An Ex-Soldier’s View of World Events

By Yvette Mendoza, November 16, 2021

With another semester wrapped up, a few of the LEAP Ambassadors headed to Houston for–of course–another World Affairs Council event. We arrived a bit early, as we try to do, and we enjoyed the Christmas ambience.

As with all WAC events, we were learning about foreign affairs, but this time it was from an ex-soldier’s point of view. And not just any former soldier: Dan Crenshaw.

Representative Crenshaw was introduced by WAC Director, Maryanne Maldonado, who welcomed us all to a wonderful lunch and program.

Congressman Crenshaw was a part of SEAL Team 3 that served in both Iraq and Afghanistan. He was injured while serving, leaving him with only one working eye, an outcome resulting in his ever-present patch–and two Bronze Star Medals, the Purple Heart, and the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with Valor.

After retiring in 2016 from the military as Lieutenant Commander, Congressman Crenshaw began to consider a political run, and in 2018, he was elected Congressman for Houston’s 2nd Congressional District.

Moderator Ronan O’Malley, the World Affairs Council’s Program Director, asked questions written by the attendees and directed them towards Congressman Crenshaw.

He began by discussing a few issues within our government: specifically, the adverse effects of withdrawing from Afghanistan “too soon.” Another topic discussed was the situation at the border, as the number of undocumented immigrants has increased in recent months.

Congressman Crenshaw spent part of his youth in Ecuador and Columbia, is proficient in Spanish, and he believes the US is currently spending insufficient resources developing relationships with countries in South America. Doing so, he believes, would alleviate some of the current problems, at least in the long term.

On all of the issues discussed, Representative Crenshaw noted that he is grateful for being a veteran, which he believes has given him a different approach when addressing issues.

He also reminded the audience several times about the book that he published, Fortitude: American Resilience in the Era of Outrage, noting, somewhat jokingly, that it would be an excellent gift for a loved one for the holidays.

When asked about his potential future ambitions in the political spectrum, he left the audience with a cliffhanger: “We’ll see what comes.” And, with that, he left for his next event, leaving many in the audience wondering what the future, in fact, holds for Representative Crenshaw.

Brazilian Energy (and food)

Mario Ocampo, November 15, 2021

If it’s another week at the LEAP Center, we are probably headed to another fantastic World Affairs Council meeting, and this time Brazil was on the menu. Today’s luncheon included a mouth-watering meal that brought many wonderful and exciting individuals together. The event included the conversation on transitional projects needed to ensure Brazil a profitable yet environmentally-friendly energy future. The keynote speaker and panelists engaged the attendees with a market-based discussion of the energy transition, including hydrogen as the leading alternative to fossil fuels.

Today’s luncheon was located at the well-known Brazilian Steakhouse, Fogo de Chao. As the smells of various meats filled the room, many in attendance quickly engaged in enthusiastic conversations. Erin Juarez, Saara Maknojia, and I did not shy away from trying as much food as possible.

The moderator, Norman Nadorff, Counsel of Mayer Brown LLP, opened the floor and explained Brazil’s energy transition framework and economic incentives and the role that oil and other energy companies are expected to play along the way.

The featured speaker of the event, Francisco Monaldi, the Director of the Latin America Energy Program at Rice University’s Baker Institute, spoke about the critical transitions Brazil and other nations must achieve to reach net-zero carbon emissions by the year 2050.

Panelist Benigna Cortes Leiss, a Nonresident Fellow at the Baker Institute, explained the steps the country of Chile is taking on investing in renewable energy sources.

Benigna educated us on the active roles supporting companies like Siemens are conducting to expedite the transition to Hydrogen energy. The Co-Lead of Energy Transition, Greg Matlock, Partner at Mayer Brown LLP, elaborated on the importance of government incentives and how it promotes the growth of greener energy source alternatives.

Mr. Matlock explained that governments must create tax incentives to incentivize more funding towards greener energy sources like Hydrogen. The proper capital appropriation is vital to keep us on track to achieve the zero-carbon emissions goal.

To the World Affairs Council staff in attendance, Mayer Brown LLP, and all the event speakers, thank you for making this event extremely engaging and insightful.  

PLS: Wrapping up the Fall

Jordan Long, Historian

Welcome back! Today’s November 17th meeting was the last meeting of the semester, and it was a pretty fun one if I do say so myself.

Our President, Heather, started the meeting with some quick housekeeping: members should all have their t-shirts and any upcoming graduates will be receiving cords. The minutes from last meeting were approved.

Next, we started the games, leading with a legally-themed crossword puzzle. Crosswords and puzzles are good for the brain, and, accordingly, they help prepare your brain for the logic portions of the LSAT. While winning was motivation enough, the winner of this contest actually won a scholarship. And Morgan Robertson was the winner! Congratulations Morgan! (You know your Pre-Law Society, girl!)

