Bill Clinton

The Civil Rights Summit, held on the UT campus last week to commemorate the 50th anniversary of 1964’s Civil Rights Act, certainly made history. Three former presidents, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, all joined President Barack Obama in Austin to commemorate the occasion, each one delivering a keynote address through the week — an unprecedented occurrence. 

But, though the summit was historic, students must think critically about the presidents’ words and the actions behind them because the issues at stake deserve more than just empty political rhetoric. 

The first president to speak, Jimmy Carter, addressed the prevalence of sexual abuse on college campuses. “In this country, we are not above — I hate to say condemnation — but we are not above reproach. The number one place for sexual abuse is the United States universities,” the former president said. Unlike the other keynote speakers, Carter moved past pure rhetoric to suggest a solution to the issue: The Title IX clause that allows federal funds to be withheld from universities if administrators fail to address sexual assault cases should be invoked to help address the problem.

Clinton, too, spoke on a controversial topic, using his keynote address to talk about the aftermath of the 2013 Supreme Court ruling that struck down key provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The court’s ruling allowed several states to change election laws without federal approval, and, as a result, many southern states passed laws requiring voters to show photo ID to cast a ballot. Clinton chided state governments for using the court’s ruling to restrict suffrage by passing such laws. “We all know what this is about.” Clinton said. “This is a way of restricting a franchise after 50 years of expanding it. Is this was Martin Luther King gave his life for?”

Considering Texas is one of the handful of states that require voters to present photo identification, Clinton’s words were bold. 

But not all the speakers at the summit used the bully pulpit to address sensitive issues with frankness and candour. Rather, both Bush and Obama stuck to speaking about past accomplishments and legislation, barely touching on the challenges that lie ahead. 

Bush talked mostly about education — an important topic, but one that constitutes much less of a hot button issue. He reminded Texans of the No Child Left Behind Act, a piece of legislation he announced in 2001 that increased reliance on standardized measurements for school accountability, especially regarding reading proficiency for younger children. Bush did do some justice to addressing inequality in public education, pointing out that “education in America is no longer legally separate, but it is still not effectively equal.” 

Obama, too, addressed disappointingly little of the modern issues concerning civil rights. Although perhaps the most anticipated speaker at the three-day summit, Obama did little to further any specific civil rights issues when he took the stage. Instead, in his characteristic manner, he spoke with eloquence, poise, and measured enthusiasm about things we already knew were true. The most we could take from Obama’s speech was his eloquent praise of LBJ, which, while meaningful, should not have been an end in itself. The lack of substance in Obama’s speech raises the question: Was the summit even productive beyond its celebratory flourishes?

Professor Edwin Dorn, a former Dean of the LBJ School of Public Affairs, thinks the answer to that question lies in what happens next. He asks whether, in light of the summit, the University “will make a bigger investment in teaching and research about civil rights, immigration policy and voting rights … [because] right now, we are weak in all three areas. For example, only one UT faculty member is an expert on voting rights.”

Gregory Vincent, the vice president for Diversity and Community Engagement, offered a slightly different view. He thought that listening to the “perspectives of national leaders in public policy, politics, business and activism yielded fruitful dialogues about social justice” and that the summit’s “real success was inspiring us to carry the conversation of civil rights forward and consider how those rights are being negotiated by different groups today.”

But while we should appreciate the more celebratory aspects of the summit, calling the conference a success does a disservice to the spirit of LBJ, a president who passed not one but many pieces of landmark civil rights legislation on voting rights, housing equality and Medicare, to name a few. But, instead of focusing on meaningful change, as Johnson’s landmark legislation did, this summit focused on rhetoric. When it comes to discussing civil rights, impassioned rhetoric can fall short; working to change the status quo is better. Change doesn’t come quickly, but there is certainly room for progress at UT. Even UT President William Powers Jr. admitted that UT has historically found itself on the “wrong side” of the civil rights argument. 

