Coby Steele and Kevin Hernandez–After arriving in Austin late in the evening (2:30am), we had an early morning beset by cold weather. In fact, our planned trip to Capitol Hill was delayed a bit, but we did not let this deter us…
Following some roaming around the Capitol…
we met with Senator Charles Schwertner’s staff: Chief of Staff Tom Holloway and District Director Leah Alexander. They walked us through the workings of the Senator’s office in both the Legislative and non-Legislative years, as well as their duties. We were surprised at the amount of work for such a small staff, and we found the policy side of things particularly interesting.
Elected officials rely heavily on staff to explore model legislation, analyze the costs and benefits of legislation, and to summarize existing legislation. There’s a lot of work that goes into these bills, and only a small portion get passed.
After our visit in Senator Schwertner’s office, we broke from the Capitol for lunch at Frank and Angie’s Pizzeria in downtown Austin. The restaurant is so named because of the original owner Angie having a strong affection for Frank Sinatra. There we were joined by a fellow LEAP Center student, Brian King, who is currently interning at the Capitol for Representative Senfronia Thompson. We all got to enjoy the Pavarotti, a vegetarian pizza; the Chairman of the Board, a type of supreme named for Sinatra; and our favorite was the Sicilian which incorporated bell peppers into the pizza. A single pizza was the equivalent of a large delivery pizza, so there was plenty to fuel us for what still lay ahead.
Following lunch, another treat awaited us. Nikki Cobb, Chief of Staff for Representative John Otto, and Chris Griesel, the Parliamentarian of the House of Representatives, met with us on the House floor to discuss the process of how a bill becomes a law.
The discussion was very engaging; Mr. Griesel displayed an encyclopedic knowledge of history and procedure, as well as frequent bursts of humor to lighten what, in other hands, could be a dry topic. Mrs. Cobb was very helpful in answering questions about the legislative process, while also providing details on her career path. Both spoke about a common theme of working together with other legislators and not making enemies or bridges because they said one day “they may need you to pass a bill, and another day you may need them.”
After our exclusive and unprecedented experience in the House chamber we met Todd Kercheval, a man with a diverse resume. His work ranged from being a Legislative Aide to Chief of Staff to work in an executive department to lobbyist. While most of our day was more oriented to the different formalities of the Texas legislature, Mr.Kercheval touched on the essentials needed to work efficiently in the fast paced world of Texas politics. He emphasized two points: initiative and integrity.
After a day of amazing presentations, we had an amazing dinner. In our case, it was at Fogo de Chao, a spectacular Brazilian steak house, which is a short walk away from the festive and ever-exciting 6th street. We were joined by old colleagues and recent alums Brian King, Emily Johnson and Will Phillips, who all provided great conversation through the rest of the night. The experience was new for a good portion of us, and the quantity and quality of the food was a bit surprising, as was the speed of its delivery to the table. This was one of the best possible ways to end an overall marvelous day on our visit to the Heart of Texas.
On our final day, our travel day, we still got some sight-seeing in. Although we had spent considerable time in Norman, we had focused our energies on the University of Oklahoma campus. Today, we visited the downtown area, where we checked out some of the public art…
…which included more aviation themed work.
Most interesting, though, was the statue of James Garner, the star of Rockford Files and Maverick, who grew up in Norman, Oklahoma.
Another highlight was, strange as it sounds, was getting to see a train go by…
The real highlight of the day, however, was in Denison, Texas, where we visited the birth-home of Dwight Eisenhower.
Eisenhower was born here in 1890, and he would be the last President to be born in the 19th century. His father worked for the railroad, which passed by about thirty yards in front of the house.
The site is run by the Department of Texas Parks and Wildlife, and we had a knowledgeable tour guide to take us through the home.
Our visit was made all the more appropriate with the arrival of Veterans Day.
The last day was also a day for reflecting on the trip and the different things we did. Heading home, we canvassed the group for our favorite activities, which are presented below.
