Bill Bradley

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

Panelists discussed the current state of American government and the influence of  extreme partisan divides at the "Can the Center Hold?" keynote discussion at the 2014 Tribune Festival on Saturday.

Former U.S. Sen. Bill Bradley; Jon Huntsman, former ambassador to China and Utah governor; former U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison; Ron Kirk, former U.S. trade representative and Dallas mayor; and Mayor Kasim Reed of Atlanta spoke on the panel, moderated by Evan Smith, CEO and Editor-in-Chief of The Texas Tribune.

While the panelists have varying backgrounds and levels of experience in politics, they all agreed the current system of government is broken.

Bradley said the problem with today’s government is the partisan division in Congress.

“I don’t know a president who isn’t thinking like an executive,” Bradley said. “They want to get things done. The problem is Congress. You will never defeat power except by power.”

According to Hutchison, who currently serves as president of the Texas Exes alumni association, the party division in the Senate poses a problem.

“I think it is the polarization and the toxicity,” Hutchison said. “I think the Senate, which was very carefully crafted to be the adult in the room in the whole balance of powers, has lost that role. One of the things that protected that was, and this is a different issue, was the two-thirds rule and the 60 percent rules, where you really couldn’t do anything without a supermajority.”

Advocating for an open primary system in Texas, Hutchison also said she thinks the existing primary system in America is broken and contributes to the heavy party divide in Congress.

“If we are going to have the primaries the way they are today, in Texas especially, you do have the appeal to the very narrow primary voters,” Hutchison said. “People who want a different track need to vote in the primaries. Look at the competitive races you care about. You need to vote in that primary so you can ask for a broader appeal.”

According to Reed, the national division that exists between parties is not as prevalent on smaller governmental levels, making city government positions ideal for individuals who want to see action.

“The kind of hyper-partisanship that goes on nationally is not happening in cities, thank goodness,”  Reed said. “Because of that, you’re going to see more highly talented people put their energy and their passion into cities.”

According to Huntsman, who ran for president in the 2012 race but said he has no presidential aspirations for 2016, Congress' mentality needs to mirror that of city government.

“I would say part of our longer term fix is how do you change the culture, the ethos on capitol hill from anger, animosity and acrimony to problem solving?” Huntsman said. “In order to do that, you have to infuse in people who believe in problem solving and then give them something to do.”

Kirk said he thinks the rise in prominence of social media has caused a shift in political culture.

“I think the explosion of social media changes everything,” Kirk said. “We now all get a peek behind the curtains that we didn’t get before – giving more strength to those who are villains.”

Kirk also said the country ought to have a third, moderate party. 

Reed said he is optimistic that change will come.

“Just about every great revolution in the world was started by someone in their 20s or 30s,” Kirk said. “It wasn’t a bunch of 60-year-olds sitting around pontificating about how life used to be.”

Senator Bill Bradley gave a keynote speech on the topic of Basketball and American Culture this Thursday at the Etta Harber Alumni Center.

Photo Credit: Taylor Barron | Daily Texan Staff

Invented in 1891, the game of basketball began with only 13 rules before arriving at UT in 1906 as it grew into the multi-million dollar industry it is today.

The H.J. Lutcher Stark Center for Physical Culture and Sports presented its “Basketball and American Culture” symposium Thursday, coinciding with the display of James Naismith’s “Original Rules of Basket Ball” at the Blanton Museum of Art. Naismith’s original document consists of two pages that list the 13 rules transcribed in 1891. 

“[Basketball] is the gift that never stops giving,” Bill Bradley, keynote speaker, NBA Hall of Fame member and former U.S. Senator, said. “The game is full of great joy and great memory. It needs to be celebrated.”

Bradley played for the U.S. Olympic basketball team in 1964. The New York Knicks drafted Bradley after he left the University of Oxford in 1967 and served six months active duty as an officer in the Air Force Reserves. He retired from the Knicks in 1977 and took office as a U.S. Senator the same year.

Bradley said the game is constantly transforming. He discussed the differences between present concepts of basketball compared to concepts during his career.

“When I played basketball we were told the one thing to never do is lift weights,” Bradley said. “Take a look at the basketball players today and then. When I played we played with the feet, but now it is played with upper body strength. The game has changed.”

Skidmore College professor Daniel Nathan said the sport has permeated the world in addition to transforming it. He said what started as an urban game, mostly practiced in Jewish communities, has diffused to international cultures. Nathan said 29 of the 30 NBA teams now feature at least one international player.

“NBA teams are more eclectic than ever, culturally, nationally, ethnically and racially,” Nathan said. “Basketball promotes a cross-cultural exchange and respect.”

Janice Todd, Stark Center co-director, said people across the world are drawn to the sport because it is unlike any other. Todd emphasized Naismith’s drafting of the sport as history. She said Naismith’s written rules separate it from sports that share similar qualities.

“They are two sheets of paper and in some ways very plain and very simple, but they are the only artifact that we have in the world of sports that can show the creation of a game,” Todd said. “Most games have evolved over time from something else into something different.”

Naismith’s “Original Rules of Basket Ball” will be on display at the Blanton Museum of Art until January 13.

Printed on Friday, November 30, 2012 as: Ex-NBA star, speakers laud basketball's legacy