David Berg has been an attorney for more than four decades, becoming an internationally renowned specialist in white-collar crimes. But as he became more successful legally, he found himself reflecting more on the death of his brother, which occurred when he was a fledgeling Houston attorney in 1968. Alan Berg was killed, according to David, by Charles Harrelson (the father of Woody Harrelson) but never convicted.
David revisited the events leading up to the murder in his non-fiction book, “Run, Brother, Run,” which received very favorable reviews by the New York Times, the Christian Science Monitor, NPR, and others. He also dropped by SHSU to discuss the book and the murder with SHSU faculty, staff, students, and local citizens.
Berg mixed his presentation with a discussion of crime, law, family relationships, and boom days of Houston, Texas, providing substance for everyone in the audience. Many in the crowd had their own recollections of Harrelson, who spent time in Trinity and Huntsville (in and out of prison). Eventually, Harrelson was convicted of murdering Judge John Wood in San Antonio in 1979. It was the first assassination of a federal judge in the 20th century.
Afterward, Berg spent time speaking with the crowd, giving encouragement to pre-law students…
Today was the second day of the 2014 Film & History Conference. As yesterday, the featured panels were many, and the titles all appeared to be interesting topics. What appealed to me the most was a panel titled “Jimmy Stewart for president and Ronald Reagan for best friend: Star Image and Political Campaigning,” by Amit Patel. Amit began his presentation by introducing Ronald Reagan’s initial career as a B movie star. In fact, he starred in low-budget films such as Love is on the Air and Santa Fe Trail. In 1942, the film Kings Row finally gave him some recognition as a movie “star.” Interestingly, Reagan was initially a Democrat, but later switched to the Republican party. In 1976, he embarked in a campaign for the Republican presidential nomination against incumbent Gerald Ford. Amit focused on Ronald Reagan’s use of Jimmy Stewart in his campaign. In fact, Stewart strongly supported Reagan, and even participated in a political ad were he stated that Ronald Reagan was his friend, therefore, the American public should vote for him. Reagan lost the nomination, but campaigned again in 1980, and became president. I thought it was an interesting panel because a candidate’s image is probably the most important thing during a campaign, and if the candidate was a known public figure beforehand then that plays in his favor. In addition, the use of famous actors or public figures to support a political candidate is common nowadays, and it is interesting that it was used in Reagan’s campaign, too.
A tour guide showed us the most important features of the Capitol, and shared the details of its construction. What interested me most was that Madison had previously had other two state capitols, but they both burned down. The second time around, the Capitol had recently discontinued its fire insurance, so the state did not have enough money to rebuild it. Ingeniously, the state had the idea to tax railroads that were passing through Wisconsin at the time, and with that revenue, they rebuilt the Capitol between 1906 and 1917. The architecture of the capitol is mesmerizing, featuring marble from many different countries, such as Greece, Italy, France, and Germany, as well as some beautiful mosaics.
Perhaps most interesting, the capitol staff apparently have a very liberal speech code in the building. Numerous exhibits were posted around the capitol rotunda protesting the performance of Governor Scott Walker, and one impressively vocal protester’s shouts could be heard throughout the building.
After the tour, we decided to go to the observation deck at the top of the building, and experienced true cold for the first time on our trip.
The winds were so strong that it was hard even to close the door behind us. Nonetheless, it was worth it because the view was beautiful.
Leaving the Capitol, we took a stroll in the brisk Wisconsin air to find ourselves some nourishing lunch. We finally settled on Marigold’s, a local deli, where we reveled in the many options available. Among the delights we delved into were lavender white mocha and grilled ham and cheese with a hint of strawberry jelly. Packed with locals, Marigold’s was definitely a winner.
Out into the invigorating weather we went again to make our way to another of Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpieces, the Monona Terrace. Opened in 1997, the Terrace was built posthumously and served as the cause of much strife and contention during his career. Using Wright’s design of the exterior, Wisconsin contractor J. J. Findorff and Son Inc. carried out the great architect’s dream, while his previous apprentice, Anthony Puttnam, designed the interior.