1) Abraham Lincoln (Cowboy Hall of Fame and OU Law School)
2) Land Run Monument (OKC)
3) Capitol Artwork (OKC)
1) OU Campus, for OPSA and OU Law School
2) Oklahoma National Memorial and Museum
3) Segway Tour
1) Southern Politics, by Scott Buchanan
2) Public Opinion, Drug Use, and Depedence, Lauren Reinke
3) Affordable Health Care, Isaac Lutz
We were very impressed with Oklahoma City, Norman, and the people we met on the trip. We’d especially like to thank the organizers of the Oklahoma Political Science Association, who were very helpful to us.
Today had to be my most anticipated day of the trip. It was packed full of activities and I could not wait to conquer all of what Oklahoma City had to offer. We began the morning with an emotionally overwhelming trip to the Oklahoma City National Memorial Museum. Learning about the devastation caused by Timothy McVeigh’s bombing of the Federal Building in 1995 was one of the most sobering things I have ever encountered. The museum captured the emotions of that April morning in such a powerful, striking way. I did not walk out as the same person that walked in.
In order to decompress from the Memorial, we headed to the Overholser Mansion, located in Heritage Hills area of northern Oklahoma City. Built in 1903, the home transported us back in time.
The tour guide and décor did a good job of helping us picture life in the early 1900s.
We learned of the wealthy Overholser family that lived there until the selling of the home in 1972 to the state of Oklahoma for education purposes. Drawn to the ornate woodworking and lavish furniture of the home, I really enjoyed living in 1903 for the hour-long tour. What it must have been like to live so extravagantly!
Following the wonders seen at the Overholser Mansion, my fellow LEAP Center students and I traveled to Cattleman’s steakhouse to enjoy some home cooking and western atmosphere. Now while it was hard to compare it to anything back home in Texas, the Chicken Fried Chicken and chocolate pie definitely made their way onto my list of best foods. Also interesting were the lamb fries we tried…
After a tasty meal, we then made our way over to the Oklahoma History Center. Even though we only had an hour and a half to enjoy it, I must say Oklahoma has never seemed so versatile. There were exhibits on cowboys and kitchens, dresses and divas, and even some history about Oklahomans in space. As a true Texan born and raised, I can still admit that through learning about the beauty and history of this state, Oklahoma now holds a place in my heart.
Before the sun was able to completely get away from us, we were able then to enjoy the Myriad Botanical Gardens and Crystal Bridge Conservatory in downtown Oklahoma City.
Taking in the beauty and humidity surrounding us, we spotted many exotic flowers and towering trees that would beautify any locale.
Upon leaving the Conservatory, we strolled the gardens outside and proceeded to spot a live wedding, some feisty ducks, and a child or two running loose. People-watching has never been so entertaining.
Before saying goodbye to Oklahoma City once and for all, we begged Professor Yawn to let us stop by an extravagant, tacky, over-the-top-sweets shop to indulge our inner-kid. Laden with bags of chocolate truffles, cupcakes, and sweet candies we reluctantly made our way back “home” to Norman to finish off the night at the University of Oklahoma’s historical campus. We discovered the campus’s old, gothic style buildings and, more importantly, the breathtaking interiors. Although younger than Sam Houston State University by a decade or so, OU’s history pervaded every step we took through the beautiful campus grounds.
Finally to finish up such an exciting day, we headed to a quaint Vietnamese restaurant. Each student tried something new, whether it was pho soup, lettuce wraps, or a banh mi sandwich. Full, exhausted, and ready to sleep our lives away, we sped back to the hotel to calculate the hours of sleep we would get before waking up to wrap up our trip tomorrow. Looking back on such a wonderful day, I realize how truly blessed I am to live in a country with so many opportunities and wonderful histories to learn.
Day 4 was a flurry of activity! Crisscrossing the Norman/OKC area we continued where we left off—picking up new experiences and learning more.
