Jessica Rodriguez: Austin Tour, Day 2

Jessica Rodriguez, Day 2 of Austin Tour

What an honor and what a pleasure! This morning was unlike any other, as a matter of fact; unlike most Americans’ typical morning. This Friday morning I had the wonderful opportunity of meeting former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. For those not familiar with Justice O’Connor, she was a ground breaker and a pioneer in the Supreme Court. She was the first female appointed to the Supreme Court.

Junior Fellows a Few Feet Away from Justice O'Connor

Junior Fellows a Few Feet Away from Justice O’Connor

President Ronald Reagan, during his campaign, promised support for a female Supreme Court Justice; and he delivered. She is truly an inspiration to every woman. Whether your political ideologies match hers or not, her hard work and dedication in law and government are quite an inspirational story!

Justice O’Connor truly illuminated the room as she walked in.  Not only were we in the presence of a history maker, but her sense of humor made us laugh in less than a minute.

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor

Justice Sandra Day O’Connor

Justice O’Connor spoke to us about the importance of civics and the amount of work she has put into iCivics, a program designed to help understand our government.  (Check out www.icivics.org).

Not only has she put in great efforts to develop this online interactive game, but she also offered us some valuable advice for those of us looking into careers in law. First, “Read fast!” Second, “Write well!” I will definitely listen to Justice O’Connor’s advice.

On a special note, I was able to ask her if she endured any hostility as a newcomer in a Supreme Court full of men.  In her reply she did not play the victim.  In fact, she stated, she noted that she already knew Justice Rehnquist, and she pointed out that she was as curious about them as they were about her.

I cannot thank enough the Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Life for putting such a unique opportunity together.

During the afternoon we visited the Harry Ransom Center on the UT Austin campus.  I walked in those tall, spotless glass doors thinking I would get to see a Gutenberg Bible, which I did…

The Gutenberg Bible!

The Gutenberg Bible!

but voila…I was also fortunate to see an antique photography exhibit.

My excitement did not end there.  In another exhibit I ran across a recording of Russ Hodges’ call of Bobby Thomson’s 1951 home run, immortalized as “The Shot Heard Round the World.”  Although I’m not a sports fan, I’ve heard this clip of the announcer shouting excitedly, “The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant! … I don’t believe it, I don’t believe it! …”   The emotion one can feel through the announcer’s voice — it’s quite amazing!  It was part of a larger exhibit called “Literature and Sport”…

The Harry Ransom Center's "Literature and Sports" Exhibit.

The Harry Ransom Center’s “Literature and Sports” Exhibit.

…where we were able to see works by Arthur Conan Doyle, Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, and others.  I would definitely recommend checking out the Harry Ransom Center.

As if these activities weren’t enough, we also had a tour of the Capitol.  There, we were able to see Elizabet Ney’s statue of Sam Houston.

Junior Fellows with Sam Houston

Junior Fellows with Sam Houston

I also had the chance to visit the House Chambers…

Jessica Rodriguez, House Chambers

Jessica Rodriguez, House Chambers

…and, in fact, the staff even let us take a photograph running the House, just like the Speaker–perhaps a sign of things to come!

Junior Fellows Presiding Over the House

Junior Fellows Presiding Over the House

We also had the chance to tour the UT Tower, the site made famous by Charles Wittman, who climbed the tower in 1966 and went on a killing spree.

UT Tower

UT Tower

Despite the history, the tour is enjoyable and the views from the top are beautiful, whether offering a close-up of the clock face…

Clock Face on UT Tower

Clock Face on UT Tower

…or the beautiful views of the surroundings…

UT Tower View

UT Tower View

It was an exciting day, one that offered not only beautiful views of Austin and what it has to offer, but also–perhaps–a beautiful view of the future…

Legislative_Desk_2

 

Junior Fellows’ New Orleans Tour: Day Four

We were able to sleep in a bit on our last day in New Orleans.  Accordingly, we spent a lazy Easter morning walking about, seeing some more of the French Quarter, and then packing up and heading out with just a few sites on our final to-do list.

