Ambassador

Photo Credit: Graeme Hamilton | Daily Texan Staff

For Tropical Productions founder Keito St. James, hula dancing isn’t just about grass skirts and coconut bras.  

St. James founded Tropical Productions, a national touring Polynesian dance and music company, when he moved to Austin. Tropical Productionswill perform May 2 for the CelebrASIA festival, which honors Asian Pacific American Heritage month, at the Asian American Resource Center.

St. James, a Hawaiian native, said he noticed a void of understanding about Hawaiian cultural and wanted to be an ambassador for his homeland. He said many people see hula as exotic and often forget it is part of American culture. 

“It is a true indigenous culture, and we want people to see it that way,” St. James said.  “Some see it as hokey, and we want them to see our traditions and also to remember it’s American.”

Some of the first members of St. James’s hula troupe were UT students. The company started in the early 1990s, holding rehearsals in the Texas Union and performing events on campus. Now, Tropical Productions performs in places such as Las Vegas, but but it holds onto its campus connections through student dancers.   

Rochelle Olivares, public affairs and social work graduate student, learned to dance hula in Guam, where she grew up. She joined Tropical Production five years ago after moving to Austin and said she feels at home with her troupe because it reminds her of the island life. For her, hula is a spiritual experience that embodies Hawaiian culture and lifestyle.

“It’s a very beautiful dance in the fact that every single movement means something,” Olivares said. “There is a spiritual aspect, and it is very grounding to be able to use your body to tell a story.”

Olivares said she doesn’t introduce herself as a hula dancer right away because most people ask her to dance for them, but hula isn’t something she can easily jump into. She said it’s also against hula tradition to dance for profit or for self-promotion.

Kealoha, which means friendship and love, is Oliveras’ Hawaiian which was given to her by St. James’ mother and business partner Kanani. She said she becomes Kealoha when she dances. It’s typical that the kumu hula, or dance teacher, gives dancers names that embodies their life forces, Olivares said.  

“Most of the people I dance with, take on a different personality when they dance; they take on their Hawaiian spirit, or their mana,” Olivares said.

St. James said hula has taken many forms throughout its history. When European missionaries came to Hawaii in the late 1800s, hula was forced underground for over 75 years because it didn’t represent Christian ideals and was seen as evil.

“Traditionally, hula was used symbolically and religiously,” St. James said. “It’s believed if you danced a prayer, it was worth a thousand prayers.”

When it reemerged, St. James said it became a commercialized dance.

“Hula became that cruise ship type hula,” St. James said. “You know, sexy girls dancing on the side of the cruise ship, singing in English? We call this hapa haole hula.“

The Hawaiian Renaissance, a time of revival for traditional hula dance, came in the 1970s. St. James said he had the privilege of growing up around people who celebrated the true roots of hula.

“Sometimes, people think Hawaiian dance is a lewd thing, like, ‘Oh you have to wear coconuts,’ but, really, it’s a family thing,” St. James said. “The way I grew up in Hawaii everyone from our babies to our grandmothers are involved.”

 

  • What: CelebrASIA Austin: Asian Pacific American Food & Heritage Festival
  • Where: Asian American Resource Center -8401 Cameron Rd, Austin, Texas 78754
  • When: 11 a.m. 3 p.m.
  • Admission: free

Ambassador Robert Hutchings has served as the dean of the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs since 2010. He is stepping down in August.

Photo Credit: Sasha Haagensen | Daily Texan Staff

Editor’s Note: This is part of a series of Q-and-A’s with UT’s deans. Ambassador Robert Hutchings is dean of the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, UT's graduate public policy school. He assumed the position in 2010 and recently announced that he will be stepping down in August. From 1992 to 1993, he served as a special adviser to the secretary of state with the rank of ambassador.

 

The Daily Texan: Could you tell us a little bit about the LBJ School?

 

Robert Hutchings: We are one of the larger schools of public policy and one of the oldest. We have been around almost 45 years. We have 350 students, more or less.

 

We have got a reputation, certainly in Texas, as being the gold standard for public policy schools. One of the things we are trying to work on is to strengthen our image globally. We are opening the LBJ Washington Center, admitting that first class right now. It really makes it more competitive with the other public policy schools that are either in Washington or closer to Washington. So the students will spend one year here [in Austin] and be in Washington to launch their career there.

