White House

The LBJ School of Public Affairs announced this week Thomas O’Donnell as the inaugural director for the new LBJ Washington Center.

In the past, O’Donnell has worked in the White House, the U.S. Senate and the Human Rights Campaign.

“My goal is to create an outpost for UT at Washington D.C.,” O’Donnell said in a statement. 

Beninning in fall 2015, the LBJ School will provide an 18-month federal policy master’s degree curriculum, which will involve six months of graduate school coursework at the Washington Center and an opportunity to be involved in federal policy making.

“Our goal is to follow what President Lyndon B. Johnson once dreamed, which is to involve people from Texas and other parts of the country who want to contribute to public policy,” O’Donnell said.

In addition, O’Donnell said the Washington Center will provide this platform of student engagement in public policy by pursuing extended research, workshops and speaker series, among other activities.

“We want to produce more public leaders at a federal level,” O’Donnell said.

O’Donnell served as a U.S. Senate chief of staff, managing both national and state offices and as a liaison to the White House and executive branch.

“We are pleased to have such an experienced and proven professional lead our Washington Center and join us in empowering the next generation of leaders to take on national leadership roles,” said Robert Hutchings, dean of the LBJ School, in a statement. “At this time of great change around the world and growing concern about the effectiveness of government, the LBJ Washington Center represents our call to action to advance a new generation of skilled and committed leaders. [O’Donnell] will be essential to the execution of that call to action.”

O’Donnell said the LBJ Washington Center will train future policy makers by playing an open role in the national policy discourse and debate.

“After 20 years in the federal public policy arena, I understand the need for aspiring young policy professionals to be equipped not only with solid theoretical thinking, but also with practical policy skills,” O’Donnell said.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

Every generation has its “Where Were You When…?” dates. For my parents’ generation — the most poignant “where were you when” question is the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 21, 1963. The moment that, for each American who heard that awful news, is forever seared in their memories.

In my generation’s childhood years, the main such moments were hearing that President Ronald Reagan had been shot, and five years later learning that the space shuttle Challenger had exploded. Those were my generation’s defining dates — until Sept. 11, 2001.

That day I was in Washington, D.C. I had just moved back three weeks earlier, returning after a three-year hiatus for graduate school to the city where I had previously lived and worked for several years. My daily commute took me right past the Pentagon, just 200 yards from the spot where the hijacked American Airlines Flight 77 would tear a hideous gash into the building. 

On that morning I left the house around 6:45 a.m. for a breakfast meeting on Capitol Hill. Never would I have imagined that within three hours of driving by, the Pentagon would become the first Washington building attacked in wartime since the British burned the city almost two centuries earlier.

After my breakfast I parked my truck on Capitol Hill and took the Metro to my office at the American Enterprise Institute, a think tank six blocks from the White House. Shortly after arriving at my desk, one of my interns came over with a quizzical look and said that an airplane had just hit the World Trade Center. Curious, I opened the Washington Post website to a headline saying the same thing but offering no details. My immediate guess was that a small private plane must have accidentally collided with the building. Assuming there was nothing more to the story, I resumed work. 

A few minutes later my intern came running back and said that a second plane had hit the other World Trade Center building. Almost simultaneously, another colleague yelled that “the Pentagon has been hit, we are under attack!” It was simultaneously frightening and surreal as I tried to make sense of the discordance between the possibility that we were in our last minutes of life and the fact that our office felt as comfortable and placid as any other day. There was no smoke or fire, no clanging alarms, no gunshots, no masked men yelling — none of the things that I assumed an attack would bring. 

All that changed minutes later when a few colleagues and I went outside on the roof of our building. Across the river, a black pillar of smoke buried the Pentagon and stretched miles into the sky, magnitudes larger and more terrifying than any fire I had ever seen. I ran back down to my desk and phoned my parents in Tucson. When my mother answered I quickly blurted, “Mom, I just want you to know that I am OK.”  Bewildered, she asked, “What do you mean?” Realizing that Arizona was three hours behind the East Coast and she had just woken up, I told her to “turn on the TV, we’re under attack, I love you and will call back later!”