We did make a few stops on our last day.  We stopped by the St. Louis Cemetery, where we got to see bits of history.  First, we saw the reputed grave of Marie Laveau, where people still leave voodoo items…

Coby and Jake at Marie Laveau's grave

Coby and Jake at Marie Laveau’s grave

…For more on Laveau and her presence in popular culture, click on the screen shot, below…

Marie_Laveau_Song

…we also saw a plaque for Benjamin Latrobe, the nation’s first architect.  Latrobe designed the US Capitol Building, the US Customs House in New Orleans and, among others, the Baltimore Basilica…

Baltimore Basilica, by Latrobe

Baltimore Basilica, by Latrobe

We were able to see several of Latrobe’s designs on our recent inauguration trip, so it was nice to see a follow-up site on this trip.  Unfortunately, it’s not entirely clear where in the cemetery Latrobe is buried.  He is in the Protestant section, but there is no grave marked for him in that small area, so we had to content ourselves with seeing a plaque set up in his honor.

Benjamin Latrobe Plaque

Benjamin Latrobe plaque

Finally, we also saw the grave of Homer Plessy, the famous defendant in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), infamous for establishing the “separate but equal” doctrine.

Homer Plessy's Grave

After leaving the cemetery, we tracked down the site at which Plessy was arrested for boarding the “whites only” portion of the train.  Without too much trouble, we found it, on a corner in a less-traveled part of town, by the river.

Plessy v. Ferguson plaque

Plessy v. Ferguson plaque

It was a real treat to see this part of history, particularly the civil rights sites.

We had one more stop before arriving home.  We stopped at the Louisiana Capitol Building in Baton Rouge…

Louisiana State Capitol Building

Louisiana State Capitol Building

This, of course, is the site of Huey Long’s Assassination, and one of the locations featured in the most recent version of “All the King’s Men”.

Junior Fellows at the Louisiana Capitol Building

Junior Fellows at the Louisiana Capitol Building

Typically, the Junior Fellows’ trips involve far-flung destinations with lots of stops along the way.  On those trips, we arrive at our hotels around midnight and are off to the next spot six or seven hours later.  This was different, with the opportunity to really explore the city, and it was a lot of fun.  On the way home, we reflected on our favorite aspects of the trip, and the consensus was:

Restaurants: (1) Oceana Grill and (2) Blue Dog Cafe

Junior Fellows at Blue Dog Cafe

Junior Fellows at Blue Dog Cafe

Favorite Sites/Activities: (1) Segway Tour, (2) St. Louis Cemetery, and (3) WWII Museum

Arjenae and Coby at St. Louis Cemetery

Arjenae and Coby at St. Louis Cemetery

Favorite Street Performers: (1) Various Jazz Bands, (2) Gold Statue Man

Jazz Band on Royal Street

Jazz Band on Royal Street

NOLA-Tshirt5_2013

Junior Fellows’ New Orleans Tour: Day Three

We had another early start to the day, once again heading to the conference.

Jake Rivera at SWPSA

Jake Rivera at SWPSA

Today, we sat in on panels involving “State Government Institutions” and “State Politics and Policies.” 

SWPSA Conference Presentation

SWPSA Conference Presentation

The topics ranged from domestic violence legislation to intergovernmental relations to lobbying to Rick Perry.  The most interesting topic, however, was on direct ballot measures, by Shauna Reilly and Richard Engstrom.

Following the conference, we prepared to see the town, taking a walking tour of New Orleans.  There are few things as interesting as New Orleans on a Saturday afternoon on a sunny, spring day.  We saw numerous street performers, from jugglers…

Juggler on Royal Street

Juggler on Royal Street

…to banjo players…

Street_Performers_Web

to jazz performers…

Dancing to Jazz

Dancing to Jazz

…to “Snow White”…

Snow White, Maybe

Snow White, Maybe

We also stopped into an old-school record store, strolled by the Royal Caribbean cruise ship, and separated to try different restaurants for lunch.  Some of us tried the Court of Two Sisters, others tried Big Easy’s Bar and Grill, and others tried Daisy Dukes.

