Talking Presidential Power with Robert Gates

Former CIA Director got quite the introduction from Mark Welsh, Dean of the Bush School.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Bush School at TAMU, Dean Mark Welsh, Andy Card, Robert Gates, Exercise of Power

 

But given that Gates has served as CIA Director, Secretary of Defense, President of TAMU,Chancellor of the College of William & Mary, and President of the Boy Scouts, the introduction was well deserved.

Gates has written “Exercise of Power,” an analysis of presidential power since the Eisenhower Administration. Interestingly, Eisenhower, according to most scholars–and Gates–ranks near or at the top of Presidents for foreign policy and use of power. Gates contrasts this strongly with “where we are today.”

SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Bush School at TAMU, Dean Mark Welsh, Andy Card, Robert Gates, Exercise of Power

 

Gates argues that the many failures in US foreign policy over this periods stems from the “over-militarization of our foreign policy,” which he blames on the gutting of our intelligence agencies (during the Clinton Administration) following the Cold War. This left little in the way of intelligence and much in the way of weapons. “When the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”

Interestingly, Gates spent much time discussing “cyber power,” because, as he notes, it can be used militarily, politically, and economically: “It can be used to dismantle infrastructure, to thwart or change the direction of weapons, it can be used to get into people’s political systems and affect elections.” This is something that has long interested the LEAP Center/Ambassadors, and today’s current leaders may not be fully up to date on this power. The last four nominees of the two major parties, for example, have been 69 years or older.

Gates also mentions the US’s power in Science & Technology, Economics, Development Assistance, Intelligence, Strategic Communication (he points out that China has surpassed us in this area), Religion, Ideology, and our Alliances–the latter of which he laments, as he watches our international strength wane).

When these “instruments of power” are working together, it becomes a “symphony of power,” which has been notably lacking “in the past thirty years.”

Following a discussion of Gates’ book, Dean Welsh welcomed Andy Card, who served as both Chief of Staff for President George W. Bush and Secretary of Transportation for President George H. W. Bush, the President of Franklin Pierce University, a House member in the Massachusetts State House –and is now the Interim CEO of the Bush Foundation.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Bush School at TAMU, Dean Mark Welsh, Andy Card, Robert Gates, Exercise of Power

 

With Card in the discussion, he and Gates shared stories of working for George H. W. Bush, whom Card referred to as the “greatest one-term President in US history.”

Gates highlighted the fact that Bush assembled a team from his foreign policy advisors–by team, he meant a group of individuals who knew each, could work together, and whose strengths and weaknesses complemented and overlapped each other. And both he and Card praised Brent Scowcroft, who served as National Security Advisor. The NSA is designed to be an “honest broker,” taking the other foreign policy actors, learning their views, and communicating them to the President so that the Chief Executive had all the information needed to act.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Bush School at TAMU, Dean Mark Welsh, Andy Card, Robert Gates, Exercise of Power

 

It’s always great to hear smart, mostly non-partisan discuss policy, but it was especially great to hear two people that the LEAP Ambassadors have had a chance to see or meet in person.

Thanks to the Bush School at TAMU for their consistently excellent programming. To see the whole program, click here.

Jeffrey Deaver and “The Goodbye Man”

Jeffery Deaver The Goodbye Man

By Ilexus Williams

The LEAP Ambassadors were excited to join Murder By The Book’s Facebook live with Jeffery Deaver. Jeffery Deaver is a mystery and crime writer who is recognized as the “master of suspense” author of the “Lincoln Rhyme” novels and other works.  However, Deaver is also credited as a former journalist, folksinger, and attorney. After gaining a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and a Juris Doctorate degree from Fordham University, Jeffery Deaver initially worked as a journalist and then pursued a career as an attorney. After practicing law, Deaver launched into his writing career. Deaver’s work includes more than thirty-five novels, three collections of short stories, the lyrics for a country-western album, and a nonfiction law book. His novels have been listed on bestseller lists such as New York Times, Italy’s Corriere della Sera, and the Times of London. Also, Deaver has received many awards such as the Bouchercon World Mystery Convention’s Lifetime Achievement Award, the Raymond Chandler Lifetime Achievement Award, and nominations for Edgar Awards from the Mystery Writers of America.