 

The other initiative is the executive master’s in public leadership. This is long overdue, I think. And it’s the only one in the state. In a capital like this, with so many state agencies, legislative staffs and nonprofit organizations, it's natural to offer working professionals the chance to get a degree, studying alternate weekends so they don’t have to leave their day jobs.

 

DT: What does the budget look like now for the LBJ School?

 

Hutchings: We are in pretty good shape. My whole deanship has seen a net drop in state support for the LBJ School. Frankly, the competition in terms of the faculty salaries has gotten really dramatic. We have to fund those on our own. Now we are entering a period where the financial outlook is much better, with the governor’s positive attitude toward UT Austin and the Legislature’s friendly attitude toward funding.

 

DT: How important do you find fundraising these days?

 

Hutchings: It’s very important. I find it’s pleasant and enjoyable… because everything I fundraise for is tied up to a program that I care about. I know for students entering public service careers… it’s hard for them to incur loan debt. That will drive them to the private sector, which is not what we are about.

 

DT: How much time do you spend on fundraising?

 

Hutchings: A quarter to a third of my time is related to fundraising, either directly or indirectly.

 

DT: Where do LBJ students go after graduating?

 

Hutchings: It’s all over the map. Both figuratively and literally. The largest group of our students are here in Austin. Washington is second, with Houston in third and Dallas a very distant fourth. They are in elective office, federal government, at the domestic and international levels. They are all over state government and city government. Seventy-five percent, over time, go into public service. About 25 percent enter the private sector.

 

DT: How does the school collaborate with other colleges on campus?

 

Hutchings: We have lots of specializations and joint degree programs — 27 in total. Some are quite active: Law, Middle Eastern studies, Latin American studies, even Engineering and Business. That’s a way to keep us linked academically with the rest of campus.

 

DT: How about with the new medical school?

 

Hutchings: That relationship has really taken off. We have one faculty member with a dual appointment at the Seton Medical Center, which is the first ever such appointment. We have very strong faculty in health policy and health economics. We actually collaborate with Dean Clay Johnston [of the medical school] on a number of things. One is to share office space in Washington, D.C., because he has in mind a Washington presence as well. We are working on a joint curriculum. As they staff up, they will have a joint M.D. and master of public affairs degree.

 

DT: Why are you stepping down?

 

Hutchings: I really had the view that one term [six years] was going to be enough. You really need to give the opportunity to someone else with a different set of ideas. I expect to be back as a faculty member for several years.

 

DT: What do you think your legacy is?

 

Hutchings: I think the legacy is a number of programs that will last into the indefinite future. The Washington Center, the executive master’s program and the international program. I hope people look back at my tenure and say despite the difficult financial situation, the school built up really important things. It transformed the public image in reality.

 

DT: What are you trying to do for the rest of your term?

 

Hutchings: I have six months left, and I want to do as much as I possibly can. One thing that we have been working hard on is a diversity initiative. We have been working with our counterparts in African studies, Latino Studies, History, Government and a couple of other departments. Every public policy school I know struggles to have a diverse faculty and student body. You don’t attract a diverse student body unless you have a diverse faculty. You don’t hire diverse faculty unless there are programs that they are excited about coming to. 

Photo Credit: Marshall Tidrick | Daily Texan Staff

Ecuador’s ambassador to the United States visited campus Friday to explore commercialization partnerships with UT and Ecuadorian business interests.

Hosted by the University’s IC2 Institute, the event allowed students to meet with Ambassador Nathalie Cely Suárez.

Suárez said both the U.S. and Ecuador can learn from each other with a stronger partnership.

“I admire the generosity of this citizens here,” Suárez said. “There are more than 1 million Ecuadorians in this country, and as I say, ‘I have a million reasons to get closer and move forward in the relationship.’”

Gregory Pogue, the interim deputy director at the IC2 Institute, said the University provides students the opportunity to specialize in certain areas.