Our first stop was Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial, which serves as somber reminder of the tragic Murrah Federal Building bombing on April 19, 1995.
Winding through the museum you get to know the victims, discover heroes and, most important, never forget what happened that morning.
What I’ll never forget from the museum is the recording they offer of a meeting from the morning of the bombing—the audio captures the dramatic and sudden shift from casual meeting sheer panic. It left me with goosebumps.
Also poignant is the “And Jesus Wept” Statue erected by St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, located across the street from the bombing Memorial.
Leaving the memorial we arrived at the Overholser Mansion, a turn of the century Victorian style home. The home was built for renowned Oklahoma City businessman and philanthropist Henry Overholser and his family.
The Overholser family lived in opulence and their lifestyle of luxury was perfectly preserved in the beautiful home.
Lunch was the next stop, which we satisfied by going to Cattlemen’s Steakhouse in the historic stockyard area of OKC. Cattlemen’s is a continuation of the cowboy heritage and the food did not disappoint. Lamb testicles was the appetizer of choice (certainly exotic, but not overly tasty) and for the meal I had a Chopped Beef Sandwich, brought to us by a waiter who insisted on calling us “partner.”
Having satisfied our stomachs, our next stop was to learn more about Oklahoma at the State History Museum. Here we learned everything about the state: its Native American cultures, contributions to film and aviation, and its history from pre-statehood through the present. It was the state’s contributions to film that I found most fascinating, where I learned one of my favorite character actors Wes Studi (Dances With Wolves, Last of the Mohicans), was born in Oklahoma.
Moving on from the state’s history, we went to the Myriad Gardens towards the center of OKC. The site is fascinating for its “duck pond,” which is loaded not only with ducks, but also koi; the tropical environment within the Conservancy; and the beautifully landscaped grounds.
What was most interesting to me was that the area was part of a recent urban development plan that Oklahoma has implemented to beautify the city, raising the quality of life and attracting tourists—such as us!
We stopped at a nearby gourmet dessert boutique where I picked up some delicious peanut butter truffles, and the other students indulged equally. Jessica bought $42 worth of candy, although it should be noted that she generously offered to share.
Moving on back to Norman, we walked the campus of OU, checking out the student union, the clock tower, and the reading library…
It was a beautiful campus.
Ending the day with dinner at Coriander Cafe not far from the university we had a wonderful meal. The Vietnamese cuisine was definitely outside my normal, but this trip is all about new experiences and the Banh Mi sandwich I had was superb.
In sum, this day was the culmination of everything that’s been great about Oklahoma City and Norman, and I will be leaving Oklahoma tomorrow with a new-found appreciation for the state.
We first made our way back to the Fred Jones Art Museum for the second day of the conference where another round of panelists awaited us. The first series of panelists included research papers by undergrads and grad students from various universities in Oklahoma. Today’s research topics included:
Media focus on candidate traits by gender
Children’s perceptions of authority figures over time
Reframing substance abuse from morality to illness
While Jessica, Zach, and Professor Yawn enjoyed a brief discussion on the transformation of higher education from online education, Dulce and Constance had the opportunity to hear from a panel that discussed the “Identity and Legitimation in Authoritarian Regimes”. Speakers Derek Steiger and David Stroup both gave insight on the effect of nationalism on maintaining the Chinese Communist Party. Both speakers conveyed their arguments in a clear, concise, and captivating manner. The next two speakers, Burcu Degirmen and Daniel Brown, spoke on the Turkish Summer and the misconception of it relating to the Arab Spring rather than the “Occupying Wallstreet” movement. An accomplished writer and expert on southern politics, Scott E. Buchanan closed out the conference over lunch with his speech about the changing electorate in the south and its implications on the nation as a whole.
The experience of the conference was uniformly positive, from the setting in the Fred Jones, Jr. Art Museum…
to the hospitality of the organizers, to the chance to do some old-fashioned “telephone booth stuffing”…
…to the chance to meet undergraduates from different institutions, to the interesting topics, this was a great opportunity, and we are grateful.
