The George W. Bush Presidential Center–SMU

Presidential libraries are a favorite stop for LEAP Ambassadors, making the George W. Bush Presidential Center a must-see destinbation during our short time in Dallas.

Located on the beautiful campus of Southern Methodist University (“SMU”), the Center had its grand opening on April 25, 2013. In attendance were former Presidents and First Ladies: Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter, George H. W. and Barbara Bush, Bill and Hillary Clinton, George W. and Laura Bush, then-President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, and more than 10,000 guests.

Once inside, we started with the special exhibit, “Away from the White House: Presidential Retreats.”

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Dallas, George W. Bush Presidential Center, Presidential Retreats

This exhibit was all about the invaluable getaways Presidents have taken over the years to get away from the pressures of the White House. Each President had a special home away from the White House that provided them with a sense of normalcy and time for relaxation and family while maintaining the everyday responsibilities of the President of the United States.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Dallas, George W. Bush Presidential Center, LBJ, Western White House

We then made our way into the museum part of the Center. We learned all about President Bush’s life and time while he was in office. Of course, a significant event during Bush’s presidency was the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center (a.k.a. “9/11”). The museum had on display steel beams from the Twin Towers—which we also had the opportunity to see while at the National September 11 Memorial Museum in New York City this past spring.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Dallas, George W. Bush Presidential Center,, 9-11

We learned that, in the aftermath of 9/11, the Department of Homeland Security was developed to help foster communication efforts between agencies.  In this information age, it’s hard to comprehend lack of communication and coordination, but it wasn’t that long ago that those barriers existed.

We also had the chance to use interactive technology in a couple of areas in the Center.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Dallas, George W. Bush Presidential Center,

In one space, we used touch screens to review decisions made during the War on Terror in Afghanistan and Iraq.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Dallas, George W. Bush Presidential Center,

In another, the Decision Points Theater, we had to make a crucial decision regarding Hurricane Katrina as if we were President.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Dallas, George W. Bush Presidential Center,

The Center even had a complete replica of the Oval Office.  We took advantage of the opportunity to pose as President….

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Dallas, George W. Bush Presidential Center, Sawyer Massie, Makayla Mason, Victoria McClendon-Leggett

…while checking out the art that Bush highlighted in the Oval Office, such as this piece from Tom Lea.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Dallas, George W. Bush Presidential Center, Tom Lea

And after our usual visit to the gift shop, we stopped outside for another photo op.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Dallas, George W. Bush Presidential Center

Each of us has now seen four presidential libraries (both Bushes, FDR, and JFK), but LEAP as an organization has seen eight.  We are happy to keep adding to our–and our organization’s–total.

So Long, It’s Been Good To Know You, OKC

On Saturday, the LEAPsters had to finally bid farewell to the endless flat land and lustrous skies of Oklahoma City, but not before a few last adventures. Like the tumbleweed in a dust storm, we drifted through the city and down to Dallas, in search of great art, food, and little bit of history.

Oklahoma City National Memorial Museum (Ashley)

After driving through the city and getting a feel for what 1995 would have been like in that quiet city, we reached the Oklahoma City National Memorial Museum. Never had we visited an institution dedicated to a single tragedy, being able to capture and include poignant details of the Oklahoma City Bombing. The museum was structured in an interesting way. We started from the second floor and then worked our way down to the first. The facts were presented in chronological order, beginning with the events, down to the minutes, leading up to the bombing. It was this introduction that set the exposition of this heart-wrenching story.

OK Bombinb Museum and Memorial, Oklahoma City, LEAP Center, SHSU

It can be difficult to relate to an event (such as domestic terrorism) after being born years removed from it. But when you see how other people were impacted by it, the tragedy becomes more relatable. As we looked through the pre-bombing news articles and artifacts, we were amazed how Timothy McVeigh was actually interviewed by a journalist two years before, while professing anti-government propaganda related to the 1993 Branch Davidian Compound attack in Waco, Texas. Apparently these views were what compelled him to attack the Murrah Federal Building two years later. Perhaps the most gripping part of the museum was when we entered the model of the Oklahoma Water Resources Board room.

OK Bombinb Museum and Memorial, Oklahoma City, LEAP Center, SHSU

There we listened to a recording of the board’s minutes the day of the bombing. In the middle of the recording, the voices die, the recording crackles, and the explosion roars in the background. With the flickering of the lights, and the sounds of panicked screaming and confusion, some of us were close to tears.

OK Bombinb Museum and Memorial, Oklahoma City, LEAP Center, SHSU

We explored the rest of the museum, reading about the destruction…

OK Bombinb Museum and Memorial, Oklahoma City, LEAP Center, SHSU

…rescue, investigation, and miraculous rebuilding of the city.

OK Bombinb Museum and Memorial, Oklahoma City, LEAP Center, SHSU

After we witnessed the destruction of the bombing through the exhibits…


…we stepped outside onto the memorial and found the survivor tree. The area was really a place of brilliance as it was full of beauty and somberness.