“In the business school, UT has the top accounting program in the U.S., and they have a specialization in energy accounting that is also quite unique, much like the law school,” Pogue said. “This represents another specialization where accounting students learn to manage both partnerships and large company-based accounting principles which differ due to how structures of energy work.”

Pogue said one the institution’s goals is to improve international economic development.

“IC2 has been interacting with Ecuador for 12 years,” Pogue said. “We are looking to establish a broader relationship to promote entrepreneurship and launch engagement of new companies. This really links to a big goal the president has: to stop Ecuador from being just a raw product producer but produce finished goods. We think business engagement is critical, and students are the key.”

Suárez said she hopes international students make the most out of their experiences in Austin.

“Study, work hard and network,” Suárez said. “We need young multicultural global citizens like you will become, and we need many of you back home, so make sure you come back.”

Jack Matlock, former United States ambassador to the Soviet Union, visited the LBJ Library on Tuesday and said current American-Russian relations are intensifying.

Matlock said he fears the aggression between the U.S. and Russia is relatively high.

“The rhetoric now in Russia and Washington reminds us of the height of the Cold War,” Matlock said. “I don’t think we are entering a new cold war, even though the rhetoric sounds like it.”

In the modern political climate, Matlock believes the U.S. is taking the wrong steps in addressing Russia.

“I think we have gotten ourselves in a very dangerous situation, in terms of our relationship, in part, because we have failed to understand some of the lessons we should have learned when we ended the Cold War,” Matlock said.

After studying at Duke University, Matlock attended Columbia University, where he specialized in Russian studies. Matlock went on to teach at Dartmouth College, but decided he wanted more from his occupation later on.

“He decided he could do better things than teaching nasty undergrads,” government professor Zoltan Barany said. “He had an explicit goal in mind to become the American ambassador to the Soviet Union.”

Mark Updegrove, director of the LBJ Library, said Matlock’s involvement in the Cold War makes him an ideal source for information on the contemporary relationship between the U.S. and Russia.

“There are few who know more and were more instrumental in the ending of the Cold War than Jack Matlock,” Updegrove said.

Matlock, who also served as U.S. ambassador to Czechoslovakia, said the notion that the U.S. single-handedly brought an end to communism is incorrect. He said Mikhail Gorbachev, former president of the Soviet Union and general secretary of the communist party, brought communism to an end in the Soviet Union.

“It wasn’t military pressure, but Gorbachev, who, step by step, removed the party from control,” Matlock said. “He was able to do that because the Cold War was over and the lack of military pressure from the outside freed him up to try internal reforms.”

Matlock said the Cold War ended before the Soviet Union collapsed, and communism still existed in the Soviet Union years after the Cold War had come to an end.

“What actually ended the Cold War was negotiations, backed by strength, but it wasn’t strength alone,” Matlock said. “As much as we negotiated an end to the Cold War, we proved the power of diplomacy, rather than the power of military strength.”

Photo Credit: Connor Murphy | Daily Texan Staff

According to the 2013 State of the News Media report, 18- to 24-year-olds have the lowest percentage rates of active news readership. In 2012, 23 percent of college-aged U.S. citizens read the news, and, if the millennial generation continues to stay on trend, that rate will remain — if not decrease.

Enter theSkimm. 

Created two years ago, theSkimm is a free daily email newsletter that breaks down the top news stories of the day — from major stories, such as the fight against ISIS, to less publicized stories, such as new drugs to combat hepatitis C — in easy-to-understand, everyday language. It acts as a tool for people who want to keep up with the news but do not have the time. 

The newsletter selected ambassadors, including UT students, to help better reach a younger community. 

Caroline Meyerson, a marketing and Plan II junior, became a Skimm ambassador for the UT campus after she was introduced to the company by her older sister a year ago. Meyerson said keeping up with current events is crucial for internships and interviews. With theSkimm, she said she feels prepared to discuss the news and participate in discussions with professors and potential employers. 

For sophomore Eleni Demeris, theSkimm is part of her morning routine. 

“It’s definitely my starting point, and, if I want additional info on what they’re talking about, I’ll go to a larger news outlet,” Demeris said.

While theSkimm is not only for students, it is targeted toward millennials. 

Political communications senior Kaitlyn Clark is also an ambassador on campus working to gain more student readers. 

