Junior Fellows Meet James Baker, Advisor to Presidents

He’s in his eighties now and no longer serving as an official advisor to the presidents, but James Baker still knows his way around the halls of power. He’s also still willing to share his experiences in those halls, a fact that worked to the benefit of the Junior Fellows last week, when they had a chance to meet him at a Houston World Affairs Council event and learn from his experiences and insights into the world.

James_Baker_Sign

His insights come from years in Washington, DC, where he served Presidents Ford, Reagan, Bush (the elder), Clinton, and Bush (the younger). Most notably, he served as Ronald Reagan’s Chief of Staff and George H. W. Bush’s Secretary of State, the latter capacity providing him with a starring role the shaping of the New World Order, assembling the coalition that defeated Saddam Hussein in the first Persian Gulf War, and ending the Cold War.

Gorbachev, Bush, Baker

Gorbachev, Bush, Baker

Baker’s speech reflected this broad background, with observations pertaining to every spot on the globe. When asked whether the United States should intervene in Syria, Baker was emphatic: “Consider me uncommitted. We don’t know which opposition group to back and intervention will simply antagonize Russia, whose support we need in Iran.” Baker was equally insistent that the US not allow Iran to have nuclear weapons, noting that such a development would prompt every Middle Eastern country to undertake a similar program, ending any hope of controlling nuclear proliferation. Regarding China, Baker urged cooperation, noting that there is “no better way to find an enemy than to go looking for one” and pointing out that the US will need China’s cooperation on a host of world problems.

James Baker Speaking

James Baker Speaking

Ever-present in Baker’s discussion was his well-known “realism,” the doctrine that US interests should be the guiding interest in the country’s foreign policy. “The US does not have,” observed Baker, “the resources or the support to be the world’s police. We must be guided by our values and principles, but we must first look to our interests in formulating policy.” It was a tutorial in international diplomacy for a group of students interested in politics. “It was a candid and non-partisan speech,” noted Jessica Rodriguez, an officer in the Junior Fellows who is interning for Houston Mayor Anise Parker. “It was great to see the world through the eyes of someone who knows it so well.”

Although best known for his work in the international arena, Baker also knows the political side of things. He managed the political campaigns of Ford, the elder Bush, and Reagan, including Reagan’s record-setting 1984 campaign, which garnered more electoral votes than any other president in history. Ever the realist, however, Baker acknowledged that the Republican Party’s fortunes had declined since the Reagan-Bush years. Under Ike, Reagan, and Bush, Baker observed, the GOP was the party of “effective and efficient government, not the party of ‘no government.’” To re-discover the path to victory and effective leadership, Baker continued, the party will need to eschew the “bitterness and resentment” that seem to characterize the views of party leaders today and, instead, present a “positive and optimistic” plan for the country.

Reagan, Cronkite, Gergen, Meese, Bush, Baker

Reagan, Cronkite, Gergen, Meese, Bush, Baker

For a group of students hoping to make a positive difference in the country, the words were a validation, which Baker followed with an exhortation aimed directly at the students: “You are the future of the country. Get involved. It’s your birthright.”

For these students, however, it’s also a choice, one they hope will lead them to some of the same halls of power that Baker roamed for so many years.

Junior Fellows with James Baker

Junior Fellows with James Baker

 

Advertisements

Austin Tour: Day 3–NPF Conference

Our third day in Austin and our second at the “Campaign Bootcamp” was the most intense.  Gone were the cultural activities or the speeches by former Supreme Court Justices.  Today was devoted to learning about the nuts and bolts of the modern-day political campaign.

Our itinerary was as follows:

  • Fundraising, by Pasha Moore
  • Crafting the Message, by Parag and Luke Marchant
  • Targeting Voters, Parag and Jeff Mason
  • Polling,Chris Perkins
  • Creating a Field Plan,
  • Earned and Paid Media, Liz Chadderdon
  • Social Media, Vincent Harris
  • Campaign Team Work

Our favorites varied, with Cody preferring “Polling,” by Chris Perkins.  Perkins was engaging, and stressed the importance of planning up front to achieve greater return on investment—or, as Perkins put it, “bang for your buck.” Perkins emphasized the importance of polling prior to even running for office, a move that will help campaigns know how to direct their message and prioritize their voter targets.