Now chaos and confusion set in. Someone else ran over and reported that the State Department had just been hit. Another person said that a bomb had just been set off at the Washington Monument. Yet another said that gunmen were attacking the White House. 

None of that was true, yet at the time we did not know, and given the smoke from the Pentagon descending across the rest of the city, any terrible report seemed possible. Nor did we know that in these same moments, the heroic passengers of hijacked United Flight 79 were sacrificing their lives to prevent their plane from decimating another Washington target, perhaps the White House or the Capitol.

I ran into the office of another colleague. He and several others were huddled in front of the television, watching live footage from New York. Suddenly we saw the first tower begin to crumble and fall. None of us said a word; tears rolled down several faces.     

The building manager said it was our choice whether to evacuate the building or stay in place.. Along with many others, a friend and I decided to leave. Outside, a surreal scene confronted us. The streets were packed with thousands of people, deathly quiet, walking with faces pale in collective shock. Uniformed men with assault rifles sternly motioned us down certain streets. We walked for almost three hours until reaching my truck, parked near my church on Capitol Hill. I went inside the pastor’s office where he and several others were watching the news. There we stayed for about six hours, transfixed and horrified. As evening fell the vehicle ban was lifted, so I began to drive home. Minutes later I passed by the Pentagon again, smoke billowing out amid the carnage and rubble. I knew that nothing would ever be the same.

Inboden is executive director of the Clements Center for History, Strategy, and Statecraft, and associate professor at the LBJ School of Public Affairs.

 

Sociology professor Keith Robinson will be speaking at a symposium held at the White House on Wednesday.

Robinson and Duke University professor Angel Harris will discuss their new book on children’s education at the Symposium on Transformative Family Engagement, held by the U.S. Department of Education and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation at the White House, which starts on Tuesday night and ends on Wednesday.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for professors,” Robinson said. “It’s not something we ever really anticipate happening in our careers.”

Robinson and Harris’ book, “The Broken Compass,” addresses the impacts of parental involvement on children’s academic success.

In his research, Robinson examined the academic performances of children in K-12 across varying ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds over a period of time. He looked at how the children were doing in school and recorded their parents’ behavior. He later measured any changes in the children’s academic performances.

According to Robinson, parents expecting their children to go to college had an effective impact on their children’s academic performance, regardless of ethnicity and socioeconomic backgrounds. But Robinson said he also found parents help their children with homework was ineffective.

“I started becoming aware of the counterintuitive finding,” Robinson said. “There’s something about the way parents help with homework that’s not effective.”

Regarding his “counterintuitive finding,” Robinson said he was only able to record what parents were doing, but he was not able to test how they were doing it.

“Telling parents to be more involved won’t work,” Robinson said. “It needs to be directed on how we’re telling the parents and customized based on ethnicity, socioeconomic backgrounds and grade levels.”

A new government plan aiming at reducing sexual assault on college campuses will raise awareness and promote a more coordinated approach against violence and sexual assault at UT, according to a University health official.

A White House task force committee formed the plan after surveying college administrators, assault survivors and other interested groups. The plan includes voluntary steps colleges can take to prevent sexual assault, assist survivors and increase transparency by making information about sexual assault more widely available.

Erin Burrows, prevention and outreach specialist at Voices Against Violence, said the new plan will increase attention toward the problem of sexual violence.

“Most people don’t want to talk about violence and harm, so this is a step in the right direction,” Burrows said.

The plan includes such steps as conducting campus climate surveys, increasing bystander and intervention programs, and providing resources for victims of sexual assault to get help. Although campus climate surveys are voluntary this year, there are goals to make them mandatory by 2016. As part of its recommendations, the White House also launched a new website, NotAlone.gov, that allows students to look up sexual assault data on specific campuses and file Title IX complaints.

According to the task force, one in five female college students has been sexually assaulted, but only 12 percent of them report the attack.

Jane Bost, associate director at UT Counseling and Mental Health Services, said a campus climate survey would be helpful to collect more data on sexual violence incidents on campus, even though the University has already implemented many of the committee’s recommendations.