In the final speech of his presidency, Johnson told a roaring crowd, “we have proved that progress is possible.” Johnson earned the right to say those words, and, when we as a school, or even as a nation, can come to terms with the civil rights issues of our generation — the difficulty of immigration and nationalization, the prevalence of sexual assault and the lack of equal treatment in the LBGTQ community, to name just a few — only then can we see events such as the Civil Rights Summit as successful. While that’s a high standard with which to measure success, it only reflects the nature of the task ahead. 

Photo Credit: Anik Bhattacharya | Daily Texan Staff

When President Barack Obama spoke Thursday at the Civil Rights Summit, it was not the first time a U.S. president has visited the University. Since 1900, seven different presidents have given speeches at the University to commemorate events and inspire students — although some of them did it from their carriages rather than being live-streamed on television.

The first president who visited the University was President William McKinley, who spoke from his carriage in front of the Tower in 1900, according to the book “The University of Texas Records.” Nearly five years later, President Theodore Roosevelt spoke from his carriage in the same spot, although not very eloquently, the book said.

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“He is not an easy speaker,” the book said. “His words indeed come with considerable effort, but they are well chosen, and his intense earnestness and sincerity give great force to what he says.”

A 1905 editorial in The Daily Texan gave the students’ opinion of the president’s qualities. “The student body at the University and the people of Texas, as a rule, may not agree with the President in politics, but they are much too broad-minded not to honor the office which he holds,” the editorial said. “Besides, he has some good qualities anyhow.”

Two of the four presidents at the summit, Obama and former President Bill Clinton, also previously visited the University. In 1995, Clinton gave a speech on racial harmony and cooperation, quoting Martin Luther King Jr. and urging both black and white Americans to reconcile their differences.

“We must clean our house of racism,” Clinton said. “We are one nation, one family — indivisible.”

Obama gave a speech in Gregory Gym in 2010, in which he showed students his “Hook ‘em Horns” hand sign and emphasized the importance of prioritizing education.

The president closest to the University has always been President Lyndon B. Johnson, who visited campus regularly and even attended football games in Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, although he disliked the sport. One of his staff members was quoted in an ESPN article as saying, “He didn’t pay any attention to the game at all. He cared about as much about football as I would a ladies’ dressing parade.”

Johnson was friends with former head football coach Darrell K Royal and many other University staff and faculty, and the LBJ Library was built on campus in 1971 in his honor. His wife, Lady Bird Johnson, who worked for The Daily Texan, had degrees in history and journalism from the University.

President Johnson gave a commencement speech at the University in 1964, just before he signed the Civil Rights Act. In his speech, he spoke about how increasing population growth meant more responsibility for students to improve the world.

“For we are at a turning point in the history of our Nation,” Johnson said. “One road leads to the Great Society … and the other road leads to a legacy of despair and degradation. This is the time for decision. You are the generation which must decide.”

Civil Rights Summit

Guests of the Public Affairs Alliance for Communities of Color’s Civil Rights Summit Watch Party watch a live stream of former President  Bill Clinton’s speech at the Scholz Garten on Wednesday evening. Clinton emphasized the issue of voter ID laws in his speech, as well as the importance of the Civil Rights movement’s role in elections. 

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

Former President Bill Clinton emphasized the issue of voter ID laws during his speech Wednesday at the Civil Rights Summit, saying they disenfranchise voters and do not align with the goals of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Clinton also said students should be able to use their student IDs to vote.

“Here in Texas, the concealed carry permit counts, but there’s one photo ID that doesn’t count: one from a Texas institution of higher education,” Clinton said at the Lady Bird Johnson Auditorium. “This is a way of restricting the franchise after 50 years of expanding it.”

Clinton, who was the second president to appear at the summit after former President Jimmy Carter spoke on Tuesday evening, said the U.S.’s voting laws impair some people’s abilities to vote.

“Anytime you erect a barrier to political participation that disenfranchises people based on their income or race, it undermines the spirit of the Civil Rights Act,” Clinton said.

