The HEARTS Veterans Museum held their 15th Annual Veteran’s Day Banquet, appropriately, on Veterans Day, November 11, 2014. A silent auction, catered dinner, and a short but moving program rounded out the evening. We were fortunate to be asked to help in greeting attendees as they arrived, assisting with the silent auction, and meeting community members and leaders, and learning more about veterans and their sacrifice.
It was heartening to see soldiers, former and current, old and young, men and women, from all walks of life, stand while the Huntsville Community Men’s Choir performed a rendition of the Armed Forces Medley. All five branches of our nation’s armed forces were represented by local veterans. Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, and Navy veterans and current soldiers stood during their service’s song. You didn’t have to look far to see that not all eyes were dry.
There was a short presentation on putting the various services for Texas veterans in the palm of their hands – à la the new “Texas Veterans App” (free, available on iPhone and Android devices) by former TX Representative Suzanna Hupp. We were also able to meet several elected officials who took the time to honor those who have served to defend and protect our freedoms, including Congressman Kevin Brady.
The LEAP Center brought students to the Annenberg Conference Center at the Bush Presidential Library to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Among those on hand was Dr. Jeffrey Engel, Director of SMU’s Director of the Presidential History Center. Although Dr. Engel is a distinguished scholar, he was not the most distinguished person in the room. Within a dozen feet of the students sat former Bush (43) Chief of Staff Andy Card, former Bush (41) National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft, Barbara Bush, and President George H. W. Bush.
President Bush received an award for his work in promoting freedom throughout the world…
…and the LEAP Center students received the treat of being in close of proximity of former President Bush.
Although she’s been to numerous Bush Presidential Library events, it was the first time Jessica Rodriguez has seen President Bush. “It was so nice to be able to see him. It was particularly nice to have a lecture on presidential history while sitting next to one of history’s makers. I enjoyed it very much.”
It was the fifth president Rodriguez has met while at SHSU while participating in LEAP Center events.
Each semester, the LEAP Center partners with Kaplan Testing to offer SHSU students a Mock LSAT–a real LSAT test that provides students with an evaluation of their current performance on the test. This semester, some 50 students took the practice test.
There were a couple of unusual factors about this semester’s exam. First, Ryan Brim, a 15 year old, took the test, and he performed quite well. In fact, he scored in the top half of the group. Second, Jamey Portina, an SHSU freshman, scored a 175, probably the highest score ever recorded from an SHSU student.
The LEAP Center and Kaplan will offer another practice test in early February, followed by an LSAT Prep course on campus this spring. The classes will take place on Tue and Thu, with the first class being Tue, March 17. Students will attend two meetings a week through Thu, April 16. This provides seven core learning classes of four hours each and three practice tests. By offering such courses on SHSU’s campus, the LEAP Center hopes to provide students with the resources needed to improve their scores, build a network of aspiring lawyers, and promote education about the legal field.
Students who would like to sign up for the course should go to Kaplan’s website. SHSU students will receive a discount. Students interested in the discount or additional details may contact Kaplan’s Regional Manager Kayla Briel: email@example.com.
After an exciting afternoon meeting David Berg, attorney and author of Run, Brother, Run, we packed up two cars and headed for Nacogdoches! We could feel the excitement build the closer we got to Nacogdoches, anticipation of our observation of a Moot Court Scrimmage and, more immediately, an adventurous evening of zip lining.
We arrived in Nacogdoches around 7:10pm and headed for the Zip Line course, ZipNac. The tour guides quickly suited us up and instructed on how to use the equipment safely and the proper procedures for a fun zip line. It was exciting to say the least.
I won’t forget the adrenaline rush I felt on that first drop down or walking over a suspension bridge in the dark.
Or the fun time we were able to spend together, whether it was Sura Omar and Ariel Traub…
…or Constance Gabel and Jessica Martinez….
…or Jasmine Moss and Megan Chapa…
…or the whole group….
…or whether it was Kaitlyn Tyra flying home in record time…
…we all had a great time.
