Being a LEAP Ambassador, I am accustomed to making the most of my experiences, and that has been true in my first six weeks in Austin as a member of the Sam Houston State Austin Internship Program. This program has allowed me to not only learn more about the inner workings of the Texas State Capitol but to learn more and explore the city of Austin! With a great array of options to choose from what to do in Austin, I am glad I chose activities that showed me Austin’s beautiful landscape, fresh and homemade foods, and unique artwork!
First, there is no better way to grasp the beauty of Austin than on top of Mount Bonnell. A popular attraction since 1939, Mount Bonnell is perfect for tourists, and locals alike. Before walking up the mountain I found out I was about to be 775 feet up above sea level, which may sound frightening for those afraid of heights, but the view over Pennybacker Bridge, glistening skyline, and Colorado River makes it completely worth it. Not only was I able to enjoy this breathtaking view but I was able to bring a special guest to come along, my dog, Pupito.
Many people would agree that Sunday afternoons are perfect for farmers markets. I took advantage of this and learned that the farmer market scene in Austin is unparalleled! After going to Texas Farmers’ Market at Mueller I will make it a point to visit a lot more during my time in Austin. This Market was filled with Austin’s locally owned businesses that sold fresh vegetables, food, jewelry, and bar soaps–all while live music is performed! It was a lively event on a beautiful day in Austin. As I walked through the crowd, I quickly spotted Lamb Gyro’s at Lamba’s Royal Indian Foods, and I knew I couldn’t pass it up. The food was delicious, and the open grassy area made me feel very welcomed.
Last, it was a great idea to take a self-guided tour of UT Landmarks Austin’s key works of art (I have already visited the Blanton a couple of times) Learning about the story behind each art piece is truly fascinating. My favorite was the Clock Knot by Mark di Suvero. The Clock Knot sculpture is very interactive and it changes meaning every direction you take to look at it from a different angle. On one side it looks like a clock, but once you walk underneath it, it is interpreted to mean something completely different. I also was able to see other unique and famous pieces such as Nancy Rubins, Monochrome for Austin, and Deborah Butterfield’s, Vermillion!
Living in Austin has opened my eyes to more nature, food, and art! I would not be able to explore to this greater extent without the SHAIP. This was only the beginning of my exploration through Austin and I cannot wait for more adventures!
While the “LEAP” in the LEAP Center stands for “Law, Engagement, And Politics,” the Engagement component of that mission is interpreted broadly. It includes engagement with multiple disciplines: civil rights, history, policy, and the fine arts. If it’s a learning opportunity, it probably falls under LEAP’s purview, and this past Saturday, it included the musical Chicago, at the Hobby Center.
Prior to the musical, we had dinner at La Fisheria, which provided a new experience with food. Olivia had the salad; Daniela had the fish; Michelle had a type of ceviche, with shrimp, scallops, and peppers; Professor Yawn and Stephanie split the tacos (fish and lobster). In addition, we all split some appetizers: poblano dip, empanadas, and guacamole.
It was a great dinner, while also being reasonably close to the Hobby Center.
Chicago has an interesting history, birthed from an actual event in the 1920s, turned into a (non-musical) play, made into a movie, turned into a musical fifty years later, and then revived in the 1990s–a revival that has turned it into the longest-running musical in history.
It was our first time to see it, although Professor Yawn and Stephanie have seen it multiple times. The plot involves a woman who kills her lover, is arrested, and with a lawyer’s spin, becomes a media sensation. As aspiring attorneys, the play was an entertaining satire on the law, the media, and the American concept of justice and celebrity. Moreover, the musical was both funny and entertaining.
We all had different favorites, but “All that Jazz,” “Cell Block Tango,” and “Razzle Dazzle” rated highly. The production was strong but not elaborate and the dancers were amazing. At least one of us had not been to a play before, at least not as anything resembling an adult! It was, in short, a wonderful theatre introduction and a great experience!
One of the hidden jewels of Huntsville is the Josey Scout Lodge, which serves as a home to the Huntsville units of the Boy Scouts of America and the Girl Scouts of the USA. The structure was built in 1934, and for almost nine decades it has graced the Huntsville community.
But for the last two years, it has also served as home to “Chilly at the Lodge,” a fundraiser and fun-raiser for the community.
The core aspect of Chilly at the Lodge is a national chili contest, with contestants from across the country bringing their best chili-game to Huntsville, TX.
It’s a competitive group, too: seven of this year’s applicants are national chili champions.
Karla Christian is the logistical manager and all-around workhorse behind this event, but it receives much help from others as well: Gene Roberts, Tom Rogers, Leanne Woodward, and numerous volunteer judges.