Once inside Madison’s event center, we explored the gift shop full of Wright memorabilia before embarking on a tour with guide, John.
Pointing out certain Wrightian things, such as the dome on the west side of the building and the arches in the grand ballroom, John proved to be a formidable docent as he never ran out of interesting facts and stories to regale. Braving the gusty winds, we had the chance to view Lake Monona, which Monona Terrace balances precariously over, thanks to the intricacies of Wright’s design.
Awed by the view and many selfies taken, we headed inside to embrace the warmth it offered and finish our tour.
Seeing it was getting late, we rushed back to the car in order to make it to a few last minute shops, original to Madison. Among those, we re-caffeinated and browsed a wonderful cheese boutique, Fomagination. Overwhelmed by the many options and tastes, we took in Wisconsin’s finest and tried to contain our enthusiasm at all that was available. It was incredibly exciting to see so many things unavailable in the great state of Texas. We loaded up on cheeses and cheese accessories before tumbling back into the car to begin the final leg of our trip.
We admired the beautiful fall landscape of Wisconsin; the rolling hills and deep yellows, greens, and reds created the perfect ambiance for our drive to Dubuque, Iowa. There, we enjoyed the Fenelon Place Elevator, or Dubuque Incline, claimed to be the shortest and steepest railroad in the world.
Gripping the seats…
…up we went on the side of the hill to eventually reach one of the most inspiring views of the trip so far. Known as “the magic hour” in film circles, we caught the sun setting on the horizon, creating beautiful red and orange tones in the sky and on the trees off in the distance.
Proud to say we had viewed three states at once (Iowa, Illinois, and Wisconsin) from the top of the incline, we got back in the cable car built in 1882 to return to our vehicle and carry on to the next leg of the journey.
After a short drive, we arrived at our final destinations: The John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park and the Des Moines capitol building. The 4.4-acre sculpture garden is unique and home to 28 sculptures from 22 different artists. Various paved paths provided a route for us to take through the garden, however, curiosity and the lure of new art, propelled us forward.
Many of the sculptures were created by artists that were foreign to us, however, one sculpture in particular provided us with the comfort of familiarity: Painted Steel by Mark Di Suvero. Di Suvero also has an art piece called “Proverb” in Dallas, Texas, which we were able to relate to. “Painted Steel” was made out of steel and painted in the same red that “Proverb” is painted. Both statues have similar characteristics, but varying dimensions and structure.
Another interesting sculpture that we saw was, “Back of Snowman (Black)” and “Back of Snowman (White).” These sculptures were created by artist Gary Hume and were located side-by-side in the middle of the park and held a spectacular gleam given off from the surrounding lights. Each of the statues consisted of two round pieces of bronze covered in enamel, one in white enamel and one in black. These statues were especially appealing because each round piece of bronze was perfectly symmetrical and smooth, giving the piece a unique trait of looking seamlessly perfect.
The last sculpture that really caught our eye and our interest was “The Thinker on a Rocky” created by Barry Flanagan. This piece was a large rabbit sitting upon a boulder in the same pose as Rodin’s “The Thinker.” The piece was clearly a satire on Rodin’s famous statue, which only added to its appeal!
While the statue garden was a fantastic experience, we had to continue our night and head to the Des Moines capitol building. The Renaissance style capitol, designed by John Cochrane and Fred Piquenard, was absolutely stunning! The capitol building featured a 23 carat gold dome in the middle of the building and was accompanied by two smaller domes on either side of the building. The capitol took expansive resources and large amounts of time to build and open to the public. The building took fifteen years and a staggering amount of $2,873,294.59 to complete. On June 29,1886, the capitol was ready to be open for use!
Both the capitol and the sculpture garden trips were the perfect ending to day five of the trip!