After zip lining we made our way to a local restaurant called Jalapeno tree, to enjoy a nice Mexican dinner. The appetizers consisted of chips, salsa and queso. My main course was chicken enchiladas, homemade rice and charro beans. The food was authentic and very delicious. At the restaurant we met with Gene Roberts, an attorney who is the Director of Student Legal Services at SHSU. He is in Nacogdoches to judge the Moot Scrimmage, and he will be helping us understand what to expect at the scrimmage, how the performances are judged, and tips for law school.
I am looking forward to another exciting day tomorrow watching the Moot Scrimmage and looking back at the wonderful memories made. It is moments like these that make me appreciate all that the LEAP center and Sam Houston State University do for us…
…After a short night of sleep, we were able to watch numerous Moot Court Scrimmages, which turned out to consist of a series of intriguing contests.
In all, we watched four contests. The morning contest was the most competitive. The students were highly skilled and very knowledgeable. The speakers displayed knowledge of the material, confidence, and spoke articulately about the legal matters they have been given to study. It could have been intimidating.
The second panel wasn’t as intimidating. The students struggled at times to articulate their ideas and occasionally seemed to struggle with the facts of the case. We learned later that we had seen the most and least prepared of the students, giving us a strong sense of the range of competition at these events.
A moot court competition is designed to mimic the appeals court process. Incidentally, the LEAP Center hosts four trials from the 10th Court of Appeals on campus every year, so many of us had seen that action. What we hadn’t seen was students try to replicate the work of appeals attorneys. Even the students who struggled helped us understand the process and, as always, we sympathized with those who have speak in public, a difficult task in almost any circumstance.
The afternoon groups fell within the range we had seen in the morning, and all of the teams taught us something about the law, the process of the moot court scrimmage, and ourselves. We are particularly grateful for Dr. Donald Gooch, the pre-law advisor at SFA, and Gene Roberts.
Following our observation, the general consensus was that we should form a Moot Court team at SHSU, and that many of us were game for the competition!
David Berg has been an attorney for more than four decades, becoming an internationally renowned specialist in white-collar crimes. But as he became more successful legally, he found himself reflecting more on the death of his brother, which occurred when he was a fledgeling Houston attorney in 1968. Alan Berg was killed, according to David, by Charles Harrelson (the father of Woody Harrelson) but never convicted.
David revisited the events leading up to the murder in his non-fiction book, “Run, Brother, Run,” which received very favorable reviews by the New York Times, the Christian Science Monitor, NPR, and others. He also dropped by SHSU to discuss the book and the murder with SHSU faculty, staff, students, and local citizens.
Berg mixed his presentation with a discussion of crime, law, family relationships, and boom days of Houston, Texas, providing substance for everyone in the audience. Many in the crowd had their own recollections of Harrelson, who spent time in Trinity and Huntsville (in and out of prison). Eventually, Harrelson was convicted of murdering Judge John Wood in San Antonio in 1979. It was the first assassination of a federal judge in the 20th century.
Afterward, Berg spent time speaking with the crowd, giving encouragement to pre-law students…
The last day of our Midwestern Tour arrived, and we were able to visit the beautiful Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas. The beautiful museum was designed by Israeli architect Moshe Safdie, and the funds for the museum were provided by Alice Walton, the Walmart heiress. Although open for fewer than ten years, the Museum is one of the most ten visited museum in the United States—despite being location off a major highway, and hours from a major airport.
But it is worth the effort to get there. The Museum grounds are beautiful…
..and the art was amazing.
Among the favorites were political works, such as Charles Wilson Peale’s famous portrait of George Washington…
..and a piece by an artist who is becoming a favorite of ours, Georgia O’Keefe:
Not only is there no entrance fee to the Museum, but the Museum offers free audio guides, which highlight hundreds of works of art, providing background and instruction for those of us who are not already art connoisseurs. In the piece above, for example, we were able to see connections in the white crown of the Radiator Building with many of O’Keefe’s work focusing on the southwest, particularly animal skulls, which take on a similar color and shape.
We learned how Benton used similar contour lines depict the sky, human/animal life, and the ground to make a connection between life and its environment, a connection hat would have been particularly salient in the 1930s in the midwest.