“One of the things we don’t have that the plan recommended is a campus climate survey looking at just those issues, so that would help a lot with learning more about general student attitudes and how we can improve our programs,” Bost said.

The task force committee found bystander intervention programs, in which students who witness violence or harmful relationships on campus can take action, were one of the most beneficial ways to prevent sexual assault. Bost said the University launched a new program in April, called BeVocal, to address this issue.

“One of our goals is to improve the way we mobilize men and bystanders to be aware of and prevent sexual assault,” Bost said. “I think it’s an area we can be more aware of and address it in a more focused way.”

Marilyn Russell, deputy advisor to the Dean of Students, works with the BeVocal program and said the plan was part of a coordinated effort to streamline access to resources for students. 

“It’s about all of the different issue areas working together to reduce harm here at UT,” Russell said.  

Bost said the University will continue its efforts to improve access to resources for assault survivors. 

“It’s always an ongoing effort,” Bost said. “We can always improve.”

Professor Ann Johns received Barack Obama's handwritten apology regarding his controversial statement about art history degress. 

Photo Credit: Miriam Rousseau | Daily Texan Staff

After President Barack Obama made a comment about majoring in art history, art history professor Ann Johns sent the White House a response refuting his statement. What Johns didn’t expect was to receive a handwritten apology from Obama.

In a speech in January, Obama said people who obtain technical degrees or training might earn more money than people who graduate with art history degrees.

“You folks can make a lot more, potentially, with skilled manufacturing or the trades than they might with an art history degree,” Obama said.

Johns, who posted Obama’s apology letter on her Facebook last week, said she was “stunned” to receive a personal letter from Obama and does not think he was being negative in his remarks.

“I’d like to think of it as the beginning of dialogue about the value of a degree in the humanities and less as an apology,” Johns said. “We do emphasize critical thinking, reading and writing skills, and our students become excellent researchers, writers and presenters. This gives them the skills to pursue a wide variety of career choices.”

The apology letter, in which Obama said, “art history was one of [his] favorite subjects in high school,” was well received by Johns and other professors in the art and art history department. Jack Risley, art history professor and chair of the department, said he was pleased with the president’s response and the positive attention it is bringing the University.

“It’s humbling for anyone to apologize, let alone a president,” Risley said. “In responding to Dr. Ann Johns, the president draws attention to the unrivaled concentration of art and scholarship that exists at UT and the state of Texas … The arts are going to be part of our future. That is a given.”

Art history sophomore Stephanie Gardea said she does not see degree choice as a major factor in post-graduate success.

“In my eyes, I see it as really however you make it,” Gardea said. “You need to be willing to put yourself out there and get involved to have a better career outcome after graduation, whether you’re in fine arts, engineering or manufacturing.”

Art history students in Johns’ and art history professor Julia Guernsey’s Art Historical Methods classes sent another response to Obama on Friday. The students also listed their post-graduate plans, including law school at Harvard, medical school, Teach for America and an Islamic studies program.

“We feel strongly that our education as art historians prepares us to do a variety of things, many of which are vital to the educational well-being of our country, and some of which are also politically, socially and economically charged,” students told Obama in the response.

The White House established a task force last month designed to increase federal agencies’ ability to identify and rebuild the lives of human trafficking victims in the U.S. Locally, Austin social workers, law enforcement and government agencies join forces to combat human trafficking.

Noel Busch-Armendariz, an associate dean for research in the School of Social Work, said one of the biggest problems with human trafficking is it often goes undetected.

“It’s a big hidden problem, with both labor trafficking and sex trafficking,” Busch-Armendariz said. “We think there is a lot more going on, but it’s hard to uncover.”

The Austin Police Department’s human trafficking unit helps investigate suspected cases of trafficking, which are usually reported by victims or professionals who come into contact with them. When investigating possible trafficking cases, officers look for signs of physical and mental coercion in the victims.

“We’re really looking at whether or not they have the freedom to really make those choices that are being made,” Sgt. Bob Miljenovich said. “Are they free to come and go? Are they being forced to pay off some type of debt, or is there some other way they’re being held, even if it’s not physically? Those are the things we look for.”

