UT alumnus recalls political journey

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Photo Credit: Gabby Lanza | Daily Texan Staff

From serving in the White House with President Bill Clinton to being a political commentator on CNN, UT alumnus Paul Begala returned to campus Tuesday for a talk titled “Don’t Whiz in the Well and Other Lessons on How to Change the World,” addressing topics on leadership and political activism.

Over a hundred students gathered to hear Begala speak at the Shirley Bird Perry Ballroom in the Union. Evan Smith, Texas Tribune CEO, helped moderate the Q&A portion of the talk. The event was hosted by the Student Endowed Centennial Lectureship, which is comprised of nine student organizations. SECL hosts speakers throughout the school year and provides the speaker an opportunity to interact with the campus community.

After graduating with his bachelor’s in government, Begala continued his education at the UT School of Law where he received his law degree.

Begala said he learned a great deal in the classroom to help with his career, but that was not enough.

“Everything I really needed to know about politics and government I learned outside the classroom,” Begala said.

While studying at UT, Begala served as student body president in 1982. His road to victory wasn’t a smooth one, however. Prior to that election year, Student Government had been disbanded for five years due to student criticisms.

Begala and other students had the idea to reinstate SG, and in his junior year he ran and lost to a fictional cartoon character named Hank the Hallucination, created by a cartoonist at The Daily Texan.

He won the re-election, but Begala said Hank’s slogan “Get Real” has stuck with him to this day as one of the best political slogans he’s ever heard.

During his time as student body president he created SURE Walk, a service allowing students to have a volunteer walk them home.

SURE Walk is still active on campus today and serves the entire campus area as well as parts of West Campus.

Binna Kim, student body vice president, told The Daily Texan earlier this month that the number of students using SURE Walk has increased this year, but there is a lack of volunteers to meet
the demand.

“This time last year if you called for a SURE Walk it could come pick you up right then and there, whereas now there’s around a 30 minute wait,” Kim said.

During the Q&A portion of the talk, Smith brought attention to the current political climate. One recent event mentioned by Smith was the Women’s March that occurred in January.

“How do you turn a moment into a movement?” Smith asked in reference to the march.

Begala called for the students at the talk to be more politically active, applauding the Women’s March for its efforts. Democrats going forward have to be a party of resistance and resurgence, Begala said.

“Get real,” Begala said. “Take what starts here and change the world.”