Over a two-day period, students with the Center for Law, Engagement, And Politics (LEAP) heard from some of the brightest minds around. Mayors Annise Parker (Houston) and Harry LaRosiliere (Plano) talked local government with Councilmembers Bill Spelman (Austin) and Jungus Jordan (Fort Worth); Representative Larry Gonzalez talked the state legislature with Senator John Whitmire; and a host of policy experts explored corrections, privacy, human resources, public administration, and health care. The conference was presented by Governing Magazine, and the discussions served to trumpet many of the “best practices” used by government leaders across the country. Below, the students who attended discuss the panel each found most interesting.
Jake Rivera: “Deploying Data & Performance Metrics to Achieve Results”
This panel featured Brian Anderson (Information Security Officer at Texas A&M-San Antonio), Bill Bott (Consulting Partner, Change & Innovation Agency), and Jerry Madden, for the Representative in the Texas Legislature; and the moderator, Dustin Haisler (Governing Magazine). These men discussed the difficulties that public officials have of evaluating their own programs, a fact compounded by concerns about privacy and even foreign espionage. They also discussed some interesting new technologies (e.g., an app that points drivers to empty parking spots) that could make governance more efficient and customer oriented.
Jessica Rodriguez: “The Local Perspective”
How do you spark connections between elected officials and their constituents? You couldn’t do better than to ask Harry LaRosiliere (Mayor of Plano), Annise Parker (Mayor of Houston), Bill Spelman (City Council, Austin), and Jungus Jordan (City Council, Fort Worth). Although unrehearsed, they each emphasized infrastructure—from basics such as the roads to cutting-edge innovations designed to bring citizens closer to each other and to those that represent them. Perhaps the most intriguing example of these types of connections is the “Food 4 Kids” program in Plano, Texas, in which the City partners with the North Texas Food Bank and local businesses to provide lunches on the weekends for children. The panelists also seemed to be in agreement that local government, while not the most glamorous of the elected positions in the country, was the closest to the people: “If you want to be a [local] official,” noted Mayor Parker, “you have to care about the potholes in the streets, whose trash didn’t get picked up, and toilets being able to flush properly.”
All: “The Legislative Perspective:Empowering Reform in Service Delivery.”
In this panel, Senator John Whitmire and Representative Larry Gonzales had a free-wheeling and far-ranging discussion of issues facing Texas: crime, transportation, mental health, and education.
This was probably the most invigorating of the discussions, with the experts on the stage being given time to explore fully various alternatives. Nothing was off the table. How about an income tax? How about legalizing marijuana? The panel didn’t necessarily try to answer some of those questions, but they raised a number of intriguing possibilities, offering discussions that lingered with us beyond the conference.
Ariel Traub: “Workforce and Management Strategies:”
Featuring star panelists Joyce Wilson (CEO of Workforce Solutions, Upper Rio Grande Valley; former City Manager of El Paso), Bob Lavigna (Vice-Chancellor of the University of Wisconsin), and John Keel (Texas State Auditor), this session brought to light numerous intriguing ideas for attracting, training, and retaining professional employees in government. Citing the difficulties government has competing with private businesses on salary, the panelists suggested combining the following strategies to sweeten the deal for potential and current employees:
Offering school loan forgiveness
Providing tuition flex time or work-at-home days
Ensuring fair evaluation methods
Promoting workforce morale through reward and recognition programs
Working with working mothers and fathers to provide flexible leave programs for workers with children
Although many of these programs have been published elsewhere, the panelists offered interesting twists. Joyce Wilson, for example, noted that it was difficult for many employees to pay for tuition up front and wait to be reimbursed. She suggested that companies bear the up-front costs rather than reimbursing employees. Moreover, all of the panelists noted that, in addition to offering specific benefits to individuals, the proposals also had community-wide salutary effects. Flex-time and work-at-home opportunities, for example, not only provide flexibility to employees, but these policies also cut down on traffic and pollution. Leave programs for mothers and fathers promote strong and stable families. Tuition programs promote greater productivity and employee self-actualization. And so on.
