have learned so much in the classroom, nothing can replace participation in events such as these.
Event: Media Relations
There is nothing like a surprise call from the media to concentrate a student’s mind. So, when Professor Yawn told us that KBTX had called and wanted to do a Zoom call, we were a bit nervous. What would we say? How should we sit? What questions would they ask us?
We soon found out. Tyler Hoskins from KBTX led the interview, and Lexi Gonzalez, Chief of Staff for Rep. Hubert Vo, was gracious enough to let us use her office for the interview!
The interview helped us reflect on the unique experience we have had, and also teach us a thing or two about speaking in complete thoughts short enough to be used on television. You can watch the whole video here
Event: Taste of Texas
Following the gubernatorial inauguration, LEAP students attended A Taste of Texas Lunch on Capitol grounds, where multiple restaurants from across the state showcase some of their most popular (and Texas-themed) dishes to inauguration attendees. Upon arrival at the event, we were immediately overwhelmed at the options available.
To get the most out of the experience, we split up to try different dishes.
Elaine and I headed straight to the Western Sky Steakhouse booth, where we were met with a delicious plate of steak and potatoes.
Other entrees we tried were the Country Line sausage and potato salad plate which Andrew described as a good mixture of “sweet and salty… with a little kick.” Olivia on the other hand had a Mongolian pork sausage with a side of potato salad. She described it as a “very fresh and light” dish.
While eating, the University of Houston Mariachi Band caught the crowd’s attention with their vibrant set. Cinthia Villareal and I appreciated the liveliness of the performance on such a formal event, and even got swept into a Conga Line!
This was a great way for the LEAP students to expand their palate and get a taste of Texas!
Event: Supreme Court Building
After attending the Taste of Texas, we walked over to the Clark Building, which houses the Supreme Court of Texas, to receive a tour from Justice Boyd. Upon arriving, we were greeted by the Director of Public Affairs, Amy Starnes, who gave insight into the history of the building. One of the things she shared with us was that the Supreme Court consisted of only 3 Justices until the people voted to expand the court to 9 Justices in 1945. She also pointed out former Justice Ruby Sondock’s portrait, the first permanent female Justice.
Upon Justice Boyd’s arrival, he reminisced about visiting the Sam Houston campus in 2017 and stated that LEAP is the “model program” for civic engagement in the State of Texas. He then shared some background to his life, first revealing that he got his undergraduate degree in Biblical Studies and was a youth minister in his young adult life.
While some may assume this degree isn’t beneficial to a law student, it was quite the opposite. Working to interpret scripture and applying it to the kids he was teaching every Sunday morning proved to help in interpreting the law and applying it to the cases he was working on. So, when his college roommate called and encouraged him to take an LSAT with him based on a conversation they had during their freshman year, he was well prepared.
In this same spirit, he gave us a piece of advice: Take the LSAT. Prepare as best you can, which is tough because the LSAT tests how you think, not what you know. Even if you are not sure you are interested in becoming a lawyer, you should just take it. You may bomb it, but at least you will know.
In fact, when he took his LSAT, he only told his wife, so that if he did in fact bomb it, only she would know. Then, he went further to say, to be noticed by those in power, “Be known from the beginning and every day thereafter as a problem solver.”
He then went on his path to Texas Supreme Court Justice. About 5-6 years into Justice Boyd practicing law, he became interested in becoming a judge, and in 1998, a seat had opened that the governor was going to need to fill. In a conversation with former Chief Justice John Cornyn, he told Justice Boyd:
1. If you apply, you are not going to get appointed;
2. If I am wrong, you are going to work your tail off for a year and a half and then not get re-elected, and;
3. Absolutely, you should apply because you are a young lawyer interested in public service.
Although he did not get the position in 1998, when John Cornyn was elected as Attorney General, he hired Justice Boyd as Deputy for Civil Litigation. Later, he worked on a case for Rick Perry, who hired him to do more legal work for him as well, which eventually led to him being his General Council.
