We started the official part of ou day at 7:30 when we headed to the New Politics Forum held at the LBJ School of Public Affairs. We were one of the first to arrive so we took the chance eat a quick breakfast and take a look around the campus. We were also able to talk to a few of the presenters—with State Representative (and former TSUS Regent) Larry Gonzalez making an especially good impression.
The New Politics Forum featured panels on (1) running for office, (2) public service, (3) lobbying and advocacy, (4) political communications and the media, and a keynote speech by Michael Williams. Every panel featured speakers from both sides of the aisle and with a wide range of experience. This was a great opportunity to get a wide range of views about political careers.
Out of the panels, the two that stood out were: public service and lobbying.
The panel on public service was especially interesting to me because I hope to have a career in public administration and because the panelists all had slightly different views on the subject. One of the most memorable statements came from Professor Angela Evans when she stated that “Public service is an ethical arena. You move from doing things for personal benefit and start doing it for the public”. This short quote did a great job of explaining one of the main reasons that people choose to serve in the public sector. One of the other interesting examples came from Austin City Councilman Bill Spelman. He explained that one of the reasons that he chose a career in public service was because he could work on issues and see a tangible effect. According to Spellman, “It’s not abstract when you look at someone and say I made their day better”.
The panel on lobbying was interesting to me because it was the exact opposite of what I was expecting. The word lobbyist is often seen as a dirty word but the panel did a great job of explaining how it was actually in the best interest of lobbyists to tell the truth and operate in an ethical manner. The panel also explained how lobbyists also play the necessary role of providing information to decision makers in both Austin and Washington.
The whole New Politics Forum was a great experience to learn more about careers in politics and public service and to gain firsthand advice from both newcomers and veterans in those fields. I would highly recommend attending to anyone who wants to learn practical lessons in politics or about future career options.
Last night, after losing a highly competitive game of Catch Phrase, I had a nice (but short) night’s sleep. I was surprised that I was able to get up without too much a problem; I am not a morning person at all. But, we were all ready on time and were the first group of students to arrive at the conference.
We enjoyed a nice continental breakfast. One of the surprises of the day was that one of the conference’s speakers, TX Representative (and former Vice Chancellor of TSUS) Larry Gonzales, was nice enough to talk to us about the conference topics, his experience in the legislature, and how much he enjoyed spending time on SHSU’s campus.
He was one of the speakers on the first panel, “Electoral Politics: Running for Office and Working on Campaigns.” This was my favorite group, I think it helped me the most and gave me a few ideas on what I could possibly do when I finish school. All three panelists, The former Congressman Chris Bell, TX Representative Larry Gonzales, and Kevin Burnette all gave great advice on campaign careers.
My favorite bit of insight was by Burnette, when he noted that, “Campaigns run on various levels of disorganization, not organization.” I think that they were all trying to tell you what it was really about and not trying to sugar coat anything, something I always appreciate.
After lunch we listened to the keynote speaker, Texas Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams. He is currently a candidate for the U.S. Senate and his speech was very informative. I enjoy listening to professionals that are knowledgeable and passionate about their jobs and he definitely fit both of those criteria
The last group spoke on Political Communication and the Media, with Jenifer Sarver, Reeve Hamilton, Matt Glazer and Dr. Talia Stroud as speakers. While I have no desire to go into journalism or media relations, I found this session really informative in the sense of how politicians should communicate appropriately to the media. They stressed to always keep your facts straight and to be consistent with your political views. Toward the end we were broken up into groups and given an exercise. We were given two scenarios and told to come up with a Democratic and a Republican message strategy. This gave us a chance to work together and think how to effectively portray what we want while also having to relate to two different audiences. It was a really interesting exercise that would be helpful to do again with different scenarios.
Tomorrow we are going to the LBJ Presidential Library and to a couple museums afterwards. Besides being a Political Science major, I am also a History major at Sam Houston, so I try to visit museums when I can. I have not been to any museums in Austin, so I am really looking forward to touring them.
Last night, after a long game of Catch Phrase (The guys won, but we girls will come back with a vengeance tonight.), we finally made it to sleep. Surprisingly, we were able to wake up on time; although; I did not become fully awake until my second cup of coffee at the conference.