Clinton emphasized the importance of the civil rights movement in the election of the last three Democrats to win the presidency.

"We’re here because the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act made it possible for Jimmy Carter, Barack Obama and I to become president of the United States,” Clinton said.

Guests react to Bill Clinton's speech at a Civil Rights Summit watch party at Scholz Garten on Wednesday evening. Photo by Shelby Tauber / Daily Texan Staff

The Civil Rights Act outlawed discrimination in public places based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin, while the Voting Rights Act extended federal oversight of elections to prevent discrimination in voting. President Lyndon B. Johnson lobbied for and signed both landmark pieces of legislation.

Student Government President Kori Rady said the elimination of obstacles such as Texas’ current voter ID restrictions is crucial to increasing voter turnout on campus.  

“We can get the ball rolling and get this conversation started, and having a former president of the United States start the conversation definitely helps,” Rady said.

Clinton demonstrated commitment to civil rights in multiple areas during his presidency, according to Gregory Vincent, vice president for the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement.

“He made a very conscientious effort to have his cabinet reflect the diversity of America,” Vincent said.

Law assistant professor Cary Franklin said Clinton’s legacy is tainted by the Defense of Marriage Act, which he signed in 1996.

“I don’t think the marriage equality story is a very happy one from Clinton’s presidency,” Franklin said. “He wasn’t enthusiastic about signing that bill. ”

Clinton said in order to progress civil rights, people should focus less on their racial and gender differences.

“We are genetically 99.5 percent the same,” Clinton said. “Why are we risking the future of this great experiment, the wide horizons that Lyndon Johnson and his colleagues open to us, by spending 99 and a half percent of our time on that half percent of ourselves that is different?”

Photo Credit: Jonathan Garza | Daily Texan Staff

Read recaps of Wednesday's events by scrolling down here. Click here for the liveblog of Thursday's events, which include addresses by President Barack Obama and former President George W. Bush.

Updated (8:55 p.m.): For a full recap of Clinton's speech, click here.

Updated (7:22 p.m.): Former President Bill Clinton said voting in the U.S., because of voter ID laws and other restrictions, does not reflect the goals of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

“Here in Texas, the concealed carry permit counts, but there’s one photo ID that doesn't count,” Clinton said.  “One from a Texas institution of higher education.”

Clinton also said the economy is a factor in preventing the country from fulfilling the goals of the Civil Rights Act.

“It’s all the more difficult today because of the economic conditions in which we find ourselves,” Clinton said. “The statistics show economic growth, but almost all of it is going to the top 10 percent.”

Check back soon for a full recap of the event.

—Julia Brouillette

Updated (6:10 p.m.): During the Clinton administration, there were students on campus calling for greater recognition of LGBTQ and black students' rights. Read that story here.

Updated (5:50 p.m.): Planning a Civil Rights Summit watch party? Click here for a guide on how to do that.

UT Law School hosted a watch party for former President Jimmy Carter's speech Tuesday evening. Photo by Pu Ying Huang / Daily Texan Staff

Updated (4:50 p.m.): As several civil rights leaders spoke about their contributions to the movement, they recognized that the movement was guilty of certain prejudices as well.

Julian Bond, former chairman of the NAACP, speaks at the "Heroes of the Civil Rights Movement: Views from the Front Line" on Wednesday. Photo by Shelby Tauber / Daily Texan Staff

Julian Bond, former chairman of the NAACP, said even within the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, which had more gender equality than other civil rights organizations, there were still tensions between men and women.

“There were enormous tensions over the role each would play,” Bond said. “Had it not been for women, there would not have been a movement.”

Read the full story here.

—Alyssa Mahoney

Updated (3:35 p.m.): The University Leadership Initiative held a rally in front of the Martin Luther King Jr. statue on campus to show support for immigrants who have been deported.

Students involved in the rally held a number of signs, one of which said “we have a dream 2,” and chained themselves to the MLK statue, as representatives said the ideals of the Civil Rights Summit did not align with current U.S. policy towards undocumented immigrants.