Although Justice Boyd was not sure if he would enjoy working with former Governor Rick Perry, he explained that he grew to like and appreciate him. “If he walked in, you would love him,” he exclaimed. Next, he described how Rick Perry appointing him came as a shock to him, and how when he expressed his concerns about finances and politics, Rick Perry answered, “Jeff, God’s going to take care of the money, and I’m going to take care of the politics.”
Following this, Justice Boyd took us back to the robing room where all the Justices meet before Court and explained that this was a room where they talked about the weather or sports, ate breakfast, and even played pranks on their newest member from time to time.
He then showed us the closet where the robes were and explained that they were arranged by seniority.
We had the privilege to rank ourselves in seniority and march into the court…
Following this, we went to the Justice’s conference room where they discuss how they will rule on cases. While there, Director of Public Affairs, Amy Starnes explained that the walls were lined with chairs because the Justices allowed their law clerks to sit in on these conferences, which she believes makes them better lawyers. When asked why there was a portrait of former Justice Few Brewster, she smiled and said that it had been put there as a joke when Justice Devine was elected, as the two look remarkably similar.
After seeing two elected officials get inaugurated into office, it was an incredible opportunity to speak and learn from another elected official in power. As a part of our democracy tour, it is important to understand that the government is a multifaceted system in which each position plays a key role in policymaking. Thank you to Justice Boyd for the wonderful opportunity to speak with the LEAP students!
Event: Better Half
After a long day of exploring and touring the Capitol building, the LEAP students ended the day with dinner at a local restaurant, Better Half. For appetizers, we ordered some chips and queso and cauliflower tots. The chips and queso had a flavorful touch of chili powder that added an appealing look. The cauliflower tots were new to a lot of students at the table, but we enjoyed them more than we had anticipated.
For our entrees, we had a large variety of mixed flavors that included hot chicken sandwiches, chicken burgers, soba noodle soup, broiled halloumi, and crispy pork belly. Overall, the restaurant experience was great, and the food was “very robust in flavor” according to MaryBeth.
The restaurant had an impressive drink menu which piqued our interest. The lemonade, cinnamon cardamom latte, and a hibiscus tea were delicious!
With the sharing of stories and laughter at the dinner table, we ended another successful day in Austin.
We couldn’t leave Huntsville and SHSU on MLK Day without a bit of service, and so it was that at 6am, three students and Professor Yawn headed to downtown Huntsville. Our goal was to assist the Huntsville Lions Club in their flag project, the planting of approximately 250 flags across the community on major holidays.
This is a project the LEAP Center has assisted with for more than a year, but for the three students (Andrew Jeon, Elaine Morrison, and Michelle Cardenas), it was our first time to help, and it was worth it!
We had a chance to meet the Lions Club members, individuals from Veterans and Patriots, and, of course, to simply help out the community. It was a great group of people, and a great way to begin our trip to Austin, and our day.
LBJ Presidential Library
by Olivia Discon
Upon arriving in the lively city of Austin, Texas, LEAP students had the privilege to visit the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library. We were provided with a brief overview of the pivotal moments in the 36th President’s career, followed by an introductory film that preceded the self-guided tour.
The special exhibit we viewed was “Lady Bird: Beyond the Wildflowers,” which depicted a holistic representation of Claudia “Lady Bird” Taylor’s life. The room had artifacts from Lady Bird life and career, items such as inaugural outfits, embroidery, and letters.
However, the First Lady’s words were some of the most impactful aspects of the exhibition.
Elaine Morrison particularly enjoyed learning about Lady Bird’s college education.
Cinthia Villareal’s favorite part of the Presidential Library was–befitting Martin Luther King Day–the Civil Rights Exhibit.
Seeing as LBJ passed foundational policies ending segregation, expanding voter rights, and emphasized education to impoverished students, how could you disagree? It’s astonishing to learn how committed President Lyndon B. Johnson was to creating “The Great Society”.
Many considered President Lyndon B. Johnson to be an intimidating man in conversations. To pressure others into submission, he would give his infamous “Johnson Treatment”; an invasive lean by a 6’4″ man into the victim’s personal space.
Despite this assertive nature, Elaine Morrison noted in the interactive telephone conversations that Johnson especially respected his wife’s opinion and even let her lead the discussion–a stark contrast to his conversation with Senator Richard Russell.
