Ashley Richardson and Joycelyn Ovalle–As LEAP Center students, we strive to take initiative. It’s a good thing! This morning, adaptability and initiative shaped our Austin trip, which was almost derailed by what Austinites described as “inclement weather.” The Capitol Building Officials, however, closed down the offices, leaving us without a guided tour of the Capitol Building.
We adapted. Professor Yawn offered an impromptu tour of the Capitol, offering neat facts and historically accurate facts pertaining to politics and law. In fact, some straggling tourists soon joined the group, asking, “Is this a public tour?” Along the way, and sometimes with stragglers, we saw our favorite governors, Elizabet Ney’s statue of Sam Houston, and some Capitol art.
But we weren’t the only ones who adapted. Senator Schwertner’s Chief of Staff (Tom Holloway) and District Director (Leah Alexander) came into work despite the “snow day,” and offered us a wonderfully interesting overview of office administration, discussing staff positions, duties, and a general conversation about “life on the Hill.” For students who have learned most of their politics in classrooms and television, this real-world discussion was valuable, and many of us left hoping that we would be able to apply that knowledge on the Hill in the near future.
With those thoughts in our head, we headed to Frank and Angies, where three colossal-size pizzas were devoured.
To begin our afternoon sessions, we headed to the House Chamber, where Chris Griesel (House Parliamentarian) and Nikki Cobb (Chief of Staff to Representative John Otto), taught us about the process of shepherding legislation through the Texas Legislature.
Comparing his job to an air-traffic controller, the former lawyer turned Parliamentarian used a modified version of the Socratic Method to engage the students, while Ms. Cobb provided valuable insights from an insider’s perspective.
Having “class” in the House Chamber added to the experience, and we were sitting on the edge of the House members’ seats, soaking in as much information and advice as possible.
We concluded our visit to the Capitol with a visit to Representative Senfronia Thompson’s Office. Ms. Thompson, one of the most senior members of the Texas Legislature, invited lobbyist Todd Kercheval to speak to us. He offered motivational words emphasizing how persistence and diligence can change destiny, and he shared with us his path through various public service positions culminating with his position as lobbyist.
Although our formal schedule for the day was complete, we still had plans for dinner at Fogo de Chao, where several SHSU alumni joined us for a meal that was almost overwhelming in its profuse offerings of lamb, chicken, and beef.
To work off some of the food and to extend conversation, we took a half-mile stroll around downtown Austin, including a view of Sixth Street, adding an exciting end to an exciting day!