The presence of familiar faces reinforces the community nature of the event.
The presence of entertainment, some local, some more distal, adds variety and fun. And the presence of the world’s best chili-makers adds–literally and figuratively–adds spice to the event.
Speaking of which, the winners for Saturday’s event were:
For People’s Choice, the Saturday finishers were: (3) Mac Walker, (2) David Gray, and (1) Scott Williams.
For Community Youth, the Saturday finishers were: (3, tie) Michelle Rush, (3, tie) Carson’s Mill, (2, tie) Spice Men, (2, tie), Chili Dogs, and (1) East meets West.
For Community Adult, the Saturday’s finishers were: (3) Glenn Frey, (2) Wesley Campus Ministry, and (1) David Gray.
Salsa: (3) Mary Parker, (2) Scott Williams, and (1) Mac Walker.
Chili Verde: (3) Chuck McCory (who generously donated his winnings back to the Josey Lodge), (2) Louis Gonzales, and (1) Mary Parker.
Homestyle: (3) Kelly Walker, (2) Roger Folks, and (1) Barbara Herron
Red Chili: (3) Brandon Marshall, (2) David Lazarus, and (1) Roger Foltz.
The event brought some great entertainment to Huntsville, gave some chili cooks a chance to show off their skills, allowed the community to come together for a good cause, and, of course, raised some funds for the non-profit Josey Scout Lodge, making it a winner of a weekend!
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.
The “team of teams” concept of the LEAP Ambassadors was on full display Tuesday, as each Ambassador led a team to different events. Jessica Cuevas went to “State of the City,” Yvette Mendoza led “Beyond Bars,” and I coordinated a team to see Ambassador Nikki Haley at a World Affairs Council event. With us were: Ashley Kinyon, Riya Prasad, and Ingrid Cuero.
The event was tailored around her book titled If You Want Something Done, and the rest of the evening fit that theme.
CEO, Maryanne Maldonado, gave a brief introduction and thanked everyone for attending.
She then introduced the moderator for the evening, Co-Owner and Global CFO of Houston-based Worldwide Oilfield Machine (WOM), Rani Puranik.
Puranik began the evening by reading directly from Ambassador Haley’s book. In her book, Ambassador Haley describes feminism as “working hard and proving you deserve to be in the room.”
The book is about women throughout history, some names are widely known, others not so much. Ambassador Haley connected these women with one attribute: courage. Each woman in her book took a stand for what they believed in, even if it scared them. This is something that Ambassador Haley came to live her life by; she makes efforts to do something, even if it scares her.
The conversation then drifted over to her time as the 29th U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. Slightly as a joke, but also very true, Ambassador Haley compared her time at the U.N. to high school with the cliques. She said everyone “hung out with” those from similar countries and didn’t mingle much outside of that. Ambassador Haley stated proudly that she made efforts to host a monthly dinner and invite Ambassadors from every country; she especially made efforts to invite those with opposing views.
She gave old, but sound advice, to keep your enemies close and learn about them as much as possible. Ambassador Haley said her goal quickly became to listen, and attempt to understand opposing points of view. Negotiations were made much easier when there was a rapport to work from.
After the event, Ambassador Haley was nice enough to take a photo with us, and, keeping with the theme of the event, she encouraged all of us (all women) in our endeavors.
On behalf of the LEAP center, thank you to WAC for being such gracious hosts, and allowing us fantastic opportunities. Thank you to Ambassador Haley for your service to the country, as a Governor and Ambassador.
Dinner at Bawarchi Biryanis
Indian food is quite different than what I am used to, but I was excited to try something new with the LEAP Center! At Bawarchi Biryanis, we started with veggie samosas, paneer samosas, garlic, and regular naan. The garlic naan was the group favorite, but Riya loved the samosas and said they were very similar to what her family makes.
I had a Veg Dum Biryani, which included a mixture of rice, vegetables, and a variety of seasonings. The rice was a bit too spicy for my liking, and Riya informed me that it might not be the best starter dish. However, I am grateful to have had the chance to try new food!
Morgan and Riya both had curry-based meals; Morgan had the Saag Panner, and Riya had a Chicken tika. They both loved their selections!
Stephanie had the Aloo Gobi Malala, which is potatoes and cauliflower cooked in Indian spices, and Ashley had the Chicken Lollipops.
Everyone loved their meals and enjoyed trying what everyone else selected.
Following an eventful first day of interviews and new connections, the LEAP Ambassadors were excited to hit the ground running with the 2022 Texas Tribune Festival!