Chris Perkins Discusses Polling

Chris Perkins Discusses Polling

Dulce’s favorite was the fundraising session, led by Pasha Moore.  Moore’s presentation emphasized three major components: (1) being personable while conducting yourself professional; (2) doing more than asking for support—you have to tell them how to support you; (3) and ask for more than you expect, but be realistic.

Pasha Moore with Dulce Martinez

Pasha Moore with Dulce Martinez

Jessica had two favorites.  She enjoyed Vincent Harris’s session on social media, learning that websites are 50% more effective than email, ads, or facebook. Harris stressed the advantages of social media—it’s cheaper, more targeted, and has an immediacy for issues, advocacy, and defining who you are and who you are opponent is.  (Cody, on the other hand, found it frightening that Harris noted that the “internet is the most trusted media by voters.”)

Vincent Harris Discusses Social Media

Vincent Harris Discusses Social Media

Jessica’s other favorite was the “Earned and Paid Media” session by Liz Chadderdon, who stressed the importance of print media and direct mail.  She discussed “inefficient markets,” places such as New Jersey, where candidates who want television ads must pay for New York or Philadelphia markets, which means the candidate is paying for far more than the candidate’s targeted voters.  Jessica, a photographer, enjoyed Chadderdon’s discussion of photography, who encouraged staffers to capture candidates looking strong, trustworthy, and caring about people.  Her candidates are often shown in candid shows—hugging, celebrating, or smiling.

Liz and Jessica--Smiling and Hugging, Of Course

Liz and Jessica–Smiling and Hugging, Of Course

Dulce also enjoyed this session, recording to memory the three-step strategy from the session: (1) being likeable to candidates, which will encourage voters to (2) listen to your message, and (3) creating trust.

Following a long day of seminars, we then regrouped for mock campaign work.  For her team, Dulce focused on demographics for the Democratic candidate.  Jessica, on the hand, had the same role for the Republican candidate, a role that may have been uncomfortable for her as a Democrat, but a role she took on with gusto.  Cody was also working for a Republican (and is a Republican), but his job involved event planning and outreach.  The presentations are Sunday, but we have still have much to do.

Jessica's Group Gets Down to Work--Will it Pay Off?

Jessica’s Group Gets Down to Work–Will it Pay Off?

That’s a lot to pack into a day, and it lasted from 8:30am through 10:00pm, with additional work in the hotel room (Jessica was up until 2:30am).  But it also involved fantastic learning opportunities, wonderful chances for networking, and a great opportunity to get (mock) hands-on experience campaigning.

We appreciate the New Politics Forum hosting this opportunity annually and bringing in a great set of speakers for us to learn from.

 

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

Junior Fellows: New Politics Forum Campaign Bootcamp–2013

 

Yesterday the Junior Fellows headed off on a four-day trip to Austin, where they will learn about politics, culture, and law.  The centerpiece of the trip is the New Politics Forum Summer 2013 Campaign Bootcamp, and the students will be a part of that on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, learning from campaign experts from all over the country on matters such as fundraising, crafting messages, social media, working with volunteers, conducting polls, and grassroots activism.  These activities will be supplemented with stops to see art at the Harry Ransom Center, a trip up the UT Tower, a stop by the O. Henry House, and other fun and educational opportunities.

The students blog each day, and although the first day was limited to a late evening in Austin, they were still able to enjoy their time.

Cody Williamson: Day One

I had the pleasure of enjoying fine Brazilian cuisine as I dined at the Fogo de Chao churrascaria in Austin, Texas. I am in Austin to attend a New Politics Forum bootcamp that will be held on the campus of the University of Texas. After dining at the restaurant, myself and the members of my group went on a short walk through downtown Austin where we saw the former house of O. Henry, the author of “The Ransom of Red Chief” and “The Story of the Magi”.