OK Bombinb Museum and Memorial, Oklahoma City, LEAP Center, SHSU, Survivor Tree

There were large gates on each side of a pool with the time a minute before (9:01) and after the detonation (9:03) of the bomb.

OK Bombinb Museum and Memorial, Oklahoma City, LEAP Center, SHSU

Perhaps most gripping from the memorial was the 168 chairs engraved with names representing the people who died during the explosion, with 19 small chairs honoring the deceased children. The museum at first emits a certain mournfulness, but because of the survivor tree and the resilience it shine with its green, resurrected branches, we left with a sense of hope. This memorial deeply touched us, and was definitely one of our favorite places we visited on this trip. With this sense of vitality, we reached the end of the gate and made to get some lunch.

Iron Star Urban BBQ (Kaitlyn Tyra)

Before departing from Oklahoma City, we stopped to fill our growling stomachs at Iron Star Urban BBQ. LEAPster, Ashley Allen immediately described the restaurant as “hipster BBQ.” Rightfully so perhaps, as the atmosphere of the restaurant was very trendy. Regardless of it being hipster, it proved to have tasty food. To experience the restaurant as much as possible, we ordered bacon wrapped quail breast and jalapeño cornbread to sample. Both were surprisingly tasty! For our main entrees, we tried the pulled pork sandwich, the pimento cheese burger, and the smoked prime rib sandwich.  Although the Oklahoma BBQ was different from our traditional Texas BBQ, we enjoyed trying Okie cousins’ delicious bbq!

Our dessert, like a sweet coup-de-grace, finished our meal consisting of a peach crisp, Drunken Turtle Cheesecake, and Double Chocolate Bread Pudding.

Iron Star Urban BBQ, Peach Crisp, LEAP Center, SHSU

Everyone had their own favorites but we enjoyed sampling them all. Iron Star BBQ was a fantastic final meal for our time in Oklahoma City!

With that we piled back into the car and settled in for our drive to Dallas.

Nasher Sculpture Center (Mitchell Sanchez)

At the midpoint between Oklahoma City and Huntsville, we decided to take a breather near downtown Dallas. We took this opportunity to visit the Nasher Sculpture Center. Raymond and Pasty Nasher began the art collection dating back to the 50’s. Together this couple has built one of the finest collections of 20th century sculptures in the entire world. The students had the privilege and honor to walk among some truly amazing pieces, from the quirky Claes Oldenburg…

Nasher Sculpture Garden, Claes Oldenburg, LEAP Center, SHSU

…to a couple of Pablo Picasso’s sculptures. One of them was inside one of the three galleries on the interior of the center, where other virtuosos of art were housed.  While the second, much larger, Picasso was outside in the 1.4-acre sculpture garden.

Nasher Sculpture Garden, Picasso, LEAP Center, SHSU

The garden contains more than 90 trees, including oaks, elms and crepe myrtles. In the midst of this urban forest were pieces by Henry Moore…

Nasher Sculpture Garden, SHSU, LEAP Center, Henry Moore

…George Segal, and Barbara Hepworth, just to name a few.  A particularly striking theme to the garden was how the nature and sharp cut stone and walk ways complemented each other in a way that demonstrated the ability of artists to enhance nature’s peace and beauty. The Nasher Sculpture Center gave us a wonderful vibe of elegance and peace. Peace much needed after a very momentous weekend.

Nasher Sculpture Garden, SHSU, LEAP Center, Henry Moore


With a last stroll through Klyde Warren Park, among a thong of lively children and mirthful adults, we boarded our van and made the last stretch to Huntsville. With the moon behind the clouds, and an air of tranquility, we ended our trip with a restful chat of all the wonderful adventures we had during the trip. From tripping through the ice, to trying out buffalo burgers, we reminisced on the happy memories of our Texoma LEAP Trip.

OK Bombing Memorial, Survivor Tree, SHSU, LEAP Center

A Last Day in Dallas

After a roller-coaster weekend at UNT Law, we had a half of a day left in Dallas before returning to SHSU.  We decided to use it by having a little fun and enjoying good food.

We could have had both in Klyde Warren Park, one of Dallas’s newest success stories.  Known as the “front lawn of the arts district: for its proximity to the arts district, the park provides an interesting 5-acre public space for families to enjoy a morning or afternoon.  It also has a ring of food trucks, offering fare of every kind, making it a great place for a group as diverse as ours to go.  But because we like to explore, we had our fun at Klyde Warren Park, before moving elsewhere for lunch.

There are large green spaces at Klyde Warren, with a .45-mile walking trail around it.  Along the trail or mini-recreation areas: a kids’ park, a board-game station, a reading library station,

a putting green, a Foosball table, and an amphitheater.  The amphitheater can be used for bands and such at night, but is used for yoga at 10am daily.  The day we were there, almost 100 people were participating in the yoga relaxation/exercise techniques.

But our primary purpose was to throw the frisbee around, and we soon learned who could catch.

Austin_Frisbee_2_WebAustin, for example, can catch.  In the picture above, notice the Jordanesque-shadow. Of course, he played college football until this year, so we expected him to be athletic.