Jeffrey Deaver

To begin our evening, Murder By The Book allowed Jeffery Deaver to give the audience a short reading of his newest novel The Goodbye Man. Murder By The Book typically discourages authors from reading their work, however, Deaver is particularly skilled at this, prompting MBTB to ask him to do so. In the reading of The Goodbye Man, the main character of the book, Colter Shaw, was being pursued and needed to determine a course of action.

“Seconds to decide. Swerve left? Swerve right? A steep drop into brush? Or a narrow shoulder that ends in a cliff wall? Left. It was instinct.” With this decision, Colter Shaw tumbled down the hillside and became trapped in his car. While trying to free himself he noticed his attacker “scrambling down the hillside and pressing through the dense growth toward Shaw.” With his attacker drawing closer with a weapon in hand, Shaw continued to struggle.
He continued to squeeze.
Almost out.
Come on, Come on…
Yes!
No.
Just as he was about to break free, his wallet, in the left rear pocket of his black jeans, caught. The attacker stopped, leaning through the brush, and lifted the pistol. Shaw heard it cock. A revolver…The bullet went wide, kicking up dust near Shaw. Another click. The man fired again. This bullet hit its mark.”

As a suspense writer, Deaver felt that it was only right to leave viewers with a cliffhanger. Moving into the interview, the moderator, Mckenna Jordan, opened the discussion by asking Deaver to give an elevator pitch for his new book.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Jeffrey Deaver, Murder by the Book, The Goodbye Man

Deaver revealed that The Goodbye Man is a sequel to the first Colter Shaw book: The Never Game. The Goodbye Man has loose parallels to David Koresh and The Branch Davidians and Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple. The main character Colter Shaw has traveled to the wilderness of Washington State to investigate a mysterious organization that could potentially be a cult.

Additionally, Deaver speaks to his approach to writing his Colter Shaw books. The Colter Shaw books are influenced by passive forms of entertainment such as television and movies. Deaver considers these forms of entertainment passive because the director or choreographer give the viewers everything and leave nothing to the imagination. In juxtaposition, with books readers are partnered with the author. Because of the active role readers play, they bring their own sensibility when interpreting a book or short story. In contrast to passive forms of entertainment, reading is a more emotionally engaging experience. In saying this, Deaver believes that it is important for authors to recognize passive forms of entertainment. In order to appeal to audiences in this particular market, Deaver intentionally writes shorter novels, shorter chapters, and he uses simple language to give his books a cinematic quality that holds the reader’s attention.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Jeffrey Deaver, Murder by the Book, The Goodbye Man

Furthermore, many people find cults extremely fascinating, so the moderator questioned why Deaver chose this subject to be the center of his novel. He revealed that this topic was influenced by a personal experience that, at the time, seemed catastrophic. However,  now he finds humor in the situation. While living in Manhattan, Deaver met a woman he found very beautiful, intelligent, and funny. While in conversation the woman asked Deaver what he was doing on Friday night. Deaver responded, “Whatever you are doing on Friday night.” Deaver expected to have dinner with his new acquaintance. However, his night did not go as planned. The woman led him to an event in a hotel in Midtown Manhattan, which turned out to be a recruitment meeting for a cult. Deaver sat through a lecture, and he vividly recalls the control the leader had over the cult members. The leader “stirred them into a frenzy that was actually terrifying…They were jostling, applauding, clapping and shouting and chanting. They had no mind of their own. They were a creature, an animal with 500 legs and feet.” It is from this terrifying experience Deaver draws his inspiration for The Goodbye Man. His inspiration does not cease with this book: Deaver is currently crafting the sequel to The Goodbye Man.

Murder By The Book’s evening with Jeffery Deaver was truly captivating, and we look forward to more events!

 

“We Only Talk When There’s a Crisis”: Q&A with Dr. Peter Hotez

By Quinn Kobrin,

On Wednesday, LEAP Ambassadors and alumni signed on for another virtual event hosted by the World Affairs Council, featuring Dr. Peter Hotez to discuss his take on COVID-19, including what we’ve learned from this pandemic, and how to proceed.

After a greeting from Maryanne Maldonado…

SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, World Affairs Council--Greater Houston, Dr. Peter Hotez

…Ronan O’Malley…

SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, World Affairs Council--Greater Houston, Dr. Peter Hotez

…gave a brief introduction of Dr. Hotez…

SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, World Affairs Council--Greater Houston, Dr. Peter Hotez

which included Hotez’s fine work at the Baylor School of Tropical Medicine.

