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

 

Advertisements

Dulce Martinez: Austin Tour, Day 2

Dulce Martinez: Day 2 (Friday, June 15, 2013)

On our second day in Austin, the Junior Fellows had the rare chance to meet former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.  In 1981, President Ronald Reagan appointed Justice O’Connor, who became the first woman to serve on the Supreme Court.  She is a true glass ceiling breaker for women across this nation.

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor

Justice Sandra Day O’Connor

The event was a small private gathering, which gave the atmosphere in the room a sense of relaxation and openness. She spoke for an hour, providing interesting details about her start in public service and her career as a Justice.

What was most fascinating was listening to her speak passionately about the lack of civics education in schools today.

Justice O'Connor Discusses icvics.

Justice O’Connor Discusses the Importance of Being Involved.

Justice O’Connor took this a chance to express the importance of becoming involved in our government and the initiative she has taken to deliver free civics education to schools as well as individuals.

The Junior Fellows felt truly honored to be present in front of such an extraordinary person who broke the boundaries and set the bar high for the next generations.

And while that was the highlight of our day, it was a day filled with many activities.  We started the day with a tour of the Texas Capitol Building, seeing the member offices, the House of Representatives…

Dulce in the Texas Senate Chambers

Dulce in the Texas Senate Chambers

the Senate, and the grounds…

Junior Fellows at the Texas Capitol

Junior Fellows at the Texas Capitol

In continuation of exploring the diversity the city of Austin has to offer, the Junior Fellows discovered two different restaurants well-known to Austinites; Frank and Angie’s Pizzeria and Kerbey Lane Cafe.  Frank and Angie’s is small local business, famous for their fresh Italian pizzas. It got its name from famous Italian-American singer Frank Sinatra and one of the owner’s mothers. The décor pays tribute to Sinatra and his music, while the food stays true to its Italian flavors.  Kerbey Lane Cafe, where we had dinner, is also an Austin original. It offers a wide range of dishes perfect for every taste, from Greek Chicken to Tex-Mex Enchiladas, and much in between.

Our learning also took place in the classroom, where various campaign professionals led seminars on “Campaign Management” and Volunteer Supervision.” We also broke into teams today, and we began the very beginning stages of the campaign plans we will present to campaign professionals on Sunday.

One of the last events of the day for the Junior Fellows was a tour of the UT Tower. Before the tour, the Junior Fellows visited the Tower Garden. The garden is a memorial site to the victims of the tragic shooting from the top of the tower in August 1966. The tour started with a rather quiet (but quick, one floor per second) elevator ride up to the 27th floor. Once on the observation deck, right below the clock level, guides shared with us some of the history of the tower, which was originally built to serve as a library for the University of Texas.

The deck offered a beautiful panoramic view of the city. The most prominent view the Tower provided was an unobstructed view of the Texas Capitol, the sight of which in the evening was a sensational way to end our second day in the Texas capital.

View from UT Tower

View from UT Tower