The students were enamored of a replica of Johnson’s Oval Office on the 10th floor. Andrew was fascinated to view the exact setting (or a replication thereof) in which Lyndon B. Johnson served as President. Michelle Cardenas, MaryBeth Rayburn, and I were in awe of an anecdote from a staff member in which LBJ would sit at his replica desk and speak with visitors about his time as president.
There were, of course, dozens of other artifacts of note. The Bible on which LBJ was sworn into the Presidency following JFK’s assassination…
…a White House entry by the artist Marc Chagall…
…an interesting portrait of LBJ by Wayne Ingram…
…and of course, all the items that shed light on the many facets of LBJ the man, husband, and political giant.
It was a fun and educational tour, and for many, it was their first time in a Presidential Library!
Kayaking in Lady Bird Lake
by Andrew Jeon After the visit to the Lyndon B Johnson Presidential Museum, and changing our clothes, we stopped at Lady Bird Lake (it was a day of connections!) to Kayak. We met up with interning seniors, Ashlyn Parker and Morgan Dawson, and a Sam Houston State University Alum, Christian Bionat. As we rented our boats, and we checked out the river. It was a wide river, and intimidatingly deep. Michelle found it especially intimidating. We each paired off with one another to start kayaking: Elaine and Michelle, Cinthia and Olivia, and MaryBeth and me.
Looking all around me, I saw beautiful scenery. Behind me was Downtown Austin with dazzling skylines. In front of me, there were modern houses on the hills, as well as animals in the river, such as turtles, ducks, herons, and egrets.
At first, MaryBeth and I had trouble synchronizing our paddling, but with practice, we soon became proficient and caught up with others (and passed some, who never really got their synchronization down). In fact, we only saw Ashlyn and Morgan once, and we aren’t really sure they ever left the immediate vicinity of the dock.
Christian, however, showed his skill by going solo, at times literally kayaking in circles around us, and generally showing off…
…causing me to pout.
It was a beautiful evening, and a great way to cap our day that began with exercise in the form of flag planting. And like the flag planting, it led to an enjoyable time and the development of friendships.
As we reached the docks, everyone was satisfied with their kayaking experience, except for one person. Michelle, who was new to the kayaking experience, said that kayaking was a “scarring” experience and that she would never return. We doubted her words, however, based on her frequent smiles throughout the trip.
We all had a great deal of fun, and we posed for a final photo to preserve the experience.
Kerbey Lane Cafe
by MaryBeth Rayburn
After a kayaking trip down the Colorado river, LEAP students met back up with Ashlyn, Morgan, and Christian for a large dinner, which Christian very generously treated us to. After a lot of exercise over the course of the day, a large meal was called for!
And that’s what we got! For appetizers, we ordered queso, brussel sprouts and hummus. The queso had guacamole and pico de gallo in it, which gave it a fresh touch. The brussel sprouts were roasted and were delicious with an undertone of sweetness. We also enjoyed the savory and smooth hummus with pita bread.
For entrees, we had a nice variety, which included a buffalo chicken sandwich, chicken and pancakes, meatloaf, cheeseburger, turkey and avocado, green chile enchiladas, fried avocado tacos, and green chile macaroni and cheese.
It was a great way for us, as new students to the LEAP Experience, to reflect on the day and to learn from interns and former LEAP students. It was also great to hear about Morgan’s and Ashlyn’s experiences interning in the legislature–a move some of us may want to make in the future!
Despite the dreary weather, The Republican Party of Walker County , led by Chair Linda Mckenzie, went above and beyond to throw a special retirement reception for U.S. Congressman Kevin Brady.
Community members, City and County leaders and, LEAP Ambassadors braved the rain to witness a sentimental afternoon full of reminiscing on the accomplishments of Congressman Brady. The Walker County Storm Shelter was set up beautifully with refreshments catered by Farmhouse Cafe, and festive centerpieces made by party member, Alice Ellisor.
In the typical Walker County Republican Party fashion, Ms. McKenzie recognized all of the elected officials including those taking office in January.