Many trafficked individuals are foreign-born and brought into the United States, according to Linda Edwards Gockel, a spokeswoman for Texas Health and Human Services. Once rescued, these victims are considered as refugees and become eligible for many federal health-care and financial services.

“Texas has the largest number of refugees in the country, with roughly 6,000 to 9,000 settled in the state,” Gockel said.

Social service providers assist the victim in the process of mental healing and finding a safe place to live, Busch-Armendariz said.

“Law enforcement is really in charge of investigating the crime, but the social worker actually is the person charged with supporting the victim through that process emotionally and psychologically,” Busch-Armendariz said.

Funding for housing, language, social and medical services for victims may come from a mix of federal and state agencies, according to Busch-Armendariz.

Miljenovich said there is a shortage of safe and immediate housing for trafficking victims who are rescued in Austin.

“The biggest area that we have trouble with is having facilities that can take care of the victims once they’re found and taken out of the situation,” Miljenovich said.

Miljenovich said facilities that provide both immediate housing and medical attention are essential because they provide a higher level of security for victims who may need further treatment. 

“You don’t want a facility where people can just come and go, because sometimes [victims] don’t really agree that it’s best that they leave that lifestyle, maybe because they’re on drugs or feel they have no other choice,” Miljenovich said.

Laurie Cook Heffron, research coordinator in the School of Social Work, said public education is important to help end human trafficking, especially for foreign-born victims.

“There’s less focus on whether there are people exploited in our hometowns on construction sites or in migrant farm work, and I think this is partly due to the anti-immigrant sentiment in the United States,” Heffron said. “One of the things all of us can do is learn a little bit about it and educate ourselves.”

“Government is a tool fashioned when the people join together to win an objective for the greatest good of the greatest number, and which they could not achieve except through united action…” 

—Lyndon B Johnson. April 13, 1946

 

Lyndon Baines Johnson took the oath of office as the 36th President of the United States at 2:39 p.m. Friday in the outer compartment of the airplane bearing the body of his predecessor.

He was sworn in by district judge Sarah T. Hughes, as his wife and Mrs. Jacqueline Kennedy stood by his side. Only a few hours before, he had been riding behind the presidential car in the Dallas motorcade that fatefully ended just before reaching a vast highway interchange.

Johnson was surrounded by Secret Service men immediately after shots burst over the applause. He was rushed to Parkland Hospital in Dallas, where John F. Kennedy died of a bullet wound in the head.

With that, Texas gained its first president — in one of the state’s blackest moments.

According to the 22nd amendment, Johnson could hold office longer than any president except Roosevelt. The amendment permits him to finish this term and makes him eligible for two more four-year terms after that.

For Johnson, it was a sorrowful means to an end he had spent a good portion of his 55 years to achieve.

When the president was carried into the emergency room, Mrs. Kennedy walked behind — parts of her clothing drenched with blood. 

Shortly after Kennedy’s death — “We never had any hope of saving his life,” said one doctor — Johnson was driven to Dallas’ Love Field where he boarded the presidential jet transport Air Force I.

The plane with Kennedy’s body aboard, arrived at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., at 6:03 p.m.

The body will lie in state at the White House Saturday.

The funeral will be held Monday at St. Matthews Roman Catholic Cathedral, the White House announced Friday night.

The body of the slain president will lie in repose at the White House on Saturday and will lie in state in the rotunda of the Capitol on Sunday and Monday.

All who saw or sensed what was happening were stunned almost beyond belief — perhaps none so much as Lyndon B. Johnson, the native Texan who had sought the presidency in vain in 1960 and

was no in line to have it thrust upon him through tragedy.

Sent off to Washington as a 29-year-old congressman in 1937, Johnson stepped boldly into the New Deal-ism of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He was considered a liberal then, but oddly enough, a conservative tag almost kept him from a national ticket spot in 1960.

One of the first Solons to go into the Armed Forces in World War II, Johnson won a Silver Star for his Navy deeds.

It was then that he went back to the House of Representatives and mourned that the lesson of conflict was “too little, too late…”

His actions still carried the Roosevelt stamp until 1945, the man he was to follow 18 years later died. 