The Museum also allowed us the opportunity to engage in some “performance art”…
It was sad as we ended the trip, with a final look at the Museum…
The end of the trip, however, also offered a time of reflection on what we learned and experienced. Accordingly, we voted on our favorites, with the following results:
In general, our favorite cities were (1) Madison, WI, (2) Kansas City, and (3) a tie among Chicago, Bentonville, Little Rock, and Spring Green. Madison was the big surprise, impressing us all with its beauty and many shops and amenites.
Identifying our favorite sites was more difficult. The Bean in Chicago’s Millennium Park was a favorite…
We started our day in Independence, Missouri, with hot chocolate, mocha, coffee, and various pastries at Home Sweet Home Bakery in town. The hostess was welcoming, had an interesting haircut, and was very helpful.
Following breakfast, we headed to the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library, starting with a short movie that introduced us to how Truman came to be, from his life in Independence as a young boy up until his career as 33rd President of the United States.
The Library features various exhibits, including parts of his personal diary, and pictures from his presidency.
One favorite picture of the group was the famous “Dewey Defeats Truman” news headline in which Truman holds the Chicago Daily Tribune with an erroneous headline that indicated Dewey had defeated Truman in the 1948 election. Truman is laughing in the picture, clearly celebrating his victory and ready to begin his second term. The Library also features an original of the newspaper that was published in 1948.
The Library’s largest exhibit is “The Presidential Years,” featuring videos, Truman’s personal diary, newspaper covers, and other artifacts depicting his presidential years. One interesting feature of the Library was the replica of the Oval Office during Truman’s presidency. Also interesting was a documentary on the Cold War, which was very informative.
Another favorite exhibit, also of the newspaper variety, included a display of enlarged newspaper covers, presented in chronological order, and featuring headlines such as “ROOSEVELT IS DEAD: TRUMAN TAKES OATH,” and “FIRST ATOMIC BOMB DROPPED ON JAPAN.” Finally, we took pictures with Truman’s statue…
…and we visited the graves of him and his wife, Bess Wallace.
After visiting the Library, we headed to the Truman Home. Even though the Trumans were not wealthy, the house is far from modest. In fact, the house belonged to Bess’s family, which was wealthy. A wraparound porch surrounds most of the house, and stained glass windows front the house.
The guide led us into the kitchen, which is very modest, with furniture and wallpaper that reflect 1950s style. The chairs, counters, table, and cupboards are all painted apple green, a popular color at the time.
The rest of the house is filled with wooden furniture and golden interiors. The second floor is closed to the public, so we only visited the dining room, Truman’s studio, the two living rooms, and the main hallway. In the larger living room, used for special occasions and guests, is a portrait of Harry, while in the family living room hangs a portrait of Bess. The portrait liked most was in the main hallway, of Margaret Truman, their daughter and only child. At the end of the tour, more pictures in front of the house, and then on to our next destination, Kansas City.
It was lunchtime, and we had to eat Kansas City style barbecue! Our research led us to try Oklahoma Joe’s Kansas City Barbecue, rated the number one place for barbecue in KC. We arrived at a very long line outside the restaurant and decided to utilize our backup plan. We headed to Fiorella’s Jack Shack.
Fiorella’s Jack Shack was voted by The Zagat to be one of the best places to eat in Kansas City; but, we were not impressed. We faced a wait of 30 minutes, at least that was the story according to the waittress. An hour and fifteen minutes later, and after some slight vocalization of our displeasure, we were seated. Overall, the food was average. The sliced pork was above average and the beans were good, but the bulk of the meats were no better than you can find in Huntsville.
We had a negative experience at lunch, but we would not let lunch defeat us! We headed over to the World War I Museum with full stomachs, armed with curiosity. The Museum was beautiful and showcased the Monument in a spectacular way.
The inside of the Museum had a glass floor that led from the main entrance to the museum exhibits, showcasing poppies commemorating those fallen in World War I. Each of the 9,000 poppies in the display represented 1,000 fallen soldiers. Walking across the glass floor and seeing the poppies below really demonstrated the vastness and destruction of World War I.