Juan Belman, a second year engineering major who said his father is at risk of deportation, said that Austin needs to show support for families who have to deal with deportation.

“If we are a progressive community here in Austin, we need to show that,” Belmot said. “We need to show Texas how to move forward.”

— Adam Hamze

Updated (3:30 p.m.): For a full recap of "LBJ and MLK: Fulfilling a Promise, Realizing a Dream," click here.

Updated (3:02 p.m.): At a press conference at Fort Hood army base Wednesday afternoon, President Barack Obama spoke about the recent shooting that left four dead and more than a dozen injured, and called for increased support for Americans suffering from mental health issues.

"Part of what makes this so painful is we've been here before," Obama said. "We cannot ever eliminate every risk, but as a nation we can do more to counsel those with mental health issues, and to keep firearms out of the hands of those having such difficulties."

Obama also offered words of support for the soldiers' families.

"We hold each other up, we carry on, and with God's amazing grace we somehow bear the things unbearable," Obama said. "...This army and this nation stand with you for all these days to come."

— Julia Brouillette

Updated (2:50 p.m.): In their early 20’s, at the same age that many of today’s college students learn about the impact the two activists had, Bill Russell and Jim Brown were already utilizing their status as high profile athletes to strengthen the civil rights movement.

(From left): Former NFL running back Jim Brown, former NBA center and head coach Bill Russell and Harry Edwards, sociology professor emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley speak at the Sports: Leveling the Playing Field panel Wednesday. Photo by Shelby Tauber / Daily Texan Staff

At the Civil Rights Summit on Wednesday, Russell, Brown and Harry Edwards, a former sociology professor at the University of California, noted that their opportunity to contribute to the civil rights movement at such a young age came as a result of their strong upbringing.

“[Many of the people] around me at a young age were impeccable at stressing the importance of education,” Brown said. “Because I was helped at a young age, I knew my life’s work would be to help others.”

Read the full story of the Sports: Leveling the Playing Field panel by clicking here.

— Stefan Scrafield

Updated (2:12 p.m.): According to Andrew Young, former congressman and former mayor of Atlanta, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and former President Lyndon B. Johnson had a very amicable relationship, even as King and others pressured Johnson to introduce new civil rights legislation. Young spoke about the relationship between King and Johnson at "LBJ and MLK: Fulfilling a Promise, Realizing a Dream," the first summit panel on Wednesday.

“[Johnson originally] said, ‘I just don’t have the power,’” Young said. “I thought it was arrogant for him to say that… [but] we went to Selma on the second of January, and by the end of March the president had all the power he needed to get that civil rights act introduced.”

Andrew Young, former congressman and United Nations Ambassador, speaks at the "LBJ and MLK: Fulfilling a Promise, Realizing a Dream" panel at the Civil Rights Summit on Wednesday afternoon. Photo by Lauren Ussery / Daily Texan Staff

Young said Johnson and King were both adept politicians and said he overheard phone calls between the two men which suggested they had a close relationship.

“I heard them on the phone talking like brothers, like pastor and member,” Young said.

According to historian Taylor Branch, there was some disagreement about what Johnson’s views about race were—whether he changed his views over time, or if he consistently supported the enfranchisement of African Americans.

“I think Johnson had an empathy his whole lifetime,” Branch said. “I think those were his sincere views, and my guess is that they were formed long before it was popular to believe they were there.” 

Check back soon for a full recap of the event.

— Alyssa Mahoney

Updated (12:32 p.m.): UT President William Powers Jr. said that although the University has made great strides in advancing civil rights, historically, UT has been on the “wrong side” of the argument.

UT President William Powers Jr. speaks about the University's role in civil rights, and how sometimes it has been on the wrong side of the argument. Photo by Jonathan Garza / Daily Texan Staff

"The University of Texas has had a special role in the history of civil rights — first, of course, on the wrong side of those issues as a segregated school, and in Sweatt v. Painter on the wrong side of that case," Powers said in an address at the Civil Rights Summit Wednesday. 