“The liberty-loving people of the world have lost their greatest leader. They have had to say farewell to their greatest friend,” Johnson said.

“President Roosevelt knew his people. He loved people and spent his life working with and for people everywhere. And all of those people — particularly those of us who knew and loved the president — have suffered a shock from which we will not soon recover…”

Johnson became President when a hidden gunman assassinated President Kennedy with a high powered rifle Friday.

THREE SHOTS

Three shots reverberated. Blood sprang from the president’s face. He fell face downward in the back seat of his car. His wife clutched his head and tried to lift it, crying, “No! No!”

Half an hour later, John F. Kennedy was dead and the United States had a new president, Lyndon B. Johnson.

The assassination occurred just as the president’s motorcade was leaving downtown Dallas at the end of a triumphal tour through the city’s streets.

His special car — with the protective bubble down — was moving down an incline into an underpass that leads to a freeway route to the Dallas Trade Mart, where he was to speak.

Witnesses heard three shots. Two hit the President, one in the head and one in the neck.

The third shot wounded Gov. John B. Connally of Texas in the side, but his condition was reported not critical.

“MY GOD!”

As the gunfire rang in the street, a reporter in the caravan screamed, “MY GOD! They’re shooting at the president!”

The motorcade slowed and then sped forward at breakneck speed to Parkland Hospital near the Trade Mart.

Onlookers, terrified at the sight and sound of the assassination, dived face forward for protection onto a grassy park at the entrance of the underpass, fearing more shots. Police swarmed into the scene.

Secret Service men helped Mrs. Kennedy away from the car. Hospital attendants aided Connally and his wife.

The shots were fired at 12:30 p.m. and the president died at 1 p.m. He was 46 and the youngest man ever elected president.

Bob Jackson, a Dallas Times Herald photographer, said he looked around as he heard the shots and saw the rifle barrel disappearing into the upper floor window. He did not see the gunman.

Johnson’s political ambitions carried him to a senatorial flight with Coke Stevenson, which has gained the president more slams than votes. LBJ won by 87 votes, and, to this day, Stevenson supporters tell the story of Duval County, of people coming back from the grave to vote — and of the political machine that led Friday to the White House.

That was in 1948 — and not too many years later, Johnson was welding the Senate together as majority leader.

He followed closely the moves of his great friend, Sam Rayburn, speaker of the house.

Politically, Johnson has sometimes been a mystery, because of his middle-of-the-road policy. You might say he rode the government like a horse – with a leg on either side and sitting tall in the saddle.

A FREE MAN

“I am a free man, an American, a United States senator and a Democrat, in that order,” Johnson once said of himself.

“I am also a liberal, a conservative, a Texan, a taxpayer, a rancher, a businessman, a consumer, a parent, a voter and not as young as I used to be, nor as old as I expect to be — and I am all those things in no fixed order.”

And now he is President of these United States.

Photo Credit: Jenna VonHofe | Daily Texan Staff

The media often portrayed President George W. Bush as Vice President Dick Cheney’s figurehead, but their relationship was far more complex and conflict-riddled than the public realized, according to Peter Baker, New York Times White House correspondent. 

Baker promoted his recently released book, “Days of Fire,” which details the Bush-Cheney relationship during their eight years in the White House, at the inaugural event of the William P. Clements Jr. Center for History, Strategy and Statecraft on Thursday. Following the talk, Baker signed books for event attendees. 

Baker said he wanted to write the book to reexamine the events of the Bush presidency, which he said were often glossed over immediately following the highlighting events of the Bush presidency.

“Journalists who cover events in the moment get 10 percent of it. We get the essential truth, but we miss so much more,” Baker said. “Only in the venture of reexamining, re-reporting, you start to fill in the picture.”

Baker said Cheney only became an influential vice president because Bush confided in him and allowed him to be.

“It was based in reality that Cheney was one of the most influential vice presidents in office, but he was never the guy wanting things,” Baker said. “He was like-minded with President Bush, who invested in [Cheney’s] trust, authority and access to give him opportunities to become an influential vice president.”

Though Bush and Cheney saw eye-to-eye during the first term, Baker said, they began drifting apart after years into the Iraqi war.