After our conference concluded we were happily surprised by gourmet cupcakes. We enjoyed various flavors including but not limited to Canadian maple bacon, bananas foster, salted caramel, and German chocolate. We also got to see some of the fall’s changing colors, something we don’t see much of in Texas.
We had to rush to meet our two o clock tour at the Oklahoma State Capitol Building, but we were impressed by its architectural significance when we arrived. The capitol beautifully captured all aspects of Oklahoma’s history and its people.
Jessica, who has been to many state capitols, enjoyed this immensely and particularly liked the Senate Chamber.
Zachary’s favorite part about the capitol building was how different parts of the state’s history and its people were displayed throughout the halls.
Dulce’s favorite part was the recently added rotunda. Although it was added onto the capital in 2001, the dome blended seamlessly into the standing architecture of the capitol building.
Constance’s favorite part was learning of the history of the building from the charming tour guide, who was extensively knowledgeable in everything from architecture to political change and ramifications that have shaped Oklahoma’s history.
We also learned, it’s worth noting, that Oklahoma, like Texas, has two Supreme Courts, one that addresses criminal issues and another that addresses civil issues.
Leaving the state capitol building…
…we took a short drive through Oklahoma City to reach our next destination, the National Cowboy and Heritage Museum.
With only an hour and a half to enjoy all the museum had to offer, we made our way, soaking in as much as possible in such a short amount of time.
Dulce most enjoyed the Western Performers Gallery, as she was able to test her knowledge of popular western television shows through an interactive quiz. She got a 12 out of 13, matching theme songs to television westerns, and enjoying the exhibits associated with Western Performers.
Constance’s favorite painting happened to be “The Quarrel” by Frederick Remington since she could almost create her own story behind the argumentative body language of the cowboys and their hostile nature.
Jessica’s favorite part happened to be the Ronald Reagan statue because of his history as a president and a cowboy.
The John Wayne and Charlton Heston Statues stood out most to Zach.
Everyone pretty much enjoyed the beautiful art in the Museum, the “Canyon Princess” sculpture…
…the Lincoln Sculpture…
and The End of the Trail Sculpture, the latter of which serves as the Museum’s centerpiece…
…and the museum grounds were pretty, too…
To wait out the hectic traffic of Oklahoma City, we enjoyed a coffee and scintillating conversation at a local starbucks. With growling bellies, stories and recommendations of restaurants were swapped until it was time to head back to Norman for dinner. Locating “Hideaway”, home of the “best pizza in the state”, we scarfed down appetizers and delicious pizza to satiate our voracious appetites after a long day of touring the city.
The day’s activities left us exhausted and in much need of an early night’s sleep. Tired as we are, we cannot wait to begin the adventure again tomorrow.
As this is my first trip with the Center for Law, Engagement, And Politics (LEAP), I honestly have no idea what adventure is in store. But the first day has been intriguing, insightful, and more importantly, easy! Now while I do not expect the rest of the trip to be this languid I am definitely enjoying the six-hour drive to Norman, Oklahoma.
This afternoon, we left the Walker Education Center in Huntsville, with a few extra LEAP Center students in tow, for College Station and the Bush Library to attend the kickoff event for the twenty-fifth anniversary celebration of President George H. W. Bush’s election. Moderated by the CEO of the Bush Presidential Foundation, Fred McClure, we had the pleasure of sitting in on the discussion by President Bush’s former personal photographer, David Valdez, and President Bush’s campaign manager for the northeast area, Ron Kaufman.
Through their storytelling it was clear they both deeply respect and admire President Bush. Mr. Valdez spoke of how even though the former President was a naval pilot in World War Two and could use that to win votes in his campaign, he was reluctant to do so. He was also similarly reluctant to use showcase his religious beliefs to appeal to the emerging Evangelical vote. Both speakers knew the details of President Bush’s life and testified to his character during the campaign. It was a great experience to hear first hand the stories about a man who did much for this country!