Clark wanted to be an ambassador after hearing about the company at a presentation last fall while in Washington, D.C., for UT’s Archer program. Through her work on campus with theSkimm, Clark said she’s seen more students cultivate a passion for news and current events. 

She recalls a student who was the only one in his class who could answer his professor’s questions on current events because he read theSkimm daily. 

According to Clark, while options like theSkimm only provide short summaries of the news, they are significant in that they allow students to feel like they can participate. 

“If everyone on campus read it, we’d be a smarter campus,” Meyerson said.

This article was originally written on March 7, 2014.

Canadian Ambassador H.E. Gary Doer said the U.S. should continue constructing the Keystone Pipeline, a cross-country oil pipeline, in a speech at the Student Activities Center on Friday.

The Keystone Pipeline System construction, divided into four phases extending the pipeline various distances across the U.S. and Canada, has been subject to significant criticism by environmental groups who allege the pipeline will be damaging. President Barack Obama rejected a proposal for the Keystone XL Pipeline Project, the final phase of the project, in January 2012. The phase would have extended the pipeline from Alberta, Canada, to southern Nebraska.

Doer said he felt the current resources available to the U.S. and Canada have the potential to make the U.S. more energy independent and advocated for less restriction on the deployment of the Keystone Pipeline in the U.S.

“I believe we’ve won the lottery ticket — we just don’t know how to cash the ticket, to be less reliant on oil from the Middle East, and more reliant and independent in the neighborhood of North America,” Doer said. “We see the Keystone Pipeline, which is controversial, fitting into that narrative on energy security.”

Doer said stopping the development of the pipeline will not stop the production of oil in Canada, and the focus of the pipeline debate should shift to the environmental and safety concerns of the rail system, which is currently used to transport oil in the U.S.

“The state department concluded that it’s higher cost on rail than on pipeline, higher safety risk with more fatalities on rail, and higher greenhouse gases,” Doer said.

Sheila Olmstead, public affairs associate professor, said she felt stopping pipeline construction would not stop oil production in the U.S and Canada.

“I think we’re not in a great place trying to maximize those resources, and I agree also that we have these alternative transportation mechanisms that probably environmentally are not necessarily defined,” Olmstead said.

Jorge Piñon, interim director of the UT Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy, said individual rail cars are a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. According to Piñon, there will be several thousand miles worth of pipeline constructed in the U.S. this year alone.

“If the issue is pipeline as a negative contributor to the environment, how come we’re not opposing these 6,300 miles to be built in this country?” said Piñon.

Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren spoke on issues in the Middle East at the LBJ School of Public Affairs and was met by protesters in support of Palestine on Thursday.

Oren discussed the history and accomplishments of Israel and responded to student concerns about Israeli settlements beyond the nation’s borders. He said their placement was strategic as well as ideological, including a highly debated two-mile strip of road known as E1. Oren said such settlements make up 2 percent of the West Bank.

“It has been the position of every Israeli prime minister that E1 and that area would remain a part of Israel in any territorial compromise and we would find some way of compensation for Palestine,” Oren said. 

Students with the Palestine Solidarity Committee and the International Socialist Organization protested during the speech, resulting in an arrest by the UT Police Department

UTPD Chief Robert Dahlstrom said the arrested protester was most likely charged with disrupting a meeting, which is a class B misdemeanor. The identity of the protester could not be confirmed.

English junior Zach Guerinot, who was protesting with the organizations said they had members with posters and a Palestinian flag at the event and information on Palestine outside. “He represents a state that continually violates human rights and continually stomps on the throats of oppressed people,” Guerinot said. “His presence here is a reflection of normalization of the relation between the U.S. and Israel.”

Oren said the Israeli government sees the Syrian Civil War as an opportunity to deal a blow to Iran.

“With the outbreak of hostilities in Syria, we had hoped that the regime would pass from the earth as soon as possible, but these groups proved to be more resilient than initially predicted,” Oren said.

He said Israel’s greatest accomplishment is its system of democracy, although it’s not perfect.

“We can do lots of things better. Israel is a work in progress,” Oren said. “Our goal is to better democracy, full equality for all of our citizens and peace with our neighbors.”