Although the panel was specific to HR strategies, it offered an example of strong approaches to build a stronger organization across all departments.
Tara Cobler: “Investing in Talent: Developing the Workforce to Sustain and Grow Texas’s Economy.”
Any discussion of future employment opportunities has to involve in training and education, and these panelists covered these topics thoroughly. One interesting problem that was broached by an audience member was the issue of Texas’s large prison population. Texas prisons hold more than 150,000 people, the largest prison population in the United States. Accordingly, there is also a large population of ex-inmates, and even more relevant, many people convicted of lesser crimes who were not actually sent to prison. These previous convictions are huge impediments to gaining employment. Some former offenders go through extensive training programs (many of them state funded), only to find that they cannot be licensed in their field with a conviction. The result is a triple loss: (1) the prospective employee remains unemployed, (2) taxpayers have spent thousands of dollars on training to no avail, and (3) the prospective employee is often left dependent on other forms of public assistance.
The panel suggested that criminal histories should be contextualized more fully, giving more ex-offenders the opportunity to gain employment, when appropriate. The program was not only enlightening, but it was also important because it illuminates how public officials can gain knowledge and sympathy to the plights encountered by those who are most affected by public policy.
Alan Garcia: “Closing Remarks: Adrian Garcia”
As a citizen who grew up in Harris County, I expected a great speech from Sheriff Adrian Garcia–and he delivered. He did an excellent job with his closing remarks, tying together the themes of previous speakers and providing an inspirational coda to the day’s panels.
Echoing the sentiments of previous speakers, Sheriff Garcia noted the importance of electing officials who truly care about citizens. Slick candidates may be able to appeal more effectively to voters, but the day-to-day governing activities require dedicated and devoted public servants. Similarly, Garcia reiterated the importance of community institutions such as family, non-profits, and public-private partnerships (“P3s”). Garcia drew on his personal experiences and background to illuminate the different factors that led to his success, and it provided a microcosm for community success. Like Sheriff Garcia, I am a first-generation American, the youngest child in my family, and–like Sheriff Garcia–I hope to be a successful public figure in the United States while also honoring my Mexican-American heritage.
The conference was a wonderful learning opportunities for us, and we are grateful to Governing Magazine for this opportunity. In addition to hearing from the panelists, we had numerous opportunities to speak with professionals from across the state. This is a wonderful program for current professionals and a great opportunity for aspiring professionals, and we are grateful to both Governing and SHSU for providing this opportunity for us.
Our final day involved presentations by national figures from the campaign world as well as our own presentations of our hypothetical campaigns. Compared to previous years, Sunday’s day was longer, giving us more time to work on our campaigns and to present them to our panel of judges. To cap the weekend off, we were treated to a mini-job fair, with representatives from ten or so state campaigns on hand to accept applications.
Joycelyn—Our fourth day in Austin was filled with a mixture of emotions. Some of us were anxious about presenting our mock campaigns, a fact exacerbated by the fact that we had still work to do. We did, however, get up early, grabbed our most professional suits, and headed to the Belo Center for New Media.
The teams presented their proposed campaigns in different manners. My group went first, followed by Makeebba’s. My focus was on the finance and fundraising section of the campaign, while Makeebba discussed the dynamics of campaign messaging. (Jake and Lupe’s groups presented at a separate session, so I was not able to see them present.)
Following our presentations, we retired to a “reflection room,” where we shared experiences, goals, and tribulations, while also discussing people who had influenced us in the field of civic engagement.
At the end of the Campaign Bootcamp, awards were handed out to outstanding groups. Makeeba’s group won first place in overall presentation. Although I was not part of her groups, I was very glad she and her group were recognized. After all, I knew she had worked very hard. Lastly, we also had the opportunity to exchange business cards with campaign recruiters.
The Campaign Bootcamp was a wonderful opportunity to have hands-on experience in many aspects of the political campaign process. Over my four years at SHSU (I graduated in May) I learned an immense amount of information in class, but I’ve also learned extensively by practicing what has been taught to us.