There were several great exhibits. One of the most interesting and informative was on wartime weapons development. The war started with very basic weapons; however, many developments were made in terms of weaponry and battle strategy. One particularly effective strategy was camouflage. The British would paint their ships in various patterns that they pulled from Cubist paintings to confuse enemies and make it harder to track the ship’s speed and course.
In terms of weaponry, countries were still in the early development stages. The first machine guns were poorly designed and very slow – but the Germans developed the German Maxim machine gun that performed fast, concise and very well. Grenades were also introduced in World War I and made trench warfare brutal. Various gases were used as well, making World War I a chemical war. Other developments such as tanks and submarines changed transportation for troops during the war and helped improve reconnaissance efforts.
We closed down the World War I Museum and continued our exploration of KC starting from the top of the museum, which is the bottom of the 265-foot tall Liberty Memorial. We walked up the stairs to the Liberty Memorial and were astonished at the view: the entire skyline of Kansas City.
After taking several pictures of the skyline (selfies and groupies), we walked the several blocks to Union Station. On our walk, we encountered a large field of grass with an American Flag in the middle: the perfect place for a race. We had tried a race the night before, but because Professor Yawn left Silvia in the dust, he agreed to run backwards against her this time. It was much closer this time, and Silvia edged out Yawn in a photo finish.
During the race, though, we stumbled upon a beautiful tree in full fall foliage, displaying red, orange and brown leaves like a proud peacock. The tree served as a perfect backdrop for more pictures of us as a group…
We finished our stroll in the brisk Kansas City air at Union Station, an historic train station. Built in 1914, the train hub is home to Amtrak, museum exhibits like Science City, and theaters. Awed by the extravagant architecture and design of the interior, it was interesting to learn that after being closed in 1985, $20M was spent on restoration of the building to recover it from its solitude and dilapidation. Intriguingly, it’s still an active train station.
Historically, the KC Union Station was the second to be built in the country and followed Second Empire Style and Gothic Revival. After consuming all available space in the 1878 location and eventually flooding, the decision was made to move the station to its current location. Designed by Jarvis Hunt, the great hall with three massive chandeliers and ornate ceiling adornments is what we see today.
We were fortunate enough to be spectators to all the 100th year celebrations the Saturday evening held for Union Station. Drinking our coffee, we watched patron after patron stroll past, determination in their eyes, dressed in authentic 1920’s regalia. Unsure of what was happening, we followed a few to find, to our surprise, swing dance lessons going on. We watched, thankful for such perfect timing for something so entertaining.
With the sun setting…
…we hightailed it out of the enormous train station and headed back to the car in search of the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art. Sighting a Chihuly, we knew we had arrived at the home to many inspiring pieces of modern art.
We wandered through the museum, admiring exhibits such as Summoning Ghosts: The Art of Hung Liu, full of poignant, politically vocal pieces about communistic China, and Miss Your Mark, which sought to allow artists to make their mark using the manipulation of different materials.
We even explored the museum’s café, full of art by Frederick James Brown, which paid tribute to many artists throughout time. Our artistic appetite not quite satisfied, we left the Kemper and walked to the Donald J. Hall Sculpture Park, to appreciate the pieces by moonlight. Among those seen, our favorites included Shuttlecocks by Claes Oldenburg and Rodin’s Thinker. Although we had filled one appetite, our hunger made an appearance, so we left in search of sustenance.
An all-time favorite of our own Professor Yawn, we walked into Grunauer’s, not knowing what to expect. We quickly learned of the many Austrian delicacies available but had trouble narrowing it down to just a few. We began the meal with an assortment of sampler appetizers, including different kinds of cheeses, bratwursts, meats, and breads. Some of the unusual choices included currywurst, liverwurst, and brie. We downed the wonderful, new foods in preparation for the main course. Among some of the delectable entrees we enjoyed were Hungarian Beef Goulash, Cordon Bleu, Kasespatzle (noodles and cheese), and Fisch im Strudelteig-a fish baked in pastry adorned with spinach and mushrooms.
Stuffed to the gills, we surprisingly found room for apple strudel, chocolate cake, and nutella crepes for dessert, much to our full bellies’ dismay. Such an enjoyable end to an exciting day, we loaded up in the car to make our way to Bentonville, Arkansas for our final day of the Midwestern Tour.