Heather next spoke on the LSAC Forums offered physically across the United States and digitally on Zoom. Heather advised everyone to go to at least one. She attended the one in Atlanta, and she found it amazingly helpful. In these forums you get a chance to get application waivers, which are very useful when those fees start racking up. Prospective students attend from all over, and law schools come from all over to get in front of the students. Networking is important, and the admissions officers will help get any questions you may have answered and help in the application process. And it is FREE!

After that she introduced another game: “strike a juror.” We were divided into groups of six and our goal was to strike jurors based on the scenarios provided.

This game was very fun and informative, especially with Ms. Loveall participating and in putting her very helpful perspective!

There was a drawing for members who were very active this semester in the events that Pre-Law Society has hosted or partaken in. The winner of this drawing was our very dedicated member Ashley K! Ashley won a scholarship as well. Thank you for your consistency and congratulations Ashley!

Lastly, upcoming events will be the M*A*S*H Toy and Food Drive on December 1st and 2nd. To kick next semester off, the next meeting will be January 19th following our Ice Cream Social! And elections will happen soon after, so be on the lookout for another busy and rewarding semester in the Pre-Law Society!

The LEAP Center and Pre-Law Society will kick off the spring with a panel on crime in mid-to-late January! Stay tuned and keep up with our “upcoming events” page:

The State of the City: 2021

December 6, 2021

Morgan Robertson

Prior to our final organizational meeting of the semester, the LEAP Ambassadors stopped by the annual State of the City at the Walker County Storm Shelter

We walked in to see the whole facility lively with the conversation of citizens interacting with one another and City staff.

The Huntsville Public Library was one of our stops. I was able to introduce fellow Ambassadors to a few of the Library Staff: Rachel McPhail, the City Librarian; Brenda Collins, the Service Specialist; and Linda Huff, with Adult Literacy. HPL had a great visual aid made up of popcorn to demonstrate how much money patrons save and the return that the city receives.  

As we made our way around the room, we stopped at the IT booth, where they had an old rotary phone, a box Tv, and a security camera. Erin even learned how to dial on the rotary phone!, examining it as if it were a telegraph machine from the 19th century.

Seeing all the departments in Huntsville was a great learning opportunity, and it helped that we knew many of the staff. We even got to take pictures with Huntsville’s Main Street photo booth. 

As everyone took their seats Mayor Andy Brauninger began the opening remarks, expressing his love for the city and how much it means to him.

He also introduced School Board Trustee Ken Holland, who gave the invocation…

…and a local Boy Scout troop, who ably took care of colors.

Mayor Brauninger then introduced the City Manager, Aron Kulhavy. Aron Kulhavy gave a speech discussing the last two years and the City’s achievements.  

As Aron Kulhavy addressed the many updates Huntsville has, we were able to learn about the new developments such as a city-run animal shelter, an expansion of I-45, and an expansion of the MLK Center.  

After Aron Kulhavy’s closing remarks, we were able to talk with Aron Kulhavy about the City, and to thank him for his time.

It was an informative evening, and a great opportunity to see some familiar faces, such as Cody Humphrey and Brian Aldaco.

Christmas on the Square, 2021: Merry Christmas Huntsville!

Erin Juarez

The Leap ambassadors took a break from studying for finals and volunteered at Christmas on the Square on Saturday, hosted by Main Street Huntsville. This is an event where the whole community comes together and celebrates Christmas in early December. The city offers fun activities involving snow, Santa Claus, a train ride, karaoke, vendors, and so much more!

After we arrived and situated everything at our station, we began to see people walking toward the line to meet Santa Claus. As soon as he sat down in his chair, ready to listen to all the children’s Christmas wishes, they began to rush over to take a picture with him. There were people of all ages: newborns, toddlers, teenagers, and even adults. They all made sure to tell Santa if they had been naughty or nice this year. As a treat for each person who declared that they had been good, Santa gifted them a candy cane. He then promised them he’d visit on Christmas and bring whatever gift they had wished for.

Yvette and I have been good girls this year, so we made sure to tell Santa. We even took a picture with him!

The kids were eager to ride the train, sing karaoke, get their faces painted, and participate in all of the activities that the city had planned for them. For starters, the train was always busy, the children loved being able to cruise around downtown. They also enjoyed singing Christmas music, and I can’t say that we blame them… Yvette and I went on stage and sang a song too!

The event was live: the music, the dancing, the events, and the pet contests were all enjoyable.

It was nice seeing familiar faces there: Mac and Leanne Woodward and their grand kids were there;

Mayor Brauninger and his wife were there;

and we had a great chance to spend time with City staff, who made this event such a success.

There was so much joy in seeing how everyone from different backgrounds came together to serve the community, which is something I personally cherished.

After witnessing how people banded together to make this event happen: the volunteers, the staff, the residents, and their attribute of selfless service gave me reassurance as to my reasoning behind the desire I have to serve my country and become a part of the US Army.

On behalf of the Leap Ambassadors, we are so thankful for everyone who was a part of this event and we wish everyone a safe and wonderful Winter Break and Happy Holidays!