O. Henry

O. Henry

It was a strange sight to observe this small, quaint old house nestled among the towering office buildings and upscale lofts in the modernized city. However, it was a pleasant observation to look on the peaceful union of history from days past with today’s fast paced society.On Friday, we will be attending a talk held by former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. This is a unique opportunity that I am looking forward to very much. It will be exciting to see a significant, historical figure who played such a pivotal role in the progression of American politics and legislation, breaking long held traditions. I can’t wait!

Jessica Rodriguez: Day One

The Junior Fellows are attending the New Politics Forum Campaign Boot Camp this weekend! First night in Austin and it is going to be very hard to top after the delicious meats we were served at the unique Brazilian restaurant, Fogo de Chao. I have visited different Brazilian steak houses, and as a rule, my favorite is always the lamb! Tonight was no different.

After satisfying my sweet tooth with Crème Brule and Papaya pudding we went on a three-block walk down to the O. Henry home. Intriguingly, it has a similar look to the Joshua Houston home in Huntsville, Texas.  Both were built about the same time (late 1890s), both are Queen Anne style homes, and both are painted with Victorian colors.

O. Henry Home

O. Henry Home

During our stroll in Austin’s downtown, we also came across the “Austin Stars,” sidewalk stars devoted to notable residents of Austin.

We also walked down the street towards 4th street and came across a star for Sam Houston and Admiral Chester W. Nimitz–for whom my high school was named. A very lovely night overall in downtown Austin!

 Dulce Martinez: Day One

The Junior Fellows arrived in Austin slightly before 8’oclock, just in time to see the sunset over the UT Tower. This is my first time to truly experience the city of Austin, and having dinner at a unique Brazilian steak house was the perfect way to come across the diversity this city has to offer. Fogo De Chao had an interesting mix of meats, which were all cooked to perfection! My personal favorite was the chicken breast wrapped in bacon; the chicken was very juicy and flavorful.

Junior Fellows at Fogo Do Chao

Junior Fellows at Fogo Do Chao

After our meal we decided to take a stroll downtown to the O. Henry home, which happened to be a few blocks away. The home appeared stuck in time compared to the rest of the modern building surrounding it.  It was a perfect ending to the evening.

 

 

Let’s Talk = Lotsa Fun

The Honors College hosted another fun and successful “Let’s Talk” this past week.  The event, which features two dozen experts discussing their field of expertise, raises funds for the Honors College and provides University staff and local citizens with stimulating conversation and good food.

On the Junior Fellows front, we sat at separate tables, one led by Dr. Ed Blackburne, who discussed the economy…

Dr. Ed Blackburne

Dr. Ed Blackburne

…one led by Linda White, who discussed crime and healing

Linda White

Linda White

and Fred Campos, who discussed social media for businesses…

Fred Campos

Fred Campos

Of course, one of the things that’s interesting for students is not just your table presenter, but also the other table presenters and the guests at the tables.

Collectively, we were able to visit with many noteworthy speakers–General “Spider” Marks, Texas Country Reporter Bob Phillips…

Bob Phillips at Let's Talk

Bob Phillips at Let’s Talk


and we even got to visit again with Chris Tritico, who had spoken earlier in the afternoon to us about law and law school.

Chris Tritico at Let's Talk

Chris Tritico at Let’s Talk

From all appearances, people had lots of fun, and the event raised more than $75,000 for the Honors College!  Major kudos to Jacel Angel, Maggie Collum, Dean Vince Webb, Jane Monday, and the Honors College (Gene Young, Maria Holmes, and Kim Bell) for putting it on!