Texas State Capitol
Our Friday morning began with a trip to the Texas Capitol, where we met with the Chief of Staff for Senator Bryan Hughes, Cody Terry. (Senator Hughes represents the Tyler area, where Morgan is from!) During our time with Mr. Terry, we got a surprise visit from Senator Charles Schwertner’s former Chief of Staff, Tom Holloway. We were also lucky enough to meet Caroline Harris, who, after winning the primary (congratulations!), will compete in the general election for her own seat!
Between welcomed and insightful interruptions, Mr. Terry shared a few words of wisdom regarding internships applicable to any office.
He advised us to find something we are interested in and run with it.
We also met with Scott Jenkines, Chief of Staff for Representative Armando “Mando” Martinez who represents the Valley (District 39). Mr. Jenkines gave us a more technical overview of the innerworkings of the Texas House.
From both chiefs we learned about how different offices and committees work, and what members look for and expect from interns. We were grateful to have been able to sneak some questions in, and we are very thankful for the opportunity to have met with them and learn more about the legislative session. It was a great start for our day, which we soon followed with a trek down to the Paramount Theatre for our second Texas Tribune Festival session!
This session was actually two-pronged. We had the opportunity to experience Austin’s stunning Paramount Theatre, a historic Art Deco structure built in 1915.
The second was, of course, the session topic: a One-on-One with former Secretary of State and 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, moderated by Kara Swisher!
Our main takeaway from Hillary Clinton was her stance on empowering women in politics. This was perfect for all four of us since we had just left the Capitol, where we all hope to intern in the next session..
With empowerment comes controversial issues, and in her talk, it was clear the most popular topic was her 2016 run against Donald Trump for President. He was a central topic of discussion, specifically regarding the deleted emails, predictions for future elections, and the possible criminal charges he may face.
Clinton repeatedly emphasized that she did not delete any emails and “never corresponded about classified emails.” Clinton has raised money in an interesting, but slightly self-deprecating way, by selling hats that read “But Her Emails.” [FS2] Clinton and Swisher laughed about the merch, but on a more serious note, each dollar raised from the hats is donated to the next Democratic candidate for the next presidential election.
Although she will not be running for office in the future, Clinton still contributes much to the current political officials in the Democratic party. When the question was raised if Trump is likely to run again, Clinton predicted he will run again, although this time he may also have criminal charges pending, after the search of Mar-a-Lago.
Aside from the political drama, Clinton vocalized the importance of Social Security, Medicare, and having a strong social democracy. She believes this will happen only if we continue to vote Democrats into office. But whether or not you are a Democrat or a Republican, we must vote and empower one another. Hearing from Hillary Clinton showed us that you can overcome what may seem to be impossible—an excellent takeaway!
Previewing the 88th: Part Four
TTF hosts multiple sessions about the upcoming Texas Legislative Session. Although we beelined it to Raise Your Hand Texas, where the fourth session was held, many others had the same idea, and we ended up in the SRO section. Nonetheless, it was completely worth it.
The impressive panel included Senator Carol Alvarado, Senator Cesar Blanco, Senator Sarah Eckhardt, Democratic Candidate for Senate District 27 Morgan LaMantia, and moderator Matthew Watkins, Managing Editor for News and Politics at TheTexas Tribune. With the State of Texas’ budget surplus of about $30 billion, redistricting, and the Texas governor’s election, this session will definitely face new opportunities and challenges.
Abortion is a heavy topic for discussion during this session, after the overturning of Roe v. Wade. The panel didn’t suggest that any major bills will pass to restore those rights, but they would like to pass legislation to allow for certain exceptions of abortions like incest, rape, or medical complications. For example, Texas has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the country, so adopting legislation that will protect the mother’s life from risk of a full-term pregnancy could lower that statistic. Senator Blanco expects this upcoming governor’s election to be a “Roe-vember,” implying that many voters will vote solely driven by their beliefs or stance on abortion.
Another topic this panel expects will be up for much debate is gun regulations. Although gun regulations have been debated for decades, what makes the topic so complicated for this upcoming session is the increase in school shootings, specifically the Uvalde school shooting. Many people are fed up with turning on the news to another school shooting where innocent lives have been lost, and voters will be letting their legislators know that. The panel hopes to see stricter gun laws passed to help stop gun violence in Texas, which has a higher gun mortality rate than the national average. There was a call to action to the right to place more emphasis on the gun laws in Texas.
The panel also mentioned plans to focus on other issues that were “not just political stunts,” such as lowering property taxes and fixing the worker shortage, specifically for teachers and nurses.