My favorite panel of the day was entitled Electoral Politics: Running for Office and Working on Campaigns. The panel was impressive: Chris Bell, former U.S. Representative; Larry Gonzales, TX Representative; and Kevin Burnette, political consultant. They spoke about how they worked toward their current positions and the challenges they face in campaigns. I believe Kevin Burnette stated it best when he said that you just have to “jump in the pool and just start swimming.” There is no use in procrastinating. If you want to do something, you might as well get in the game as soon as possible.
Representative Gonzales was my favorite panelist throughout the day. He was a former Vice Chancellor for the Texas State University System (TSUS). When we were eating breakfast before the conference began, he spoke to us about his time as Vice Chancellor and why he ran for office. He was a very nice guy and I really enjoyed hearing him speak.
Another of my favorite speakers was Thomas Ratliff, member of the State Board of Education and son of former Lieutenant Governor Bill Ratliff. He sat on the panel entitled “Stepping Up: What it Means to Choose Public Service.” His advice to all of us young ‘uns was to find something that makes us really mad and then be a part of the solution. That, he indicated, was his motivation for running for the State Board of Education.
After lunch, we were lucky enough to hear Railroad Commissioner and candidate for the U.S. Senate, Michael Williams speak. He spoke about clean energy and then took several questions, most of which were regarding his bid for the Senate. He was a compelling speaker, and though I did not agree with his platform, I respected the fact that he answered each question honestly, without trying to change the subject.
By the end of the day, I was ready to change into casual clothes and eat a good meal at The Brick Oven. The Italian food was delicious, although I was disappointed that they did not have any escargot. Nevertheless, I left the restaurant satiated and am excited to visit the LBJ Presidential Library and other museums in Austin tomorrow!
Today we started early on our journey to seek some of the best information on how to get involved in Texas state politics. Two of the sessions that I most enjoyed were about lobbyists and communications in politics. The lobbyist session proved to be interesting in part because they debunked the myth that lobbying is all about wining and dining elected officials to get them to vote a certain way. Keith Strama, a professional lobbyist and one of the panelists, said that “he was bugged by the typical association of lobbying just being dinners, drink and golfing all the time.” He said they work really hard at what they do, and they serve an important function in relaying specific information about policies to elected officials.
Jay Brown, another lobbyist and panelist, had a message that really resonated with me. He talked about the hard work associated with being at the state capitol all the time. He said sometimes he’s at the capitol 16-18 hours a day.
As I heard speaker after speaker talk about politics, an underlyin tone struck me, best expressed in the lyrics of a song by Ryan Bingham; “This ain’t no place for the weary kind.” All of the speakers talked about devoting their time, energy and even money to get a start into politics. Getting involved in politics is something that I’ve always wanted to do, and I guess looking back, I have been involved in politics for a while. I ran for office twice in high school (with a 2-0 record!), I’ve lobbied my parents for different things for most of my life (win/loss ratio not in my favor) and I’ve lobbied to get a job over adversaries (2-1 record). So as I start to climb the mountain of networking to get my foot into the door of politics, maybe it’s just a molehill.
The communications session offered sound advice that I have since been thinking about. All I have to do to get in politics is be readily available to work hard. Many of the officials that spoke today got involved in politics in a variety of ways. It seems that the main component is the advice given by Jenifer Sarver, chief of staff to Ambassador Karen Hughes: (1) volunteer (2) be willing to work at any level, and (3) do excellent work.
As I move toward graduation at SHSU, I’m prepared to work hard in the field of public service. I hope I’ll have that chance.
Finally, we also had the great opportunity to hear Commissioner Michael Williams speak. He was informative and lively, and I think the students enjoyed his speech.
Thanks for following our journey of political events that add to our links of public service.
Today, I slept ‘til 9:50am after a late-night game of Catchphrase. I was ready for the conference by the start of the second seminar. My favorite lecture of the two that I listened to was the one that Commissioner Williams gave about the Railroad Commissioner’s office and about oil and gas. He discussed running for office, and he answered some tough questions by the students.
After the conference, my mom, Mr. Mike, and I walked around at Zilker Park for around 45 minutes. After looking around at the park, we decided to go to a frozen yogurt shop called The Yogurt Spot. We tried to visit the French Legation, but it was closed, so we went to the State Capitol. We got to see the chambers of the House of Representatives, and I saw both a painting and statue of Sam Houston.
We ate dinner at a restaurant named The Brick Oven. I had a mini pizza with Italian Sausage. Tonight we will probably play either Uno or Catchphrase. Then I hope to catch up on my lost sleep.