Mayor Brauninger was first to speak on behalf of the City of Huntsville, accompanied by City Councilman Jon Strong. Mayor Brauninger commented on Congressman Brady’s years of dedication and service to the 8th US district, and presented him with a Proclamation.
County Judge Danny Pierce then presented a proclamation on behalf of Walker County. Judge Pierce thanked Congressman Brady for making his job easier and being great to work with.
Congressmen Brady has spent the last two decades serving his district and there is no better proof of that than his dedication to the H.E.A.R.T.S Veterans Museum. Executive Director, Tara Burnett and two board members thanked Congressman Brady for allowing Huntsville to be home to this one-of-a-kind Museum.
Yvette spoke on behalf of current and past LEAP Ambassadors who have all been immensely impacted by Congressman Brady. Various LEAP Ambassadors, including Ademide Adedokun, Justin Veillon, Brandon Reese, Christine Reese, Ariel Leaf, Christina Perez, and Brian Aldaco, have worked for Congressman Brady during his long career, and we (and they!) are grateful for the opportunities he provided. Moreover, Congressman Brady invited LEAP Ambassadors to the US Capitol and his Ways and Means Committee Room, where he unveiled a statue of Sam Houston (that was on loan from the SHMM).
(Editor’s Note: the LEAP Center is non-partisan, although it does work with officials of both parties to provide internships and other opportunities. LEAP Ambassadors include Republicans, Democrats, and Independents.)
(Pictures by Linda Mckenzie)
After many heartfelt thank you’s, Congressman Brady shared with the crowd some of his favorite memories while serving. He recalled that as long as he can remember, parades have always had a special place in his heart, which was further amplified when he took office. Over the next few minutes, Congressman Brady reminisced with the crowd about his favorite parades, the embarrassing, funny, and lessons-learned.
On behalf of the LEAP Ambassadors, thank you to the Walker County Republican Party for hosting an amazing event, and to Congressman Kevin Brady for supporting the LEAP center and serving our district well.
One of the highlights of the fall season is the Sam Houston Memorial Museum’s Annual Photo Contest. After seeing the quality of last year’s photos, we opted against entering any photos this year… But we were excited to see the photos, be back at our favorite museum, and otherwise appreciate the talent on display.
And so it was we ventured into the Walker Education Center to explore, meet old friends, and see who took away awards!
There were four categories: animals, people, architecture, and floral. Hundreds of photos were submitted by Huntsville’s local citizens, then judged by three photographic experts: Kaylin Booker, Paul Olle, and Derrick Birdsall–the latter is also the Museum’s Director.
The animal category is always popular, perhaps because everyone thinks their pet is photogenic, beautiful, and wonderful. Some, as it turns out, are at the very least, more photogenic than others. The winners were…
Animal Category: 1st Place – C. Buzzini 2nd Place – S. White 3rd Place – D. LeNorman
This year’s floral category also included some animals, in as much as animals–much like humans–are drawn to the beauty of nature’s creations and were included in some of the submitted photos in this section.
Floral Category: 1st Place – V. Lorine 2nd Place – E. Day 3rd Place – D. LeNorman
There was, of course, a people category as well.
People Category: 1st Place – D. Lee 2nd Place – C. Buzzini 3rd Place – E. Day
Finally, the architectural category was, in our opinion, the strongest.
Architecture Category: 1st Place – M. Litzmann 2nd Place Tie – S. White & V. Lorine
The judges also picked a best a “Reserve Champion” (A MacLaughlin) and a “Best in Show” (S. Adams).
There were various honorable mentions and curator’s choices that were also worthy.
In addition to all the photographs, we also enjoyed the chance to see old friends, and we want to congratulate them–and the winners–on another successful community photograph contest!
This past week the LEAP Ambassadors were happy to help–and recruit more help–KSAM radio with their annual “Make A Smile Happen” holiday gift drive for the community.
This drive encourages the local community to provide food items, pet supplies, cash, or toys, and these, in turn, go to one of six non-profit agencies: Santa’s Helpers, Huntsville Independent School District, Good Shepherd Mission, SAAFE House, YMCA, and the Rita B. Huff Adoption Center. It is timed, of course, with the holidays, in the hopes of being able to provide gifts, food, pet food, or other necessities to those in need, and LEAP was happy to help.