Dr. Hotez started off by telling Mr. O’Malley with some amusement, “We only see each other when there’s a crisis.”

SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, World Affairs Council--Greater Houston, Dr. Peter Hotez

He then proceeded to discuss what he knew about the virus so far. He said that he first heard about the virus in January, when reports were released on the website bioRxiv. According to Hotez, people did not pay much attention to coronaviruses in general until about 2003, when SARS-CoV-1 emerged. When that happened, unlike now, if a person got infected, they had to go to the hospital  Worldwide, only 8,098 people got infected.

Coronavirus, unlike SARS and, later Ebola, is asymptomatic in some people and has a longer incubation period, allowing seemingly healthy people to pass on the disease to more people.  And that is one reason this disease has resulted in, and will continue to result in, more deaths.

Mr. O’Malley then asked if we should be concerned if China or other nations repress information about deadly diseases in the future. Dr. Hotez said he did not care to speculate or place blame at the moment, but rather said that now is the time to save lives. He reminded us that whether or not missteps by officials, governments, or scientists occurred, we should be patient, because “things always go wrong at the beginning of a pandemic.”

SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, World Affairs Council--Greater Houston, Dr. Peter Hotez

Dr. Hotez then spoke about the spread of transmission, which I found both intriguing and informative. He explained that COVID-19 is the name of the disease, while SARS-2 is the name of the virus. This distinction is important, because you can be a carrier of the virus without being affected, and transmit the virus and the disease to someone else unwittingly. He compared this to being HIV positive versus having AIDS.

It was at this point in the online seminar that I heard the most inspiring statement of the evening. Dr. Hotez explained that, when he first learned about COVID-19, and the possible consequences of inaction, he decided to lead the charge of people talking about it and informing people about it. Because of his work and research on SARS, and various other diseases and viruses, he anticipated that the impact of this virus would be great. He shared with us a quote from Winston Churchill – a frequent resource for inspiration in these troubling times – saying, “I was not the lion, but it fell on me to give the lion’s roar.” From my perspective, I can see this being true of everyone who has stepped up to act out of duty, and personally, I am grateful for those calls to action.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, World Affairs Council--Greater Houston, Dr. Peter Hotez

In discussing the possibility of a second wave hitting the U.S., and how we might respond as a nation, Dr. Hotez voiced his concerns both about whether or not companies would be willing to comply with work from home standards again, and if people would be able to overcome the trauma of this initial wave. As we prepare to reopen as a nation, and being cognizant of the likelihood of a second wave, Hotez recommended that we open only a few states at a time, observe how well that works, and proceed from there.

As always, it was a treat to hear from an expert brought in by the World Affairs Council…

SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, World Affairs Council--Greater Houston, Dr. Peter Hotez

…and we look forward to next week’s event. Thanks to the WAC, LEAP Ambassadors and so many others can stay informed and hear a variety of facts and opinions by experts and leaders, and we are grateful for the opportunity to keep learning despite these uncertain times.

Listening to Author Kate Murphy

By Miranda Estrada

Kate Murphy, a New York Times contributing journalist, writes on various topics but was inspired to write her novel based on conversations she was having with complete strangers. She spoke about how often strangers would dive into to telling her personal details in conversation all because they wanted someone who would listen to them.  Her new book is about why this happens and what to do about it.

Before the event, the Brazos Bookstore staff indicated that Kate Murphy requested that no photographs be taken.  So, we have no photographs of the actual book discussion.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Brazos Bookstore, Kate Murphy, "You're Not Listening"

With the everyday usage of social media and cellphones often, we find ourselves distracted and always wanting to control the narrative. “You’re Not Listening” takes a unique approach to how to combat this issue incorporating a mix of psychology and science (not that those are mutually exclusive…).

During one of her first interviews (by phone) for the novel, Ms. Murphy recalled how construction on her street forced her to conduct the interview in her closet so that she could hear. During her interview, which was with Oliver Sacks, they began to exchange weather metaphors. She refers to this ability to connect with someone is called “snatches of magic”, but in science, these moments can actually be measured by watching the brain. During these moments, the brain releases chemicals that make people feel good and creates a bond. Ms. Murphy explained that without listening to one another, these moments are few and fleeting, which has caused loneliness all over the world (England recently appointed a Minister of Loneliness…).