One topic the panel did consider a political stunt wasthe border wall. The panel understands Republicans’ concern, but they do not like the way the Republican party goes about it. They would like to focus on improving the treatment of the immigrants coming in and not just throwing them into state camps or foster care. We were informed by the panel that some of these kids being thrown under state custody are dying due to the living conditions they are being put under at the border camps. Right now, the quality of care is improving due to neighboring border city communities that take kids in and provide them with better conditions, so the senators would like to see a change in that sector.
With (hopefully) our internships for this upcoming session, we found this discussion impactful and inspiring. We always enjoy getting to hear different points of views, so it will be great to ponder on these ideas until January!
Following a busy day, we met up with SHSU alumna (and former LEAP Center student worker), Annie Jamarik, Chief of Staff for Representative Hugh Shine. Annie recommended a great local pizza joint, called 40 North.
Considering Annie’s recommendations, we ordered the Classic Pepperoni (a bit spicy), the Margherita Di Bufala, the Barbe, and probably (most) everyone’s favorite, the Hot Honey.
As we ate, Annie gave us sound advice, both from the perspective of an intern and as a chief. She advised us to build our networks early and joked that we have already started with her! Along with her encouraging advice, she also had some practical advice, too. We asked about wardrobe and best places to shop, and even what kinds of shoes to wear every day.
We are very thankful to Annie for joining us for a great dinner and for all her advice and words of wisdom about interning in this upcoming session at the Capitol.
In conjunction with attending the Texas Tribune Festival (TTF), we were able to kill two birds with one stone and have our first interviews with a few offices, while also gearing up to participate in the TTF!
Between Jessica, Yvette, Ashlyn, and myself, we had a total of 11 interviews in the span of just a few hours. We have all previously been to the Texas Capitol before, but we all agreed that this time felt different. Our group was one of excitement, nerves, and ambition.
We were prepared for the standard interview questions but thanks to a quick crash course from former LEAP Student and now Chief of Staff, Annie Jamarik, we had a slight leg up for questions outside of the norm. Just 15 minutes before the first interviews we took to the halls of the Texas Capitol in an Amazing Race-like fashion.
We all had wonderful meetings with 4 different Chiefs-of-Staff and thoroughly enjoyed the experiences. Some interviews proceeded more like a Q&A whereas others were more conversational. In one of my interviews, I was even able to explain some local Huntsville news!
The interview experience was made all the better by former LEAP students who stopped by to catch up and offer encouraging words. Ashlyn and I got to meet Blake Roach who now works for the Governor as a Manager in the Appointments Division. We all met Christina Perez-Gonzalez who works for AECT (Association of Electric Companies of Texas) and Emily Johnson who is a Review Director at the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission.
On behalf of those of us that interviewed this past week, thank you to the former LEAP students for taking the time to meet with us and share your experiences. To the offices that interviewed us, we are grateful for the opportunities to interview with you, your dedication to serving the state is a fantastic example that we wish to follow.
Follow-Up Capitol Meetings
Following our interviews with various legislative offices, we returned to the Capitol, where we met with the Chief of Staff for Senator Bryan Hughes, Cody Terry. (Senator Hughes represents the Tyler area, where Morgan is from!) During our time with Mr. Terry, we got a surprise visit from Senator Charles Schwertner’s former Chief of Staff, Tom Holloway. We were also lucky enough to meet Caroline Harris, who, after winning the primary (congratulations!), is running for a State Representative position in November’s election.
Between welcome and insightful interruptions, Mr. Terry shared a few words of wisdom regarding internships applicable to any office. He advised us to find something we are interested in and to run with it.
We also met with Scott Jenkines, Chief of Staff for Representative Armando “Mando” Martinez who represents the Valley (District 39). Mr. Jenkines gave us a more technical overview of the inner workings of the Texas House.
From both chiefs we learned about how different offices and committees work, and what members look for and expect from interns. We were grateful to have been able to sneak some questions in, and we are very thankful for the opportunity to have met with them and learn more about the Legislative session.
A Taste of Ethiopia
While in Austin, we wanted to get a taste of something different, and that mission was accomplished when we took our first bite from “A Taste of Ethiopia.”
For appetizers, we had sambusas, tomato salad, and minchet abish, and we loved them! The sambusas and the minchet abish were our favorites.
For entrees, we ate family style, which is the Ethiopian tradition. We tried a bit of everything, including lamb, goat, chicken, and beef. The favorites were probably based on our tolerance for spices, but Doro Wat (the national dish of Ethiopia) was universally enjoyed.