Austin_Frisbee_WebAs it turns out, though, Kaitlyn Tyra can also catch, and she may be a dark-horse for our Spring 2015 Charity Football game.

Professor Yawn is getting up there in age, but we let him play because he grades us.


We think Megan can catch,  but we aren’t really sure.  She had a strict rule to only move one step in any direction, which earned her the name “One-Step Chapa.”  Here she is impersonating a stork.

Megan_Frisbee_WebBut the day wasn’t particularly intense for any of us.

Park_Frisbee_WebNotice the halo over Professor Yawn’s head.

Following some more fun, we had to call it a day at the park…


…and return to the hotel.  As we preparing to check out, the hotel went dark.  The electricity went out.  The LEAP Center Ambassadors pride themselves on adaptability, but this was difficult for Constance Gabel, who was stuck in the hotel elevator.  The fire department was called…


…and Constance was extricated from the hotel elevator.

Just in time for us to eat at Twisted Root, a restaurant that specializes in burgers and root beer.  Their burgers are wonderful, and their root beer is interesting.  The flavor of the day was “Irish Creme Root Beer,” which was better than the root beer from the last time we were there: Grape Root Beer.  Of course, that was better than their “Coconut Root Beer.”  Their regular root beer is excellent.  And their burgers are great.

Twisted_Root_Burger_WebOne of the interesting aspects of their restaurant is that, when you order, they provide you with a name from popular culture as your signal that your burger is ready.  In our group, we had Eva Mendes (Kaitlyn), Serena Williams (Beatriz), Apollo Creed (Austin, of course), Matlock (Yawn), Mike Modano (Brian Aldaco), and others.  It was interesting to see who knew which references, a process that led Austin to say, “Son, you need to watch more television” to one of the newer members.

With a general consensus that Twisted Root is a good place to lunch, we allowed Constance one more groupie for the weekend…

Groupie_Twisted_Root…and headed home.

But not for rest and relaxation!  The week ahead involved our weekly meeting (Monday), a law-school application workshop (Wednesday), a Moot Court Practice (Thursday), a volunteer meeting (Thursday), the showing of Nosferatu (Thursday, whew), a Mock LSAT (Saturday), and a volunteer event (Saturday).

More to come!



Careers in Politics: Day 1–According to Brian King

On September 20th, 2013, seven students (including myself) from Sam Houston State University’s L.E.A.P. (Law, Engagement, and Politics) Program departed from Huntsville, Texas en route to Dallas, Texas for the New Politics Forum Event, which takes place on Saturday, September 21st. This event is geared toward college undergraduates and graduates, who are interested in a future career within the field of politics.

Despite the windy, rainy weather during our travel, we successfully managed to stop for lunch at the Woodbine Hotel / Restaurant in Madisonville, Texas.  Madisonville, as some of you know, is the mushroom capital of Texas, so it wasn’t surprising that many of the fine entrees came with mushrooms.  The lunch also offered the chance for us to know one another.  We had an International Business major, a Criminal Justice major, and, of course, Political Science majors, but we were all united in our desire to be engaged in civics.  The Woodbine also offered us a chance to see interesting antiques, the most interesting of which was an antique phone booth.

Continuing through the rough weather and mild traffic, the students arrived in Dallas, Texas around 4:30pm and went to the Sixth Floor Museum, located at Dealey Plaza in Downtown Dallas.

Dealey Plaza Marker, Dallas
Dealey Plaza Marker, Dallas

The Sixth Floor Museum examined the life, times, death, and legacy of President John F. Kennedy. I really enjoyed the museum’s depiction of John F. Kennedy, along with the countless photographs and memorabilia from the time of his presidency.

Following the Sixth Floor Museum tour, the students ventured to the Spaghetti Warehouse for dinner. At the restaurant, we continued to talk about political and school related affairs, as well as who our favorite presidents were. Some students liked Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, and Calvin Coolidge, while I opted for Franklin D. Roosevelt.

After dinner, the students embarked to the Dallas Museum of Art, which offered a special late night tour. Throughout the Dallas Museum of Art, I admired the American Art, as well as the Egyptian Art. Leadbelly, by Michael Owen Jr., is an example of one of the sculptures I enjoyed, especially given the background of the sculpture only taking a month to create.

Huddie Ledbetter, AKA Leadbelly
Huddie Ledbetter, AKA Leadbelly

I should also note that this piece has a connection to my adopted hometown of Huntsville, Texas, which features a mural of Leadbelly on a downtown storefront.

Coffin of Horankh, representing a coffin in the form of a human body, also caught my attention. This body of art was common within the Egyptian culture, as a means of “magically” assuring eternal life.

Coffin of Horankh
Coffin of Horankh

Overall, I enjoyed the first day of the New Politics Event Forum trip, from the Chicken Caesar Salad at Woodbine Hotel / Restaurant to the aspect of engaging in different cultures at the Dallas Museum of Art. Finally, I look forward to sharing my experience from the New Politics Conference tomorrow at Southern Methodist University.