BRUSSELS — Serbia’s ambassador to NATO was chatting and joking with colleagues in a multistory parking garage at Brussels Airport when he suddenly strolled to a barrier, climbed over and flung himself to the ground below, a diplomat said.

By the time his shocked colleagues reached him, Branislav Milinkovic was dead.

His motives are a mystery. Three diplomats who knew Milinkovic said he did not appear distraught in the hours leading up to his death Tuesday night. He seemed to be going about his regular business, they said, picking up an arriving delegation of six Serbian officials who were to hold talks with NATO, the alliance that went to war with his country just 13 years ago.

“It was indeed a suicide,” Ine Van Wymersch of the Brussels prosecutor’s office said. She said no further investigation was planned.

The diplomats, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release details, said they knew of no circumstances — private or professional — that would have prompted him to take his own life. Milinkovic, 52, had mentioned to colleagues at diplomatic functions that he was unhappy about living apart from his wife, a Serbian diplomat based in Vienna, and their 17-year-old son.

Fahd al-Bakoush, a freelance videographer, 22, discusses a video he shot that shows civilians removing the body of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens from a small dark room in the U.S. consulate in Benghazi in the aftermath of the Tuesday Sept. 11, 2012, attack, during an interview with the Associated Press.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

CAIRO — Libyans tried to rescue Ambassador Chris Stevens, cheering “God is great” and rushing him to a hospital after they discovered him still clinging to life inside the U.S. Consulate, according to witnesses and a new video that emerged Monday from last week’s attack in the city of Benghazi.

The group of Libyans had stumbled across Stevens’ seemingly lifeless form inside a dark room, the man who shot the video and two other witnesses told The Associated Press.

The account underlines the confusion that reigned during the assault by protesters and heavily armed gunmen that overwhelmed the consulate in Benghazi last Tuesday night, killing four Americans, including Stevens, who died from smoke inhalation soon after he was found. U.S. officials are still trying to piece together how the top American diplomat in Libya got separated from others as staffers were evacuated.

The Libyans who found him expressed frustration that there was no ambulance and no first aid on hand, leaving him to be slung over a man’s shoulder to be carried to a car.

“There was not a single ambulance to carry him. Maybe he was handled the wrong way,” said Fahd al-Bakoush, a freelance videographer who shot the footage. “They took him to a private car.”

U.S. and Libyan officials are also trying to determine who was behind the attack.

On Sunday, Libyan President Mohammed el-Megarif contended foreign militants had been plotting the attack for months and timed it for Tuesday’s 9/11 anniversary.

However, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice said it appeared spontaneous and unplanned, that extremists with heavier weapons “hijacked” the protest and turned it into an outright attack.

Soon after the attack, Libyan civilians roamed freely around the trashed consulate, its walls blacked and furniture burned. Among them were the videographer al-Bakoush, and a photographer and art student he often works with. They heard a panicked shout and rushed to see what was going on, al-Bakoush said. The body had been found inside a dark room with a locked door accessible only by a window. A group of men pulled him out and realized he was a foreigner and still alive.

The video taken by al-Bakoush and posted on YouTube shows Stevens being carried out of the room through a window with a raised shutter. Al-Bakoush said they put Stevens in a private car to rush to the hospital.

The video has been authenticated since Stevens’ face is clearly visible and he is wearing the same white T-shirt seen in authenticated photos of him being carried away on another man’s shoulders, presumably moments later.

“We were happy to see him alive. The youths tried to rescue him. But there was no security, no ambulances, nothing to help,” Ahmed Shams, the 22-year-old arts student, said.

When they entered the consulate, “there was no one around. There was no fire fighters, no ambulances, no relief,” said the photographer, Abdel-Qader Fadl.

Al-Bakoush and his colleagues said that once they learned his identity, they were stunned Stevens had been alone.

“I’ve never seen incompetence and negligence like this, from the two sides, the Americans and the Libyans,” he said. “You can sacrifice everyone but rescue the ambassador. He is the ambassador for God’s sake.”