Although the tasks associated with assisting are not difficult, they are time-consuming. The drive spans two days: 6 am-6 pm on Wed, Nov. 30th; and 6 am-3 pm, Thu, Dec. 1, and we try to have four volunteers on hand at any given time. Some of the mornings were cold…
…and we were trying to recruit volunteers during finals, but given the importance of this cause, we were able to find sufficient volunteers and have fun helping others.
Our tasks were manifold:
(1) hold signs marketing the event to the high-traffic area on 11th street;
(2) help donors load and unload donated items from their vehicles;
(3) organize and count the items;
…and (4) come up with creative marketing tools.
And, of course, other duties as assigned.
We were better at some tasks than others.
Along the way, the students had the wonderful opportunity to meet and learn from new people: Tim Johnson, the station’s General Manager;
…radio personalities such as Bryan Reader, Glenn Edwards, and Carlos Zimmerman; and several sponsors and other volunteers.
In all, KSAM did a great job getting the word out, and we were happy to help. Our final count is 429 toys, 1,517 cans of food, $6,979.84, and 865 pounds of pet food.
It was a fun and productive two days, and we would like to thank all the volunteers who came out to help and the sponsors who assisted with overhead. And, of course, major thanks to KSAM who orchestrates this event every year!
A global leader of influence is recognized by the WAC as an individual who has helped the City of Houston to increase its status as an international city. This year eighteen business leaders were recognized and awarded:
. . . that’s seven more than were recognized in 2021!
Over the summer, the ambassadors nominated Professor Yawn for Educator of the Year and we were extremely pleased (but not at all surprised) to find out that he was selected!
Professor Yawn graciously accepted the award as the “International Professor of the Year.”
This was, in fact, the first-ever awarding of this recognition, and WAC Program Director, Ronan O’Malley, noted that “The council is truly fortunate to have Dr. Yawn so earnestly involved with the council; and we are delighted to have his bright and poised LEAP students take part in our events.”
Professor Yawn has taken students to more than 100 of the WAC events, ranging from tours of the Holocaust Museum, meeting Condi Rice, hearing from author David Brooks, learning from General Stanley McChrystal, to meeting heads of state.
Lastly, Greg Hill, President and Chief Operating Officer of Hess Corporation, was awarded the 2022 International Citizen of the Year for helping Houston become the energy capital of the world.
It wouldn’t be a World Affairs Council event without one of their remarkable speaker sessions, so after Mr. Hill received his award and while we ate the delicious meals we were treated to a dialogue between Mr. Hill and current House Minority Leader U.S. Representative Kevin McCarthy. Among other topics, they discussed our country on the international stage and how they each came to be where they are now.
Before we could finish our desserts (delicious mini cheesecakes with glazed berries on top) we found ourselves being ushered upstairs with the other students for something even more special: a small-group Q&A with Representative McCarthy and Mr. Hill. We all posed for a group photo before settling into our seats. The room was filled with students who had several questions for both speakers. Alas, time did not permit all questions to be asked. However, I thought that one of the best questions was what would be next on the agenda if Republicans took back the house and Rep. McCarthy was selected as Speaker of the House. His response: focus on our economy (property tax and inflation), a parent’s bill of rights, and much more.
Both Rep. McCarthy and Mr. Hill left us with some advice regarding our actions as aspiring leaders. The message from both men was to never give up—if we get knocked down eight times then we should get back up nine times. With the midterm elections right around the corner, they closed by impressing upon us the importance of young people like us getting out and voting.
As a nice extra, we also had a chance to meet Congressman Brady again. He was honored for his 20 years in Congress.
A big thank you and congratulations to the World Affairs Council staff for yet another successful Jesse H. Jones Luncheon! We look forward to attending many more of the Council’s events in the future. Lastly, thank you to Mr. and Mrs. Oyolu who sponsored our table, and to all other sponsors of student tables for allowing us the opportunity to attend this event! Finally, many congratulations to Professor Yawn for being the International Professor of the Year!