Makeebba—Today’s session was pretty intense. Our first session over research, which was pretty interesting, but a difficult one for us given that we were focused on our presentations. Following lunch, we had additional time to prepare for our presentations.
We only had six members on our team (compared to other teams, which had eight), so we had a bit of double duty. But things came together about thirty minutes before “game time,” and things worked! Our team won! I was very pleased, and I learned a whole lot about not only campaigning, but also about life. I can apply these skills that I’ve learned to almost any job or to life situations.
Lupe—The last day of campaign bootcamp consisted of one last workshop over research, along with group presentations, followed by tips on job opportunities. At crunch time, we were given the scoop on how to find last-minute facts, data, and other information on the opponent.
We used a vast array of public sources to find information that could be useful to our candidate, and we spent about an hour to get with our group and put the final touches on our campaign.
Feeling confident about my team and our hard work we waited for our time to shine. Unfortunately we ran out of time during our presentation! Our team had an amazing introduction and opening segments, but they ran a bit long. Still, we received honorable mention for our field plan, and I was very proud of that.
Following presentations, our mentors gave us on tips on how to be involved and potential careers in campaigning. We also had a mini-job fair, with many campaign representatives present and advertising opportunities that were available.
I gained a wonderful experience of working in a team with strangers, putting aside our different views, and working together as a team.
All—It was a wonderful four-day program. It’s hard to believe that we began it on Thursday night by watching “The Foreigner,” and following it the next day with a tour of the Bob Bullock Museum. The three-days of presentations, hands-on learning, and exposure to students from across the state was a formative experience. It encouraged professional growth, broadened horizons, and provided a lot of fun!
May 15, 2014–LEAP Center students had a rare opportunity to hear directly from Croatian President Ivo Josipovic. The Croatian head of state was in Houston to discuss business relations, global diplomacy, and relations with Russia. The theme of the speech, however, was oil and energy, a nod to the 5,000 odd energy firms in the Houston area.
Josipovic spent little time talking about himself, which was unfortunate. He is an attorney, composer, and a music professor professor–in addition to being president.
The event was also an engaging cultural opportunity for us. Traditional Croatian dancers were on hand to demonstrate folk dance, and a very fine singer performed a couple of Croatian songs, including the country’s national anthem.
Following the event, we visited Cafe Pita, a Bosnian/Croatian restaurant on Westheimer. We explored various intriguing offerings–including fried anchovies.
It was a great evening with a great group–one that included some special guests: Leanne Woodward (whose grandfather immigrated to the US from Croatia) and Megan O’Flaherty, former President of the Junior Fellows.
This was the eighth head of state that LEAP Center students have seen in person. The others include: US Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, George H. W. Bush, Barack Obama; former Presidents of Mexico Vicente Fox and Felipe Calderon; and the President of Guana, John Mahama.
With the start of the spring semester, students are trying to settle in and get adjusted to an increasingly hectic schedule. That’s also true of politicians, who are facing primary elections in less than three weeks. And last night, the lives of the students and politicians intersected at the Reagan Dinner in Walker County, when TX Representative Dan Branch, TX Representative John Otto, Congressman Kevin Brady and 20 or so other elected officials mixed with students and locals in a fun-filled evening.
The event combined fun and food, with Representative Dan Branch giving the keynote address. Befitting a “Reagan Day” Dinner, Branch offered his favorite Reagan quotes, including these orders: “I have left orders to be awakened at any time in case of national emergency — even if I’m in a Cabinet meeting.” He also generously spent time sharing stories with the students following the event.
We were doubly lucky in that our tickets were sponsored by Representative John Otto and Senator Charles Schwertner. Some of our group sat with Representative Otto and his wife, Nancy, while others sat with Senator Schwertner’s District Representative, Hayden Paul. They were very nice, spending time discussing the business of governance and providing useful advice.