Energized by lunch, we embarked on our Segway Tour.  Interestingly, our segways had names.  Mine was Stella, named for the iconic scene in A Street Car Named Desire, in which Marlon Brando shouts “Stella.”

The tour, offered by Segway City Tours, lasted two hours, taking us through many interesting areas.

JFs_Segways_Web

We toured the French Quarter, passing Bourbon Street and seeing more interesting street performers.  We visited Tremain, the oldest African neighborhood in the country, where we saw the oldest African-American church in New Orleans—St. Augustine Cathedral. We also toured Louis Armstrong Park, learning about the formation of Jazz, as well the former Red-Light District, Storyville, that was nearby.

Junior Fellows with Louis Armstrong

Junior Fellows with Louis Armstrong

We also had a nice ride along the Mississippi, an interesting experience on a Segway.

Junior Fellows on the Mississippi

Junior Fellows on the Mississippi

Following the tour, it was interesting to get our “ground legs” back, but retreated to the hotel for some downtime.

For dinner, we joined Cheryl Hobbs and her family and headed to the Louisiana Pizza Kitchen, where we tried sundry pizzas: a Cajun Sausage Pizza, a Wild Mushroom Pizza, and a Bacon and Chives Pizza.  For dessert, we trekked to Café Du Monde.  This was my first time in New Orleans, and I wasn’t expecting such a long line at a café.  But we managed to find a seat and began to work on half a dozen beignets, which is when I understood why this place was famous.

Beignets from Cafe Du Monde

Beignets from Cafe Du Monde

With this being our last night, along with the fact that we had just ingested thousands of calories each, we took another walk through the French Quarter.  There were the expected sights and sounds on Bourbon Street…

Bourbon Street

Bourbon Street

but we also were able to see the back of St. Louis Cathedral, which showcases a beautifully lighted statue.

West Side of St. Louis Cathedral

West Side of St. Louis Cathedral

Of course, by now it should be expected that we again encountered the Blue Dog.

The Blue Dog, in Rodrigue's Gallery

The Blue Dog, in Rodrigue’s Gallery

His creator, George Rodrigue, has a gallery in the heart of the French Quarter, where dozens of his works were for sale.  Curious about the cost?  The small ones (16×20) go for $30,000, the medium-sized ones go for $75,000.  We weren’t told the prices of the large ones.

Junior Fellows New Orleans Tour: Day Two

By Arjenae Walker

NOLA-Tshirt5_2013

Gentleman start your engines. A wake up call at 6 a.m. certainly kicked me into first gear. My first panel was at 8:30 so I had to be dressed and ready to register by 8. Thank God for Starbucks! Vanilla Bean Frappuccino and a butter croissant, breakfast of champions.

I attended the panel over Undergraduate Research on American Politics with Coby. Students from University of North Texas, UT Arlington, and Southwestern University, presented papers and were critiqued by the Discussant and audience. All participants performed well and gained my respect for having the courage to put themselves out there.

The next panel I attended was over African-American Cultural History.  John Belleci, a graduate student at Cal State Fullerton, discussed his paper titled “Jim Crow Never Died.” The author argued that the spirit of Jim Crow lives on.  Having lived across the South, it was of particular interest to me.  I’ve always had a great love of history, and the panel was put on by the Phi Alpha Theta History Fraternity, so it was a nice fit.

After panel sessions we headed out to the World War II Museum. I come from a long line of vets and have an utmost respect for those who have served. Going through each exhibit, reading, hearing, and even seeing some of what took place during that time evoked both pride and pain. Pride because it’s an honor to live in the country these brave men and women sacrificed their lives for. Pain because of the simple fact that these were sons, daughters, fathers, sisters, etc., many of whom were under twenty-five years of age and who never made it home.  A nation that banded together, women and men who put on their uniform, all unsure of what tomorrow might hold but having faith no matter what, is a nation that embodied what Francis Scott Key meant when he pinned the “Home of the brave.”