To read more about Powers' remarks, click here.

— Madlin Mekelburg

Updated (12:03 p.m.): After students reported low attendance at several panels during the first day of the summit, event coordinators announced the creation of a stand-by line for admission to the remaining panels on Wednesday and Thursday. The line, which will begin on the east side of Sid Richardson Hall,  will be available to anyone with a UT identification card.

No stand-by lines have been announced for the remaining presidential addresses. To read more about yesterday's seating vacancies, click here

— Nicole Cobler

Updated (11:57 a.m.): The Google Cultural Institute, an online collection of historical archives, partnered with the National Archives and released various archives relating to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in light of the civil rights movement.

The “Historic Moments” exhibit features documents, images and videos of the development of the civil rights movement and the legislative process leading to the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

“Google creates platforms and tools like this, such as the National Archives, to tell the story of diverse cultural heritage and share these archives worldwide,” Gerardo Interiano, public affairs manager for Google, said.

Gerardo Interiano, public affairs manager for Google, talks about the Google Cultural Institute, an online collection of historical archives. Photo by Jonathan Garza / Daily Texan Staff

Google is a sponsor of the Civil Rights Summit and is hosting “G+ Hangouts” with various summit speakers. Today’s “hangout” will feature playwright Robert Schenkkan at 2 p.m. To watch the livestream of the hangout, click here. 

— Madlin Mekelburg

Updated (11:53 a.m.): UT Parking and Transportation Services announced additional road closures on the east side of campus during the ongoing Civil Rights Summit in an email sent to students on Wednesday morning.

Robert Dedman Drive between Dean Keeton and 23rd streets will be closed on Thursday from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. In addition, Trinity Street between Robert Dedman and 23rd streets will be closed sporadically between 8:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. President Barack Obama’s keynote address to the summit is scheduled for Thursday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

As a result of the closures, the PTS email said UT shuttles that regularly stop on 23rd Street will now do so on Winship Circle next to the Winship Drama Building.

Last week, PTS announced Clyde Littlefield Drive would be closed during the summit.

— Jacob Kerr

Updated (11:42 a.m.): According to psychology graduate student Christa Vassillieri, the Forty Acres Bus, which circles campus and has a stop across from the LBJ Library, has been more crowded since the Civil Rights Summit began Tuesday.

Vassillieri said she had forgotten the summit was happening, but did notice that the bus had more patrons than usual. Although Vassillieri said she heard promotions for the summit over the radio, she did not believe four presidents would have reason to speak in Austin.

“That’s what I thought I heard, but I was like, this can’t be,” Vassillieri said.

— Nicole Cobler

Updated (11:23 a.m.): Although former President Bill Clinton was originally supposed to tour the “Cornerstones of Civil Rights” exhibit at the LBJ Library before his address this evening, he will be arriving too late to take the tour as scheduled, according to Elizabeth Christian, president of the LBJ Foundation.

The exhibit, which opened  on April 1 and will remain open until April 30, features a copy of the Emancipation Proclamation signed by former President Abraham Lincoln and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, both signed by former President Lyndon B. Johnson.

— Madlin Mekelburg

Updated (10:40 a.m.): Ben Barnes, former Speaker of the Texas House and Lieutenant Governor, said President Lyndon B. Johnson would be concerned about the rising influence of the Tea Party in Texas and the increasing divide between political parties nationally.

Ben Barnes, former Texas lieutenant governor and former chairman of the LBJ Foundation, speaks to media Wednesday. Barnes said he thinks President Johnson would be concerned by the polarization of the country's two major political parties. Photo by Jonathan Garza / Daily Texan Staff

Barnes, a UT alumni, was the youngest Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives at 26, and served from 1965 to 1969, while Johnson was president. Following Barnes’ tenure as Speaker, he served as the Lieutenant Governor of Texas. In 1995, Barnes received a Distinguished Alumni Award from the Texas Exes, the University’s alumni organization.