It was also a pleasure to spend time with some students who couldn’t make it on the trip. Joey Medrano, Ariel Traub, Quan Hall, and Clinton Morrison, also attended the event, had dinner with us, and then returned to Huntsville. And we were especially pleased that Gene Roberts, Director of Legal Services at SHSU, came with us for the evening’s festivities.
Now, after enjoying a filling meal from Blue Baker on a chilly November evening, we make our trek towards the University of Oklahoma to attend the Oklahoma Political Science Association Annual Conference. If today is any indication of how the rest of the trip will go, I am stoked! We should arrive at the hotel around three am to wake up and get going again around six. Looks like I better enjoy the relaxation while it lasts.
Looking forward to tomorrow’s stimulating adventures!
Day One: Jessica Rodriguez
As temperatures were dropping below 50 degrees in Huntsville and our excitement for this new learning adventure built up, we commenced the first day of our trip to Oklahoma with a quick visit to the George W. H. Bush library. The Library was celebrating the 25th anniversary of the election of George W. H. Bush as President of The United States of America. Upon entering the library grounds I noticed the beautiful “The Day the Wall Came Down” installation of five horses was taking with the reflection of the sunset.
We were politely greeted by neatly uniformed students of the Bush School and directed towards the auditorium. Ariel, Zachary, and I sat in the third row right behind the reserved spots which were occupied by the State of Texas Supreme Court judges, the College Station Mayor, and a couple of State Representatives. The program began with a slideshow of historical and energizing photographs of Bush Sr. and his loved ones through his campaign. Then we heard a moderated talk with David Valdez, the former Presidential photographer, and Ron Kaufman, Bush’s campaign manager of the northeast region. They both emphasized the approachable and sincere personality of W. H. Bush, but they also pointed out some of the bumps on the road they crossed. For example, when the then President elect was confronted by Dan Rather in 1988, a mini-controversy erupted.
This event, according to Kaufman, helped turn the 1988 campaign around and helped Bush win the election.
We were also fortunate to have time to speak with Valdez, and he expressed interest in visiting SHSU at some point, a prospect that excited all of us.
We concluded the night by arriving to Norman, Oklahoma at about 3 am with even lower temperatures than Huntsville on the mid 30’s.
Day One: Dulce Martinez
We commenced our five-day trip to Oklahoma by making a small detour at the George H. W. Bush Presidential Library in College Station, Texas. The George Bush Presidential Library Foundation kicked-off a yearlong celebration of the 25th Anniversary of then Vice President George H. W. Bush winning the Presidency in November 1988. The event featured two key speakers who played a key part in the election of President H. W. Bush. One was the northeast regional political director of the Bush Campaign, Ron Kaufman. He operated in Boston, Massachusetts, home of Michael Dukakis, Bush’s opponent.
Kaufman gave great insight on the strategy in keeping a headquarters in Boston. He explained it was a way of prompting Governor Dukakis into thinking he could lose his own state, forcing Dukakis to spend a large amount of time in Massachusetts.
David Valdez, the second speaker, was the personal photographer for President George H. W. Bush. Valdez documented every step of the election with photography.
He spoke about how the campaign struggled with the media, most interesting the showdown between Dan Rather, CBS reporter, and Bush. During the interview, Rather attacked Bush on the controversy of the Iran-Contra incident under the Reagan Administration. The live televised interview helped the campaign because it showed critics that Bush was not “soft,” but an actual contender who would fight back when attacked. Both the speakers did a fantastic job in giving glimpse of what went on behind the scenes of the election, and we are grateful to the Bush Library for the great job they did putting the event together.
Day One: Zach Goodlander
Day one of our whirlwind trip is now in the books. Our fist stop as part of our trip to Oklahoma was in College Station to an event at the Bush Library. The focus of the event was a 25th anniversary celebration of President Bush’s ’88 election victory.
The two speakers were David Valdez, Bush’s personal photographer and Ron Kaufman, a longtime campaign adviser.