We also had desserts, including chocolate cake and baklava.
It was a hearty meal and a rewarding new experience, befitting a day full of rewards and new experiences.
For the LEAP Ambassadors, there is no better mid-week venture than to the Glades Art Foundation in the Woodlands for an always amazing World Affairs Council event. This time around, we were fortunate enough to be accompanied by two guests: Hongjin Jeon, (aka. Andrew) a student in Professor Yawn’s Texas Government class and Dr. Lei Duan, the professor for my Modern Asian History course.
We enjoyed pursuing the current exhibits on display, one of which we have seen before: a collection of drinks!
The Glade Gallery hosts an array of exhibits as well as acts as a meeting location for many local groups. The Woodlands Photography Club was also hosting a meeting and they were surrounded by many dynamic photographs.
The event began with an introduction from Ray Cunningham, the North Houston Coordinator, who thanked the Glade Gallery, and the guests for their continued interest in the Council.
Mr. Cunningham then introduced Professor Yawn…
…who proceeded to introduce General In-Bum Chun.
Professor Yawn highlighted General Chun’s career in both the military and governmental sectors…
…and a few of his acts of service, which later General Chun elaborated on.
General Chun began by recognizing and expressing his gratitude for one of the audience members, Charles, A Korean War Veteran! It was wonderful to see this man, who must have been nearing 90, hear about an expert on Korea, seven decades after he fought for South Korea’s right to remain independent and free.
General Chun then spoke on the importance of the United States involvement in the Korean War, (1950-1953) more specifically, American troops on the ground in Korea. Chun stated, that without help from America Korea would not be where they are economically, politically, and socially today.
He then gave 5 key features about Korea that have been made possible by the U.S.
Reforestation: after the war, the whole peninsula was a barren war zone. Now, Korea has some of the lushest forests in the world.
International travel: Korea has one of the most accepted passports in the world.
Healthcare: General Chun highlighted the benefits of universal health care, including regular preventive health checks.
Public Transportation: The public transportation system is almost on par with the one in Japan.
Public Restrooms: General Chun noted, slightly jokingly, that when you must go, you don’t have to look far! Everywhere in Korea there are accessible, clean restrooms.
Ronan O’Malley then stepped as the world-class moderator that he is, and he asked a series of questions of his own and from the audience. In response, General Chun described Korea’s relationship with its surrounding neighbors.
Most of the country’s trade is done with China, although it is extremely difficult to navigate. With their neighbor to the east, there is deeply rooted emotional history. Japan and Korea have made great strides to reconcile, but politicians from both countries capitalize on the bad blood for political gain.
For the other country that shares the peninsula, General Chun Described North Korea as “a perfect dictatorship based on a cult.” The whole country is run by one family and, socially, still operates based on a hierarchal system.
Often tying historical aspects of the country to modern topics, General Chun concluded the night with one piece of advice: communication. General Chun pointed out that historically there is a lack of communication coming from America. Often we do what is in our interests, without asking the opinions of our allies. General Chun’s advice to keep communication in mind applies to much more than international relations and is sound advice for everyone.
I strongly admire the way General Chun was able to identify an area that has potential for growth in the U.S, but also express his gratitude for what is arguably one of the best alliances in history.
As the event drew to a close, we were able to meet with General Chun in groups. The Lonestar Honors Organization was on hand, and we had a chance to talk with them, and also photograph them with the General.
We also had a chance to meet high-school students from Caney Creek, with their advisor Eric Tanner, and they, of course, had a chance to meet with the General.
And, of course, we had a chance to meet with the General as well…
…and this was probably the biggest treat for Andrew.
On behalf of the LEAP center, thank you to the World Affairs Council for always hosting informative and enjoyable events, and to General Chun for taking the time to share your expertise about your country.
Dinner at Saigon USA Pho Grill
Our goal is always to reinforce the formal knowledge we receive from the presentation with some cultural learning in the form of food. While we couldn’t find Korean food in The Woodlands, we were able to stay close to Korea in a geographical sense, and we had an amazing dinner at Saigon USA pho & grill!
We started with an assortment of appetizers: Cheese puffs, steamed dumplings, and fried wontons. My favorite was the steamed dumplings, but all of the appetizers where amazing.
For entrées, some half of us chose Pho, and the other half chose meat and rice dishes.
Everyone loved their meals, and we left almost no room for dessert! Because Tuesday was Yvette’s birthday, Professor Yawn, let Yvette pick the dessert, and she chose Strawberry and Mango mochi. The mochi was plated beautifully, and everyone enjoyed the sweet treat!