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.