In the audience with our group were some other notable dignitaries, including multiple Texas State Supreme Court Justices, Texas Congressmen and local city councilman. These dignitaries bring their own perspectives and stories, which really add to the discussion as well.
The two main speakers were perfectly suited for the discussion, with each bringing a different perspective of the campaign. Valdez let the audience in on personal stories about himself and Vice President Bush. Meanwhile, Kaufman described the campaign in a larger context.
Now, having made the most of our trip to the Bush Library it’s now time to drive though the night to Oklahoma City, another day of opportunity awaits in the morning.
Having concluded my first trip with the L.E.A.P program, I must say I’ve already started looking ahead to the next. On this trip I was exposed to a part of Dallas I’d never seen before and I learned an extensive amount of information pertinent to a future career in politics.
The trip revolved around the New Politics Forum, set up to introduce students to different careers in politics, to network with other students and those already in the career field. My favorite panel was the last, the “Alumni Panel” made up of recent SMU alumni who have gone onto successful careers in politics. I liked this panel in particular because they most described what it takes to be successful and gave specific examples of how they’ve gotten opportunities. My favorite speaker was the keynote, State Senator Royce West.
Though he is a Democrat and I may not agree with him on all matters of policy, I liked his speech best. As he I watched him speak impromptu, using different public speaking skills, I learned firsthand how a politician communicates.
While our trip was centered on the NPF while in Dallas we visited multiple sites in the city, my favorite stop of which was the George W. Bush Library. While Bush isn’t my favorite president and I didn’t agree with all his policies, I very much respect him both personally and as the president who shaped my youth. Walking thru the exhibit in the library and seeing images of 9/11 will forever give me chills.
In conclusion, as we wrap up the trip and I look back on the past three days, I can already look ahead to a future that has been positively influenced by this weekend.
Tessa Fendley: Day 3
The third and final day of the L.E.A.P program trip to Dallas seemed to pass by in a blur. We toured downtown Dallas on Segways, seeing a lot of different historical sites. Two of the more notable ones were the Dallas City Hall and Pioneer Plaza“cattle run.” We learned that City Hall was constructed so as to provide shade to the people working in the offices and to pedestrians below. Pioneer Plaza, built by Robert Summers, consists of copper sculptures of a larger-than-life herd of longhorn cattle. Commissioned by the City of Dallas, it is a stunning sight.
We then ate at what was my favorite place of the entire trip, Twisted Root. This wonderful eatery offered a variety of unusual burger options, including kangaroo, ostrich, and buffalo. I chose the vegetarian black bean burger, covered in onions, cheese, and pickles. To accompany my burger, I ordered fried pickles and French fries, which I enjoyed covered in their variety of homemade sauces.
Our last stop before finally heading back home was a small café. We each ordered a variety of cookies and coffee. I got a sandy pecan, a pecan delight, and a chocolate covered praline, all accompanied by a delicious coffee and an original Coke.
This experience in Dallas is something that I will never forget. The Sixth Floor Museum, the NPF Conference, the Segway tour, and the delicious food were all great ways to kick off my freshman year of college, along with making connections with people that I hope to see again.
Ariel Traub: Day 3
As our trip came to a close, I looked back on all of the amazing things we experienced and the great opportunities that we had. While we did much on this trip, my favorite experience was the Segway tour.
We departed the hotel early and headed to downtown Dallas to Nation Tours. We arrived at a large empty building with several Segways lined up along a wall, greeted by a very happy and upbeat tour guide, Doug, who showed us how to properly use the Segway (after handing out helmets).
We ventured outside where we each practiced on the Segway in order to ensure we could handle riding on our own. A few of us had a rocky start but, after all, it was our first time. Once we all got the hang of riding the Segway, the real fun began. We started the historical tour of Downtown Dallas at 9:30am. It was a full and fun experience, plus we got to see a giant eyeball, really!