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Brazos Bookstore, Kate Murphy, "You're Not Listening"

Although identifying a problem is the first step to a solution, the audience was eager to learn how we can become better listeners. In conversation, there are two kinds of people: shifters and supporters. Shifters are people who immediately shift the conversation back to themselves, and supporters are people who ask furthering questions about what the other person said. “Everyone is interesting enough if you ask the right questions”, Kate Murphy said, encouraging the audience to become supporters in every conversation. To be better listeners she also challenged us to ask ourselves two questions after every conversation, “what did I learn?” and “how did the other person feel about what we were talking about?”

Ms. Murphy acknowledged that not listening is pervasive, from personal conversations to congressional hearings (the audience laughed at the irony of that one). She spoke honestly that learning to listen is a skill that takes times to develop, like skiing or riding a bike, but one that is necessary to start regardless of age.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Brazos Bookstore, Kate Murphy, "You're Not Listening"

After the talk, we had the opportunity to speak with Ms. Murphy and thank you for her advice as well as thank the Brazos Bookstore Staff for another great event.

Black Walnut Café

After a full evening of listening, we headed to Black Walnut Café for dinner. We started with a table favorite – chips and queso. Black Walnut Café offers something for everyone and our entrees were a true token of that. Our entrees include the Fiesta Jalapeno Chicken Pasta, Chicken Pesto Bowl, Turkey Croissant Club, and several others.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

With full stomachs we headed back to Huntsville, eager to apply what we learned.

Welcoming Students Back: LEAP’s Ice Cream Social

Each semester, the LEAP Ambassadors invite students, faculty, and staff from across the University to enjoy some ice-cream, snacks, and refreshments with us near the beginning of the semester.  It’s a good opportunity to get into the swing of things, while also publicizing some of our upcoming events and activities.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Ice-Cream Social

The spring is always a little slower going than the fall, but we still had about 50 students show up for snacks,

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Ice-Cream Social

…conversation….

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Ice-Cream Social

and prizes.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Ice-Cream Social

This event is always a partnership with the Pre-Law Society, and this semester was no different, with some Pre-Law Society members on hand to assist.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Ice-Cream Social

This capable team gave us the opportunity to publicize and recruit for our upcoming events which, like every semester, is extensive.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Ice-Cream Social

Kat Talks: President Hoyt Featured in New Program

Makayla Mason

Kat Talks–Stories of Success–is a brand new program at SHSU that is close in spirit to the world-renowned Ted Talks.   Launched by SHSU’s wonderful Academic Success Center, the program will feature four speakers this semester, all of whom work for SHSU.   In the future, the Center’s organizers hope to expand the program to incorporate alumni and current students.

Appropriately, however, the program’s inaugural speaker  was President Dana Hoyt, whose theme was “being all-in, every day.”

SHSU, Academic Success Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, LEAP Ambassadors, Kat Talks, President Dana Hoyt

In an excellent talk, she discussed the importance of being fully invested: in work, tasks, classes, and other aspects of the college experience.   By getting these things every day, success is moved forward, and the small accomplishments soon grow into large accomplishments.

SHSU, Academic Success Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, LEAP Ambassadors, Kat Talks, President Dana Hoyt

She punctuated these principles by drawing on quotations from leading thinkers such as Warren Buffett…

SHSU, Academic Success Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, LEAP Ambassadors, Kat Talks, President Dana Hoyt

…Peter Drucker, Colin Powell…

SHSU, Academic Success Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, LEAP Ambassadors, Kat Talks, President Dana Hoyt

…and other luminaries.  And, as the Executive of a state institution with a 300 million dollar budget, she incorporated characteristics of sound management (and life): courage, confidence, change, and communication.  One of the key points we took away was her admonition that, when seeking change, offer solutions.

After the Kat Talk, we grabbed a quick selfie with President Hoyt, and we relished being a (small) part of a new program at SHSU.

SHSU, Academic Success Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, LEAP Ambassadors, Kat Talks, President Dana Hoyt

This sense of being in on the new, however, came full circle a few days later, when we learned that this semester would be President Hoyt’s last long semester on campus.

Announcing her retirement effective August 2020, President Hoyt looked back on her many accomplishments–using, no doubt, the keys to success she shared with us on the first-ever Kat Talks.