Editor’s note: Bob Krueger served in the U.S. House of Representatives, the U.S. Senate and on the Texas Railroad Commission before becoming the American ambassador to Burundi in 1994. He spoke with Daily Texan associate editor Kayla Oliver about the death of Chris Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, the political prospects of Texas Democrats and the lessons of public service. This fall, Krueger is teaching a Liberal Arts Honors and Plan II class called “Heroes in Life and Literature.”

Daily Texan: When you were serving as ambassador to Burundi in the 1990s, you narrowly escaped an assassination attempt by an extremist group unhappy with your advocacy for the disenfranchised. Could you describe why you chose to take such an active role in the country’s politics, as did Ambassador Stevens in Libya?
Senator Bob Krueger: Well, an ambassador is a personal representative of the president of the United States. That’s what being an ambassador plenipotentiary means: you have all the powers of the president for United States citizens in that country. It is a huge privilege, of course, to represent the United States anywhere. The genocide I was amid — if you adjusted for the difference in population between Burundi and the United States — was like having ten Twin Towers attacks every week nonstop. Nothing was being reported. There was not a single international reporter there. I thought, I can do two things: I can do what I can to save democracy, and I can do what I can to save lives, and nothing else mattered to me. If I was to remain silent, then who was to speak? If the representative of the world’s most powerful country was afraid to speak, who else would speak?

DT: Does the Libyan government have any responsibility for failing to prevent the attack?
BK: What we have to understand is we are the oldest continuous democracy in the world. We are an immensely powerful nation, and we still have assassins and crazies who do things like killing Sikhs in a church or who take out a gun in a Colorado movie and shoot fifty-odd people. And that’s where we have a strong legal government. Think about what happens where you have a fledgling government just trying to get underway. We have to understand that their government is still under threat from radicals in Libya and radicals coming from outside. The government is seeking their own footing. We’ve had a couple of hundred years and we still have these challenges. We have to put this in a global and historical context and understand that their country is just trying to get underway in a democracy. It’s the same position we might have been in in 1777.

DT: How should the American government respond to the situation?
BK: I think we’re responding appropriately. We have sent Marines to shore up the defense at the embassy itself. Fifty United States Marines are worth a lot more than that many from any other location, and they will come equipped and trained and ready to protect American interests. And we are sending a couple of destroyers that will have drones for observation. I think there’s no doubt that we’re responding with strength, but we don’t know just which group was responsible for this attack, and we certainly can’t go out in another country and think we’ll find the perpetrators. What we need in such instances are cool heads, historical understanding, broad vision and not a silly ‘cowboys and Indians’ approach — saying, “By gosh, I’m going to pull out my gun and get ‘em!” We wouldn’t know who to get.

DT: You were the last Democrat to serve as U.S. Senator from Texas. What realistic odds do you give the Democrat on the November ballot, Paul Sadler, for that seat?
BK: Well, obviously the odds are against him. On the other hand, one never knows in an election what can happen. Sadler is a responsible individual; he is not an ideologue. He has sought to work with people of both parties, and I think he is better qualified to bring some sort of coherence and comity in Washington than an extremist whose economic and other policies are antediluvian.

DT: What have been the disadvantages for Texas to not have a Democrat representing it in the U.S. Senate when one occupies the White House?
BK: I think a Democrat is likely to be a better, more responsible senator and it’s always a benefit, particularly for the second most populous state in the Union, to have connections with both parties rather than just one.

DT: What could a Democrat do to win a statewide office in Texas in November, given the polls?
BK: I suppose hope, pray and do his or her best. We never know what can suddenly turn an election. The odds are against it, but when I first ran for the Senate the odds were against me — I was up against an 18-year incumbent — and I lost only by three votes per thousand.

DT: What one lesson do you think UT undergraduates may take away from their years on campus that will inspire them to work to stop, if they have the opportunity in their lifetime, a genocide like the one you made the world pay attention to in Rwanda and Burundi?
BK:
My own experience in life is that there is no real satisfaction in simply seeking money or things. Looking back, the richest experience I had actually was not either during my time in the Senate or perhaps even in the House. It was when I was in Burundi, an assignment that most people would not have wanted. It gave me a chance to work to save democracy and work to save lives. That was for me an immense privilege. I wouldn’t trade a hundred million dollars for that privilege.