I even got to eat at a food truck during our tour. There were no Segway accidents or civilian casualties – all the inexperienced Segway drivers made it through the two-hour-plus trip, although some of us did almost get hit while trying to take a picture in the middle of the street.
I had a great time in Dallas with the L.E.A.P. program and I sincerely appreciate the opportunity to have attended the NPF Careers in Politics Conference. It is great that Sam Houston State University helps students achieve academic success and provide such great opportunities to build their futures.
Jennifer Flores: Day 3
Unfortunately today was the last day of our trip to Dallas, but the fun wasn’t over… We woke up early for a morning Segway tour around the Dallas downtown. It was my first time on a Segway, but after I found my balance, it turned out to be one of the most fun forms of transportation on which I’ve been! The tour allowed us to explore many of Dallas’s historic sites and modern spaces. I especially enjoyed the Segway tour because it really gave me an up close and personal tour of city, allowing me to experience Dallas in whole new way.
We ate lunch at a local restaurant, Twisted Root Burger Co., which might just be my new favorite restaurant! They have everything a burger lover craves, and they make their own tasty root beer. I had the buffalo burger with fried green beans and would recommend that to everyone.
Our next stop was the George W. Bush Presidential Library & Museum.
The museum tells the chronological story of President George Bush’s life and his years of presidency. Artifacts, photographs, and videos details the president’s challenges of global war on terror, education reform, a financial crisis, and the efforts to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS abroad. I was very touched by the piece of steel from the World Trade Center that now hangs in display; it is a part of the museum that triggers emotions for everyone that remembers 9/11/01.
The New Politics Forum Careers in Politics was my first trip with the L.E.A.P program and it was truly more than I thought it would be. Our trip not only offered an historical learning adventure but we also gained networking experiencing at the NPF seminar. We had the pleasure of meeting Texas Representatives Rafael Anchia and Kenneth Sheets and Texas Senator Royce West. It was a great way to get to know fellow SHSU classmates and make lasting friendships, and I’m looking forward to future events with L.E.A.P.
Coby Steele: Day 3
We woke up to a nice cool morning on our last day in Dallas and set off for an early morning tour through downtown Dallas (on Segways). Having grown up not far from Dallas, I was surprised at how much I did not know about the city I had visited when I was younger. We saw fascinating parks around the city, historic sites like the Old Red Courthouse and the JFK Memorial, and Dealey Plaza, the site of JFK’s assassination, where some of us had a scare with Dallas traffic while taking pictures.
After lunch (at the Twisted Root Burger Company, featured on The Food Network), we returned to the SMU campus, this time to visit the George W. Bush Presidential Library & Museum. The library hosted many artifacts used and presented to President and Laura Bush during their time in the White House and trips abroad. The exhibits were laid out along a timeline starting at President Bush’s first campaign for the presidency. Through the exhibits we were able to step back through the major events that shaped the country at that time as well as hear President Bush’s explanations that led to his decisions. Hearing him explain in his own words his reasons for getting involved in the AIDS fight in Africa, the 2008 economic crisis and, most interestingly, the Iraq War, was the part I found most interesting, and it brought for me more understanding as to what was going on in the country’s executive office during those tumultuous years.
We arrived in Huntsville around 7:30pm, concluding a successful and educational trip. I learned a lot about a city near which I had grown up as well as ideas for a successful career in my chosen field.
Brian King: Day 3
The third and final day of our trip began with a Segway tour of downtown Dallas. Before we could begin, our tour guide gave us a crash course (no pun intended) on how to properly maneuver the Segway. Since this would be my first experience on a Segway, I looked forward to it being the tour of my hometown.