“As happy as President Johnson would be about what these four days are going to mean, he’d still be very concerned about the bigotry and the prejudice that are two of the important components going into the very divisive government we have today,” Barnes said.

Barnes said he was especially concerned by the state-wide prominence of the Tea Party.

“I read a column by a Washington writer last week where he said Texas is in a situation where the Tea Party is going to be stronger in Texas than in any other state, as far as state elected officials — I’m not proud of that,” Barnes said. “I’m not proud of where they want to take Texas and I think it’s a very, very grave time in our state and I think President Johnson would share that disdain.”

According to Barnes, Johnson — who signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law and increased the United State’s involvement in the Vietnam War — will be remembered for his impact on the functions of today’s government.

“As time goes by and there’s more public forums like this and people really understand Johnson and what he accomplished, people are going to remember Lyndon Johnson for what his domestic policy was,” Barnes said. “He really passed the legislation that is the framework and foundation of our government today — you can’t erase that.”

— Madlin Mekelburg

Updated (7:45 a.m.): While all available tickets were distributed for the first day of the summit, attendees reported a lower turnout. Check out this story by Madlin Mekelburg to read more about it.

Updated (7:26 a.m.): The timing of the summit is meant to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson in July of that year. This video by Dan Resler explains the history of the landmark legislation.

Updated (7:00 a.m.): The first day of the Civil Rights Summit featured a conversation with former President Jimmy Carter, who said civil rights as they relate to racial minorities and women still need to be addressed, ranging from modern-day slavery to sexual abuse at college campuses in the U.S. 

Tuesday's panels also included:

1) A discussion about whether gay marriage is a civil right featuring attorneys David Boies and Theodore Olson, who teamed up in 2010 to challenge Proposition 8, the constitutional amendment in California that banned same-sex marriages. 

2) San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro and former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour talked about immigration laws and border security.

3) Musicians Mavis Staples and Graham Nash performed Tuesday night and spoke about their experiences and what influences their music.

Other highlights from the day can be found on our Civil Rights Summit, Day 1 Liveblog.

(From left) Maureen Clark, global chair for Against Cruel Trafficking, Reva Davis, Black Student Alliance president, and Heriberto Perez, historian for the University Leadership Initiative all feel the Civil Rights Summit provides an opportunity to talk about rights as they relate to a wide range of groups.

Photo Credit: Pu Ying Huang | Daily Texan Staff

As the University prepares for the Civil Rights Summit, a number of student organizations agree that civil rights — including issues of immigration, LGBTQ rights, human trafficking and equality for African-American students — are still a topic for discussion today.

Heriberto Perez, historian for the University Leadership Initiative and radio-television-film and computer science senior, said he hopes students will consider immigration issues after the three-day-long event, in which Presidents Barack Obama, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush will reflect on the history of civil rights since the Civil Rights Act passed 50 years ago and discuss what can be done to improve the rights of Americans today.

In November, the UT chapter of the Young Conservatives of Texas attempted to host a controversial mock immigration “sting” on campus called “Catch an Illegal Immigrant.” The group was going to offer students $25 gift cards if they were able to catch individuals wearing “illegal immigrant” labels on their clothing, but the event was canceled because of the backlash it received.

Perez said he was impressed by the number of students who stepped up to denounce the game but felt that more needed to be done nationwide.

“I’m really hoping that more students realize that, even though we are having the Civil Rights Summit celebrating the Civil Rights Act of 1964, that there are still civil rights violations occurring every day,” Perez said.

According to an investigation by The New York Times published Sunday, since Obama took office, two-thirds of the two million deportation cases involve people who had committed minor infractions or had no criminal record at all. Perez said this number was alarming to him and needed to be discussed at the summit.