“Vice President Cheney was focused single-mindedly on the danger the country was in after 9/11,” Baker said. “That became his North Star. [Bush] begins to try to build a sustainable policy that will last beyond his presidency. Cheney thought these were mistakes, that he was compromising too much.”

Tawheeda Wahabzada, first year global policy studies graduate student, said she remembers little about the Bush presidency, but she would like to revisit the time period to gain insight into the politics and dynamics of Bush and Cheney.

“I’ve always perceived in the past — maybe because of the media — Cheney was the driving force and controlling everything,” Wahabzada said. “But hearing about the vast differences between Cheney and Bush and their disagreements on so many issues surprised me.”

Jacqueline Chandler, program manager of the Clements Center, said Baker’s close ties with the White House make him an important source for information about past and current presidencies.

“Anything you can learn about a past presidency is a hot topic,” Chandler said.

If UT students visit the White House’s College Scorecard, web page, they will find first that the average cost of attending UT as an in-state undergraduate runs about $14, 629 a year — a price tag that, according to the page’s nifty graphic, registers as a low medium. 

Second, they will find some 80.9 percent of full-time UT students receive their bachelor’s degree within six years, a very high graduation rate, according to the website.

Third, they will find 4.7 percent of the UT students who were borrowers defaulted on their federal student loans within three years of entering repayment, as compared to 13.7 percent of students nationally.

Fourth, UT undergraduate students and their families typically borrow $22,673 in federal loans, an amount that has them paying off the debt over 10 years at a rate of approximately $260.92 per month.

What doesn’t the White House’s College Scorecard which was first launched last month, tell UT students? Probably what they most want to know: What kind of job UT students get when they graduate. The webpage offers this explanation instead: “The U.S. Department of Education is working to provide information about the average earnings of former undergraduate students at UT Austin who borrowed Federal student loans. In the meantime, ask UT Austin to tell you about how many of its graduates get jobs, what kinds of jobs they get, and how much those graduates typically earn.”

Drew Gilpin Faust, the president of Harvard University, in a recent blog post for The New York Times, concludes that federal policy makers should not focus on college graduates’ first-job and first earning statements. “The focus in federal policy making and rhetoric on earnings data as the indicator of the value of higher education will further the growing perception that a college degree should be simply a ticket to a first job, rather than a passport to a lifetime of citizenship, opportunity, growth and change,” Faust writes.

At Harvard, according to the White House’s calculations, the cost for the average undergraduate is $18,277 a year, 94.7 percent of the students graduate, 1 percent of them default on federal loans, and they and their families pay on average $88.61 per month over 10 years to pay off that debt.

In her Times blog, the Harvard president mentions Bryn Mawr College, from which she graduated in 1968. There, the cost for the average undergraduate equals $25,791 per year, 87.3 percent of the students graduate, 1.6 percent of them default on their federal students loans, and they and their families p ay on average $239.79 per month over 10 years to pay off that debt.

Faust says her first job after Bryn Mawr at the Department of Housing and Urban Development provided her a low starting salary but inspired her to pursue public service and eventually put her on the path to her current position. “Should Bryn Mawr have been judged based on what I was paid in my first year at HUD?,” she asks.

The answer is definitely no. Nor should UT students evaluate their school experience by their first post-graduation job and its paycheck.

But the White House and UT should continue working on getting that data, because it’s possible that, like in the case of Faust, a student’s first job out of college helps determine their life’s path. (Regardless of how much that first job pays.) A deeper evaluation of the data, which we didn’t do, and which may lead to calls for corrections, would help Americans to understand the true value of a college education, not just the number they’ll earn upon graduation. 

WASHINGTON — If your public tour of the White House has now been canceled, House Speaker John Boehner says come visit the Capitol instead.

Boehner says tours of that building will continue, despite mandatory spending cuts that led the U.S. Secret Service and the National Park Service on Tuesday to announce that public tours of the White House will end, starting Saturday, until further notice.

The Republican speaker made the tit-for-tat announcement in a letter to his Ohio constituents on Tuesday, following news about the suspension of White House tours.

— Compiled from Associated Press Reports