 

 

 

 

 

Exploring Gutsy Women with Hillary and Chelsea Clinton

The LEAP Ambassadors had the opportunity to see Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Chelsea Clinton at The University of Houston, this is one of the highest-profile speakers LEAP has had the opportunity to see in person. The event was hosted by Brazos Book Store and the University of Houston, highlighting the Clintons’ co-authored novel “Gutsy Women: Favorite Stories of Courage and Resilience”.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Hillary Clinton, Brazos Bookstore

The Clintons’ book highlights several important woman throughout history, some taught in classrooms and others not. The book discussion  was moderated by Barbara Ann Radnofsky, a UH alum and Democratic politician.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Hillary Clinton, Brazos Bookstore

Our conversation started with the significance of Harriet Tubman, someone Hillary Clinton remembers learning about as a young girl. When Clinton was a senator she was able to pass a bill in congress for the pension owed to Harriet Tubman for her husband’s efforts in the Civil War.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Hillary Clinton, Brazos Bookstore

Hillary and Chelsea discussed the formation and importance of the book stating that “women deserve to see themselves in history”. When asked about how they were able to narrow down the amount of women in the book, and why Hillary Clinton, despite being the first woman to win the presidential nomination from a major party, wasn’t in it.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Hillary Clinton, Brazos Bookstore

Hillary explained that there are so many “gutsy women” whose stories are still happening now like Michelle Obama and Greta Thunberg. When asked if she would consider another presidential as part of her story, she commented that she had been having some fun on Twitter lately.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Our conversation shifted to serious issues that our country is facing that primarily impacts young girls – like how there is no minimum age for girls to be married in 48 states. They also adamantly spoke against voter suppression and how next year will mark the 100th year anniversary of women being able to vote. The audience was able to see a shared bond between the two when they spoke about becoming mothers and a grandmother, both Hillary and Chelsea described the feeling as “soul-expanding”. The evening ended with a standing ovation for our two speakers, and a copy of the book.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Hillary Clinton, Brazos Bookstore

Star Pizza

After dinner we headed to a Houston Favorite since 1976, Star Pizza. For most of us this was our first time here, but all pizza lovers we were excited to try it. For our appetizer we started with Garlic Bread with cheese and a marina dipping sauce, a classic.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Star Pizza

For the pizzas we tried the cowbell (a true Texan pizza topped with BBQ), chicken Alfredo, and a classic margarita. The favorite among our group was the chicken alfredo, with the margarita a close second. After a night of great conversation and food we headed back to Huntsville.

Favorites from the Festival

Saturday, 20190929

We piled in the car and headed east to Huntsville, way too early for a Sunday morning drive, but we each had long to-do lists awaiting our return.  We passed by the Elisabet Ney Museum, to pay small homage to the artist who created the statue of Sam Houston (and of some other Texas hero) in the Capitol.  Ney’s historic home and studio museum was not open, so it was truly a drive-by, but it was also close-by our final destination before leaving Austin city limits, Quack’s 43rd Street Bakery.

Topped off with coffees and teas, and the usual plethora of pastries, we headed out.  We drove into the sunrise, reliving some of the more interesting, fun, frustrating, and even silly moments of the trip, our favorite panels/sessions, meals/restaurants, and some “honorable mention moments” shone through:

TribFest Panels/Sessions

  • The Stories of 9/11 and One-on-One with Julián Castro (tie for most votes!)

  • Points of Light

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

  • Trade Off
  • Ed & the Feds

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Austin Texas, Texas Tribune Festival, Tribfest, Susanna Martinez

  • From Within

Restaurants/Meals

  • CAVA and Clay Pit (tie for most votes!)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

  • Kerbey Lane Café
  • Coffeehouse at Caroline

Trip “Honorable Mentions”

  • Book signing by an author — not on the book signing list (Julian Castro)!

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Texas Tribune Festival, Julian Castro, Miranda Estrada

  • One traveler’s first time to visit the Texas State Capitol – Senate & House floors, Hall of Governors, and learning what the Texas Capitol icon the Goddess of Liberty *really* looks like…

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Austin Texas, Texas Tribune Festival, Tribfest 2019

  • Seeing Austin City Hall at night.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Texas Tribune Festival, Austin City Hall

All in all, everyone agreed it was a packed trip, full of interesting information and exciting experiences, and in some cases, the opportunity to gain insights that may even challenge one’s current way of thinking.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Austin Texas, Texas Tribune Festival, Tribfest, Susana Martinez