George P. Bush

Texas land commissioner George P. Bush speaks Monday evening at the awards ceremony for the inaugural Latin Leadership Award.
Photo Credit: Carlo Nasisse | Daily Texan Staff

UT President Bill Powers presented land commissioner George P. Bush the inaugural Latino Leadership Award on Monday evening.

The president’s office worked in conjunction with the Center of Mexican American Studies and the Department of Mexican American and Latina/o Studies to select Bush as the first awardee, said Dr. Nicole Guidotti-Hernández, associate director of the Center for Mexican American Studies.

“We went through a series of 15 nominees, and we evaluated them for leadership, public service and areas like that,” Guidotti-Hernández said. “With him as the first Latino land commissioner, I think in its [179-year] history of the office, we thought it was an appropriate acknowledgement of what it means to be a trailblazer in Latino leadership today.”

As a son of a Mexican-American mother and as a Hispanic man who grew up in the U.S., Bush said he was honored to receive the award.

“Going to this University, being honored for the first time, it’s truly a honor and privilege,” Bush said. “It’s truly a challenge to take things to the next level, to give a hand to the next generation of students looking at opportunities whether its public service or grad school or finding opportunities that can improve their life. [There is] a lot of work ahead.”

Bush said he wants his agency to help both the center and the department.

“They’re doing research that I think is going to benefit our agency,” Bush said. “In terms of projecting the big needs facing the community, they mentioned health care, immigration, voter ID and so forth, which is helpful to our agency.”

While Bush accepted the award, approximately 15 protesters in the West Mall came to express their dissatisfaction at Bush receiving this award, as well as with his political track record. 

Feminist activist Martha Cotera speaks in front of the tower in protest of the decision to grant Land Commissioner George P. Bush the inaugural Latino Leadership Award Monday evening. Cotera and other protestors cited Bush's political record on issues ranging from immigration to fracking and environmental concerns as reasons why he should not have been selected for the award. Carlo Nasisse | Daily Texan Staff

According to Daniel Yanez, an Austin community organizer, Bush appears to care about issues facing the Latino community, but he hasn’t done anything actually benefitting that group.

“As a politician, he has never come out for Hispanic or Latino or Mexican-American issues,” Yanez said. “To give him an award, particularly of this type — I have to laugh.”

Protesters addressed several of the issues Bush said he wishes to improve. Students gathered around to listen to feminist activist Martha Cotera, who took a strong stance against most of Bush’s political policies, ranging from immigration to fracking and environmental concerns.

“It’s difficult for students and faculty and staff to get involved in actions like this,” Cotera said. “We do not know how this honor came about. We are concerned that the values that this person has publicly talked about and in the Republican platform that he supports are anti-civil rights, anti-poor, anti-women.”

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

George P. Bush, Republican candidate for land commissioner, opened the 2014 Texas Tribune Festival on Friday by discussing his stance on a wide-range of issues impacting the state. 

At the talk held at the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center, moderator Evan Smith asked Bush, the grandson of presidents George H.W. Bush and nephew of George W. Bush, if the magnetic pull of his surname drew him into politics.

“I would describe it more as a desire to serve others,” Bush said. “Always think about others before you think about yourself. Not all Bushes are in politics there are 18 grandchildren, and I’m the only one crazy enough to enter the arena.”

After being introduced by President William Powers Jr.,  Bush said his skill sets would help him fill the role of land commissioner successfully. He spoke about his hope for the future of Texas energy.

“You look at the potential for a generation to be truly energy secure,” Bush said. “When I was graduating from UT-Austin, we were importing two-thirds of our petroleum products. Now we’re at a quarter. Within ten years, we’ll only need Canadian and Mexican [products] to power our needs.”

Bush, who is a businessman and former history teacher, said he also wants to push water conservation. According to Bush, brackish water has potential for the Texan economy.

“In terms of water conservation, there’s a lot we can do,” Bush said. “[Water] is a 22 billion problem we will face for the next 20 years. Brackish water can be used in fracking for industrial purposes. We have enough to cover the state with four feet of brackish water.”

Smith, the Tribune's CEO and editor-in-chief, then shifted the conversation to issues that Bush has firm stances on. Bush said he supports the state law allowing undocumented students to receive in-state tuition at public universities.

Bush also said he is not sold on the true cause of global warming.

“What we can agree is, over the course of human history, is that there are climatic changing,” Bush said. “The bigger debate is if its man-made. We need to depoliticize the debate and allow scientists to make a definitive call and look at it through a long-term lens. I have to deal with the immediate needs on the gulf coast, and that’s where I have the most impact.”

When audience member Charlie Bonner, a Plan II and government freshman, asked how Bush viewed the politicization of textbooks, Bush said he would give curriculum authority to local government and school boards.

Bonner said he was not impressed with his answer.