While all the students were interested in the political side of things, the night was particularly interesting for Ashley Richardson who, like Otto, combines an interest in Accounting and Politics. “It was inspiring,” noted Richardson, “I hope to follow a similar career one day, and it was a great learning opportunity.”
Major thanks to Representative Otto and Senator Schwertner for providing tickets, to the organizers—Linda McKenzie, Tracy Sorensen, and Kay Deahl—for their great work, and to Representative Dan Branch for a fine speech. Their efforts opened up doors for us, and we are very grateful.
This was a perfect start to a planned three-day weekend. Following the event, we are picking up our Democrat friends, and we’ll head to Austin for more education, fun, and food!
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.
“The goal of the CIA is to learn other nations’ secrets,” noted General Michael Hayden, and he should know. Hayden was the Director of both the CIA (2006-2009) and the National Security Agency (1999-2005) and, most recently, a “guest lecturer” to a group SHSU students who traveled to Houston, Texas to learn more about intelligence operations. The lecture, hosted by the World Affairs Council, covered wiretapping, prioritizing threats, presidential performance, and balancing work and family.The most pressing question from students focused on wiretapping, a topic that General Hayden seemed to anticipate. Hayden ensured students that the government did not record their calls, but acknowledged that the government did document the calls, taking note of who called whom and how long each call lasted—logging, as General Hayden referred to it, some 3 billion “phone events” per day.
This massive data collection comes in handy when other information falls into place. Hayden provided the example of the government capturing “Ali Bin Badguy” and confiscating “Mr. Badguy’s” phone which, in turn, allows them to locate his calls off the “phone-event” database and identify other potential terrorist connections. Hayden emphasized, however, that the government did not record calls made by citizens, at least not without a warrant.
SHSU Senior Coby Steele veered away from the popular wire-tapping issue and asked about operational management. “How,” he wanted to know, “do the multiple acronym agencies work together to prioritize threats?” General Hayden acknowledged that it was a problem, but not for the reasons people think. “The problem,” he noted, “is that we have so much data. It’s difficult to ‘connect the dots’ when there are so many dots that the page is black. But that’s because we are good at collecting data and working together.”
Hayden, who worked directly for Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama, noted that it wasn’t just the intelligence agencies working together. He praised President Bush and Obama for putting aside their differences and maintaining a consistent policy on intelligence: “There were fewer changes in 2009 when the Obama administration took over from Bush than there were in 2005, when Bush transitioned from his first term to his second.”
Brian King, a senior at SHSU, moved away from policy issues altogether and asked about the personal life of a CIA employee. “How,” asked King, “do you balance a family while running the CIA?” Hayden acknowledged the difficulties but said that he and his wife took “vacations together and traveled together for work,” unless he was heading into a war zone, in which case he traveled alone.
Although the SHSU students had almost an hour with General Hayden, not all of the SHSU students asked questions. Ashley Richardson, an Accounting major and first-semester freshman from Magnolia, Texas, learned through listening. “This is an amazing real-world educational experience with the former CIA Director,” noted Richardson. “You just don’t get these types of experiences in high school.”
King agreed, noting, “I’m not sure you get these opportunities at any other college. The CIA Director can listen to our conversations whenever he wants,” King added, tongue-in-cheek, “but how often can students listen to his conversations—let alone participate in them?”
The opportunity to interact directly with General Hayden was coordinated between the World Affairs Council and SHSU’s Center for Law, Engagement, And Politics (LEAP), which promotes learning across diverse disciplines. In the past month, students have met the former President of Mexico, Felipe Calderon; discussed career paths with a half dozen Texas legislators; and attended a presentation by former Senior Advisor to President Obama, David Axelrod; met former White House Chief of Staff Andy Card—while also attending law-school related activities and engaging in volunteer service across the community.
“Our goal,” noted Mike Yawn, Director of the LEAP Center, “is to provide opportunities that open new worlds for the students. SHSU faculty work hard to do that in the classroom, the University provides institutional support for similar outcomes outside of the classroom, and that combination will help us produce the next generation of public leaders in the state of Texas.”