Exhibit at WWII Museum

Exhibit at WWII Museum

Our next stop was a small restaurant called Elizabeth’s. It was a neat little hole in the wall that required us to park in a vacant lot across the street. But don’t let its humble beginnings fool you. When I hear Elizabeth I think of a meek, conservative woman surely a character from the Bourgeoisie. But you see Betty is a slow talkin’, mean walkin’, Creole who can throw down in the kitchen. Elizabeth’s should really be called Betty’s because out came the best breakfast I ever had, catfish fried to perfection, scrambled eggs, and to seal the deal thick southern style grits just like my Granny makes. Needless to say I enjoyed my food very much.

It was a nice day so we visited the Besthoff Sculpture Garden just outside the New Orleans Museum of Fine Art. There were various pieces from artists across the world, from America to Israel. A piece that really stood out to me was “Mother and Child,” by Colombian artist Fernando Botero.  The sculpture depicts one of Botero’s typically large mothers holding her child while standing on top of the child’s father.  It reminded me of how in today’s society, with a divorce rate of fifty percent, mothers are often the only parent a child knows.

Mother and Child, by Fernando Botero

Mother and Child, by Fernando Botero

Continuing the theme of art, we visited NOMA and saw paintings by some notable artists such as Cassat, Monet, Renoir, Picasso, Modigliani and O’Keefe to name a few. Even our old pal Blue Dog made an appearance.

The Junior Fellows with the Blue Dog

The Junior Fellows with the Blue Dog

To end the day the guys and myself had dinner at Remoulade on Bourbon St. It’s a good thing we’re traveling by foot for the majority of this trip since all this good food comes with calories galore!

Junior Fellows’ New Orleans Tour: Day Two

Jake’s Take, by Jake Rivera

NOLA-Tshirt5_2013

The day in New Orleans begin great when we awoke and headed out into the day, greeted just outisde our hotel by the ever present Blue Dog.

The Blue Dog, On Canal Street

The Blue Dog, On Canal Street

We then quickly registered for the conference and began to get ready for the panels. The panels were extremely interesting as the lectures were on important topics in political science. We finished our individual panels–with topics such as Presidential Communication, Undergraduate Research on State Politics, Organizing the White House, and African American Cultural History–before making our way to the World War II Museum.

World War II Museum, New Orleans

World War II Museum, New Orleans

The World War II Museum was a great historical learning experience as we delved into the war and how it affected American lives. One of the most interesting exhibits to me was the Propaganda Exhibit, where we saw examples of propaganda put out by both the Americans and the Japanese.

American Propaganda in WWII

American Propaganda in WWII

It is a unique museum, and a great way to learn about the war and the men who fought in it.

For lunch we headed to Elizabeth’s restaurant, which provided an amazing food experience.

Elizabeth's in New Orleans--601 Gallier Street

Elizabeth’s in New Orleans–601 Gallier Street

For me, that meant an Elizabeth’s Dream Burger, although for others it meant “Bananas Foster French Toast,” “Grits and Eggs,” and a “Roast Beef Po Boy,” although we all tried Boudin Balls and Blue Cheese Oysters as starters.

We tried to walk off our lunch at the Sylvia and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden at New Orleans City Park, also the home of the New Orleans Museum of Fine Arts.  One of the first things to strike you as you enter the garden is a giant safety pin, one created by Claes Oldenburg and Cooje van Bruggen.

Safety_Pin

That was kind of a head-scratcher, but it was an identifiable head-scratcher.  Others were less identifiable, although just as interesting.

The Museum is a classical structure, with an entrance featuring an entry-way partially obscured by six massive columns.

New Orleans Museum of Arts

New Orleans Museum of Arts

The Museum had 46 exhibits, with floors dedicated to American and European art, and the third floor consisting of Asian, African, Oceanic, Pre-Columbian, and Native American art and artifacts.