Honoring Sam Houston’s Best

For the third consecutive year, the CHSS has honored its top alumni and faculty with a “Wall of Honor” Ceremony.  For 2013, the honorees were FBI Agent Roy Hazelwood; former Dean of CHSS Dick Cording; General Cecil Neely; and former Professor Mattie Bedford.  And for the third consecutive year, the Junior Fellows were privileged to assist the Dean’s Office at this event.

The event was planned by Dean John de Castro and his staff, as well as the CHSS Alumni Advisory Committee, Chaired by Paula Lenz.  The event drew some eighty people including President Gibson and former President Marks.

Former President Bobby Marks (far left), former Dean Dick Cording (Center), and President Dana Gibson (front right)

Former President Bobby Marks (far left), former Dean Dick Cording (Center), and President Dana Gibson (front right)

Following the main ceremony, the Dean’s Office provided snacks and refreshments, perfect for mingling and catching up.

President Gibson with CHSS Alumni Advisory Board Chair, Paula Lenz

President Gibson with CHSS Alumni Advisory Board Chair, Paula Lenz

A dinner for the family and other guests followed, and on a personal note, it was nice for the Junior Fellows to have a chance to learn from SHSU’s administrators, faculty, and alumni.

(L-R): Brenda Lowery, Blake Schockley, Toni Abshire, Belinda Myers, and Ariel Traub

(L-R): Brenda Lowery, Blake Schockley, Toni Abshire, Belinda Myers, and Ariel Traub

Junior Fellows Set to Embark on Twelve-State Presidential Inauguration Tour

Junior Fellows Prepare for a Presidential Tour

Junior Fellows Prepare for a Presidential Tour

The Junior Fellows are set to depart on their 2013 inaugural tour, a journey that will traverse twelve states, numerous presidential sites, and will culminate with attendance at the nation’s 57th presidential inauguration.

The first leg of the tour will take the Fellows through the Midwest, hitting spots such as St. Louis, MO; Springfield, IL; and Cincinnati, OH.  The second leg of the trip will take the students to Lexington, KY; Charleston, WV;  Northern Virginia; and Washington, DC.  The final leg of the trip will take students through the south, where the students will visit sites in Tennessee, Arkansas, and Texas.

The tour allows students to see numerous sites of historical (e.g., Henry Clay Home), artistic (e.g., Crystal Bridges Museum), and literary interest (e.g., T.S. Eliot Home), although the primary theme of the trip will be presidential sites.  Students will visit sites associated with seventeen presidents.  In chronological order: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, Andrew Jackson, James Polk,  Zachary Taylor, Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Johnson, U. S. Grant, Benjamin Harrison, William Howard Taft, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama.

It is the third presidential inauguration that the Junior Fellows have undertaken, and was designed to give the students a broad view of the United States and its history, while tying destinations to the experience of being at a presidential inauguration and to their classroom curriculum.

group_washington_monument_5360_web

The specific itinerary for the students is:

Thursday, January 17:

Friday, January 18:

Emily Johnson at the Gateway Arch, St. Louis

Emily Johnson at the Gateway Arch, St. Louis

Saturday, January 19:

Sunday, January 20:

Junior Fellows at Woodrow Wilson Home

Junior Fellows at Woodrow Wilson Home

Monday, January 21:

Junior Fellows at the 2009 Presidential Inauguration

Junior Fellows at the 2009 Presidential Inauguration

Tuesday, January 22:

Junior Fellows at Mount Vernon

Junior Fellows at Mount Vernon

Wednesday, January 23:

Thursday, January 24:

Little Rock at Night

The trip will include numerous sites the Junior Fellows—with different members—saw on previous inaugural trips, but many of the sites will be new to the organization and the members.

As a bonus, this year’s trip will also allow the students to trace Sam Houston’s circuitous path to Texas.  They will visit his birth site in northern Virginia; meander south to Tennessee, visiting the schoolhouse in which he was educated; drive through eastern Oklahoma and western Arkansas, in the general vicinity of Houston’s stops with the Cherokees; and through Nacogdoches, where Houston was baptized; and, of course, returning to Huntsville, his final home.