On the tour, my favorite buildings were the Old Red Museum and the Adolphus Hotel. The architecture (Romanesque style) and stone material (made of red sandstone and blue granite) of the Old Red Museum were the main components that caught my attention. Originally, the Old Red Museum operated as the Dallas County Courthouse. I really admired the distinct roof of the Adolphus Hotel, influenced by French architectural design (known as “Beaux-Arts” architecture) and also designed by Adolphus Busch (fun fact: founder of the Anheuser-Busch company). This building was known for some time as the tallest in the state of Texas. We also saw the Thanksgiving Chapel, designed by Philip Johnson (who also did the JFK Memorial)…
We stopped for lunch in the Deep Ellum District at Twisted Root Burger Co. After lunch, we visited the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum on the campus of SMU. The museum was very informative of not only Bush’s personal life, but more importantly, what made his character distinct from the other honorable gentlemen who have held the highest elected position in the United States of America.
The Bush Presidential Library was very interactive and engaging with various activities describing how the Bush Administration tackled social and global issues within the realms of domestic and foreign affairs. A distinct part of the Bush Presidential Library I really enjoyed was the father-son statue of George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush, just outside of the museum. To me, the statue represented two men of faith and noble character.
In all, I really enjoyed gaining insight from various actors in the field of politics: congressmen, political reporters, attorneys, and more. This was a great event for students to gain knowledge of what it takes to get into politics, as well as what to expect within the political field. I look forward to SHSU’s L.E.A.P. program preparing future graduates this type of opportunity.
The second day of our Dallas trip started early Saturday morning at the Southern Methodist University campus. SMU has one of the most beautiful campuses we have seen. The architecture is the first thing that captures your eye. Dallas Hall, for example, is beautiful, and it was the first building on SMU’s campus (1915), designed by Shepley, Rutan, and Coolidge.
Also impressive was the John Goodwin Tower Center for Political Studies, the location for our New Politics Forum Seminar. Given Tower’s history serving Texas, it was a fitting venue for our conference on public careers.
Representative Sheets fell into politics through his work in the military and volunteering for the Republican Party. Unusual for a public official, he notes that he is horrible at remembering names. His tip for combating this is to always call someone “Ma’am” or “Sir.”
Representative Anchia, a first generation American, was the speaker who stood out the most to us. He emphasized that politics and public service are separate, and that the former should never get in the way of the latter. He was also spent the most time with students from SHSU, appearing impressed with the school’s LEAP program.
Our second session featured the keynote speaker, Senator Royce West. He is a fine speaker, and he interacted well with the audience.
He emphasized integrity as well as the importance of bipartisanship. He applied these qualities to his own career, and noted that he was able to save his own legislative agenda by “listening and working with people.” He also graciously stayed after with us, and encouraged us to continue getting the most out of our education.
The last panel of the day addressed the Media and was led by Carol Reed, of Reed PRC, and Gromer Jeffers, from the Dallas Morning News. Both, again, pressed issues of integrity and, members of the media, stressed credibility.
Following the event, we moved to Bandito’s Mexican Cantina for food and conversation. We met Casey Bingham, who works for Greg Abbott and is a member of the Young Republicans of Dallas.
We also met a student from UNT, who told us about a program the University offers focusing on non-profit economics.
We dined at Eatzi’s, a build-your-own meal place, that combines elements of a grocery story and a sit-down cafe. Here we enjoyed a wonderful array of foods. One of the must haves is the spicy spaghetti, with freshly prepared pasta and a spicy tomato sauce. If comfort food is your thing, the combination of the lemon chicken, mac and cheese, and mashed potatoes is the ideal combination. If you are adventurous, the sweet curry chicken offers a unique blend of ingredients and texture. For dessert, we visited a small gelato ship, and I Had the “Monkey Business” gelato, which was probably the best ice cream I’ve ever had, offering banana, cinnamon, vanilla, and—as a surprise—chocolate.
With some energy restored, we headed to Dallas City Hall, which was designed I. M. Pei, probably the most celebrated living architect. It was a beautiful and peaceful scene.
From there, we checked out Pioneer Plaza, which was created by Robert Summers, a Texas artist. It is the largest bronze sculpture in the world and makes for a dramatic scene in downtown Dallas.
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.