As interesting as Museums are, they are also tiring, the standing and walking wear you down.  So after visiting the NOMA, we retreated to our hotel rooms where we rested a bit and blogged, before heading out to dinner at Remoulade, where we had more of New Orleans’ tasty Cajun food…

Red Beans and Rice, from Remoulade

Red Beans and Rice, from Remoulade

We also got a little more of the flavor of New Orleans’ nightlife…

Street Performer

Street Performer

…before heading in for the night.

New Orleans or Bust!

By Arjenae Walker

“All aboard the Nawlins’ Express!” Which in reality is a 6 passenger Tahoe. At 6:45 we piled in ready to begin our journey to New Orleans, LA for the Southwestern Social Science Association Conference. But along the way we had to stop at the famous Blue Dog Café in Lafayette, LA. I’d heard about it before but wasn’t expecting what awaited me once I stepped inside…BLUE DOGS EVERYWHERE! In every piece of art you could imagine, Blue Dog on the Bayou, Blue Dog painted in American Gothic, Blue Dog with Presidents Clinton and Bush, and Blue Dog at the Capitol Building…

Blue Dog at the Capitol Building

Blue Dog at the Capitol Building

If the décor wasn’t memorable enough the good service and even better cuisine certainly topped it off for me. Satiated and sleepy we continued our journey to New Orleans.

“Beep Beep!” A reoccurring sound coming from the ever pleasant drivers of the “Big Easy”. You would’ve thought we were on the set of The Fast and Furious when we made it to the city. Pedestrians darting in and out of the street casually daring anyone to hit them, and cars flying around corners and flooring it down the roads.

Once we go settled in to our rooms we took a self-guided tour of the downtown area. In the heart of the French Quarter we stopped at Jackson Square, named in honor of the Battle of New Orleans hero Andrew Jackson. The focal point of the square was the famous Clark Mills’ statue of Jackson atop his horse.

Andrew Jackson and the St. Louis Cathedral

Andrew Jackson and the St. Louis Cathedral

There are four identical replicas of this statue in the U.S. today. Throughout the square is beautiful landscaping but another thing that caught my eye was the architecture of the St. Louis Cathedral that stands right behind the square. When we entered the sacred place the ceilings were breath taking. Such intricate and celestial paintings in a place already intrinsically beautiful.

Right before you exit the cathedral sits a prayer room sealed by glass, it belonged to the Venerable Henriette Delile, a candidate for sainthood. She was a free woman of color who lived in NOLA. She and the other women of her family followed the placage system. (This means colored women “in concubinage” with wealthy white men.) When she was 24 she underwent a religious experience leading her to open up the first Catholic home for the elderly who took in women who needed more than visitation in America. Her cause for canonization is the first of a US born African American to have been officially opened by the Catholic Church.

Walking down the French Quarter we hit a well-known twilight zone called Bourbon St. Sporadically we saw street performers of all variations from dancers to characters, most who seemed to have had “a few too many chocolate milkshakes,” as Chris Tritico would put it. But still entertaining none-the-less. As you walk down Bourbon you can see French architecture everywhere with the double gallery house like buildings. We ended the night at the Oceana Grill for a Taste of New Orleans. For the first day I’d say we’re off to a great start.

Bourbon Street and the JFs

Bourbon Street and the JFs

 

 

 

Touring The National Mall With Hundreds of Thousands of Others

Birds at the Jefferson Memorial

Birds at the Jefferson Memorial

Today marked day four of the Junior Fellows Inaugural trip.  Last night we were treated with extra sleep: five whole hours! Our first stop of the morning took place promptly nearby in Staunton, Virginia at Woodrow Wilson’s home.  Featuring red brick and white trim, the house boasted a notable size while still maintaining a relatively simple and modest look.

The back of the home featured a path down to an extensive row of bushes, trimmed and organized into a maze of sorts.  The most important aspect however was the surrounding area.

The home is situated along a narrow street among numerous other cozy looking Georgian style homes.  The close knit nature of the neighborhood, combined with the rural atmosphere left me wanting to move in right then and there.  Woodrow had it well off in a simple environment.