“I actually just thought of the question when he said was a teacher and and member of the Republican party,” Bonner said. “His answer jumped around the issue by putting it back in the hands of locals, which could still lead to the political winds of the teachers and communities. I’m not sure he actually solved any problem with that question.”

Editor’s Note: In anticipation of the May 1 deadline for admitted high-school students to choose to attend the University, we asked student leaders on campus to tell us why they came to UT. Their responses will appear on the opinion page through Thursday. 

In all honesty, I had not planned on coming to UT as a high school senior. But, at the end of the day, when I compared the cost of attending private East Coast universities to that of attending UT, it was clear which one was the better choice. I don’t regret my decision because I liked the majors that I chose, especially plan II Honors and government. I had always been interested in politics, but it was at UT that I was able to pursue that interest through all the internships that were available in Austin and through having great professors who had real-world political experience. There was no better place for me as a Republican to explore my opportunities in politics than UT. As president of the College Republicans at Texas, I met Gov. Rick Perry, U.S. Senator John Cornyn, Land Commissioner candidate George P. Bush and many other elected officials.

My word of advice to high school students still unsure about which universities to attend is to look at the rankings for the program they were accepted into. For me, Plan II Honors was ranked as the third best honors program in the nation, and government was ranked first in Texas. Also, think about the location. Austin is a fun city, and there is so much more to do here than in the Rio Grande Valley, where I am from. If cost is your biggest concern, like it was for me, I think you’ll struggle to find a school where you’ll get a better return on your investment. 

With that said, I’ll be attending law school here starting this fall, and it was easy for me to decide to stay for another three years. I hope students who are still unsure will think hard about attending UT. It’s not for everyone. There are those who dropped out or transferred to other schools, but there are also those who would give anything to get into UT. Luckily, those who already got in just have to make a decision, which I know isn’t always an easy one. I hope these students will attend UT.

Hung is a Plan II senior and president of College Republicans. He will be graduating in May.

U.S. Senator John Cornyn speaks at the State College Republican Convention on Saturday afternoon. Cornyn was among several speakers at the event, who appealed for votes and emphasized the need for the Republican party to attract voters from demographics that historically vote Democrat.


Ethan Oblak | Daily Texan Staff

Photo Credit: Ethan Oblak | Daily Texan Staff

In an effort to win over younger voters, several Republican candidates vying for statewide offices spoke at the State College Republican Convention on Saturday.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, George P. Bush, state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, and U.S. Senator John Cornyn were among the guest speakers at the convention, which was held at the Student Activity Center. While many candidates appealed to convention attendees for their votes, they also stressed the need for the Republican Party to modernize.

“There’s no doubt that we can win, but, in order to do that, we have to let go of the stale tactics of the past,” said Skot Covert, College Republican National Committee co-chairman. “How could a party that uses out-of-date, behind-the-times technology expect to be competitive with millennials, the very generation that is the most technology-savvy generation to live?”

According to Covert, the Texas GOP is making significant changes to become more competitive with young voters, including incorporating social media into Republican campaigns.

Covert said many young voters agree with the Republican Party on a lot of issues, such as limiting the scope of government and decreasing federal debt, but the party seeks to correct misconceptions that some young voters have about the party.

“There is a huge void — a conservative void — on campus,” Covert said. “Because of that, our generation thinks very, very poorly of the Republican Party.”

Bush, a candidate for Texas land commissioner, said he met students on both conservative and liberal campuses while traveling for his campaign.

“[Students] had told me that I’m the first aspirant for political office to come on campus, so this has got to change,” Bush said.

Sen. Cornyn said his re-election campaign staff is working to combat the efforts of the Democrat-supporting group Battleground Texas to make Texas a blue state.

“If we don’t meet that with equal force and equal organization, then it could well happen, not in 2014, maybe not even in 2016, but in 2020 and beyond,” Cornyn said. “If Texas delivers all of its electoral votes [to the Democratic Party], let’s say in 2020, we’ll never deliver another a Republican president again in my lifetime.”

Bush said Republican politicians need to be more visible and stressed the importance of using social media, such as Twitter, to increase local community participation, especially among demographics who historically tend to vote Democrat.

“In my campaign I created some controversy, as a Hispanic Republican, that we don’t have to sell out our conservative principles to win the Hispanic vote,” Bush said. “They are often — as the saying goes — Republican. They just don’t know it yet.”

John McCord, Texas GOP political director, said the party will rely less on phone banking and increase focus on voter registration and outreach efforts in ethnically diverse communities.

“We’re trying to build a much more ground-up approach and talking with folks about what matters to them instead of driving a statewide narrative,” McCord said. “Our goal is for these field offices to not go away after November but to keep the field offices, keep the staff and to have a fully operational ground game to keep these offices around long before 2016 rolls around.”

According to Bush, to win votes, the party needs to take a more active role in the community.

“We can’t just show up right before elections,” Bush said. “We have to show up after elections to have a meaningful conversation with the community.”