As great as it was to start our day off exploring the home of President Woodrow Wilson, the JF’s were probably most excited to reach the destination that spurred this whole trip: Washington, DC.

Junior Fellows at the Washington Monument

Junior Fellows at the Washington Monument

The Mall area in Washington is very picturesque, a fact that brings large crowds, paradoxically making it difficult to get good pictures.  Nonetheless, we were able to see many of the monuments remarkably unimpeded by security. Two places in and around the mall area come to mind as being popular with the visitors: the Martin Luther King Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Monument

Martin Luther King, Jr. Monument

The Martin Luther King, Jr. monument depicts the civil rights leader with his arms crossed, staring across the Tidal Basin toward the Jefferson Memorial.  The MLK monument is one of the newest to the Mall area, and it is a fitting monument for the occasion: the second inauguration of the first black President.

Though the MLK Monument was popular, the Lincoln Memorial was more so, and for good reason.

Taylor and Jessica, Lincoln Monument

Taylor and Jessica, Lincoln Monument

Not only is Lincoln one of our greatest president, but his monument also offers one of the most recognizable images in the United States and maybe even the world.

The Lincoln Monument

The Lincoln Monument

Looking east, the eye moves past the reflecting pool and is arrested by the impressive verticality of the Washington Monument, before gliding on toward the imposing Capitol structure.  You can’t beat that view.

View From Lincoln Memorial

View From Lincoln Memorial

We all wanted a picture at the Lincoln Monument.

Ryan at the Lincoln Memorial

Ryan at the Lincoln Memorial

The Korean War Memorial wasn’t an overly favorite monument among the group, but had a unique and eerie feel to it. The first noticeable part to the memorial is also its most distinctive part; scattered across a small field stands various soldier statues, each carrying their weapon, each having a different gaze.

The Korean Memorial

The Korean Memorial

Small plants and brush line the ground, giving you the feeling you are standing amongst a patrol in Korea.  Once you look to the left you find a lengthy charcoal grey wall.  This is no ordinary wall.  At a closer glance you will find the faces of various soldiers etched into the granite.  These ghost-like figures immediately gave me a sense of deserved solemnity.

Korean_Memorial_Reflection_Web

Both the wall and statues bring something different and new to the table when compared to the surrounding monuments, deserving respect not only to the fallen soldiers, but the artistic mind behind it.

Our next stop at the Thomas Jefferson Memorial was intriguing not only its design but with such beautiful weather it was captivating to see the afternoon sunlight rushing behind Jefferson’s statue which stands tall in the center. The engraving on both ends of the rotunda seemed to stand out a bit more, which made for a breath taking scene.

Jefferson Memorial

Jefferson Memorial

Jefferson looks across the Potomac toward the Washington Monument and beyond, to the White House.  It was one of our favorite monuments.

Junior Fellows at Jefferson Memorial

Junior Fellows at Jefferson Memorial

 

While the sun set over Washington, we had dinner with Junior Fellow alum Justin Veillon, who currently works for Congressman Kevin Brady.  While we caught up with Justin he was able to give us a vicarious glimpse into the life of a staff aide, covering the work he did, and offering his thoughts on living in Washington.  He gave us a better sense of how to move around D.C. For example, The Capitol is the center of the city and from that D.C. is divided in quadrants. As you travel through Washington it behooves you to have an idea what quadrant you are in and what direction you are driving because you could end up getting very lost. Justin also shared how the direction in which streets run can be quite a problem if you’re new in town. Some street lanes turn into contraflow lanes during certain times of the day in order to help rush hour, however, if you’re not familiar with this, you could be heading straight into another car. As a recommendation, we were told it is better and more efficient not to own a car and use the many transportation systems available throughout the city.

The Junior Fellows would like to thank Congressman Kevin Brady, Justin Veillon, and Brady’s office for providing us with tickets to the Presidential Inauguration.

Junior Fellows at the Capitol Building

Junior Fellows at the Capitol Building