“President Obama is giving a speech on Thursday, but it’s pretty pointless if he is talking about civil rights but not doing anything about it,” Perez said. “President Obama’s administration deported so many people, and that, to me, is violating their civil rights.”

Marisa Kent, co-director of the Queer Students Alliance and marketing junior, said she was happy with Obama’s support for gay marriage and believes the summit will educate students about gay rights.

“I think we’re at a pivotal moment for the future of the queer movement right now, with a lot of the legislation that has been passed and having the backing of the president,” Kent said.

Kent said the event was a good step forward for students on campus.

“I think that it will open students’ eyes to what’s going on around campus,” Kent said. “It’s also one of those things giving college students access to hear and understand why this is important.”

In December 2013, Obama issued a press release shining the spotlight on human trafficking and promised to crack down on traffickers. Obama also proclaimed January as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.

Maureen Clark, global chair for Against Cruel Trafficking and government junior, said she saw the fight against human trafficking among Obama, Clinton and Carter and hopes these issues of civil rights will be addressed at the Summit.

“I think, unfortunately, they will be relevant for a very long time, and it’s only when we say they’re not relevant anymore that it gives people room to act in a way that’s not appropriate,” Clark said. “I think we need to keep pushing. The fight is never over.”

Among other student organizations pushing for continuous discussions of civil rights is the Black Student Alliance.

Reva Davis, Black Student Alliance president and African and African diaspora studies senior, said the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act brings the chance to address the racial tensions she has noticed on campus.

In the fall, there were 2,337 black students enrolled at UT out of a total of 52,059 students — or about 4.5 percent — according to the Office of Information Management and Analysis.

“The retention of black students has been somewhat mediocre,” Davis said. “However, the University has promised to uphold its standard of diversity and ensuring its students have the opportunity to learn in a diverse atmosphere.”  

The continuation of civil rights issues on campus during Bill Clinton’s tenure as president revolved around the struggle to memorialize two key figures within the black community, and included new conversations about LGBTQ rights. 

The Malcolm X Lounge, located in Jester Center, started out in the late 1980s as an informal space where black students could socialize, study or just play music. Choquette Hamilton, associate director of development for the department of African and African diaspora studies, said there were difficulties in maintaining the space for black students.

“It just so happened that a resident assistant’s dorm was adjacent to this area, and she made a lot of complaints about noise,” Hamilton said. “In spring 1993, it was converted into a general study lounge, so it was taken away from black students, and that led to protests and sit-ins at the lounge. Even though there were protests, students felt that the ‘power of the pen’ was needed to make change happen. Students joined The Daily Texan, and they started writing articles and publicizing the wrong they felt was being done to them.”

Linguistics professor Ian Hancock, who served as mentor to minority students during the ’90s, said he saw the frustrations of African-American students in the 12-year effort to fund and build the statue of Martin Luther King, Jr. — completed in 1999 — that currently sits on the East Mall.

“The efforts to build the statue started with a small group that formed a corps, and then positioned for support within the black community, and then went to the administration,” Hancock said. “There were some questions about whether the focus should be on not what’s happening on the inside, like asking for statues and so on, but on what the University itself is doing to make students feel welcome and part of the UT community.”Hancock said he heard stories of black students being oppressed by faculty in ways that would not happen in present day.

“I can remember there was a student who wanted to do her doctorate on an African language — it was on Swahili — and she was told by her adviser not to deal with that and to pick a European language. The student was mortified by this,” Hancock said. “Those were the sorts of things where in the past, minority studies weren’t seen as equal to Western-oriented studies, and they weren’t as valued.”

Another prominent civil rights issue during the Clinton years was an increased focus on discrimination against the LGBTQ community. Students on campus strongly reacted to these national stories of hate crimes, said Shane Whalley, education coordinator at the University’s Gender and Sexuality Center.

“One of the things happening in Austin during the ’90s was the effort for the hate crime bill to be passed in Texas, and it was only passed after Matthew Shepard and James Byrd were murdered,” Whalley said. “There was no way you could say James Byrd wasn’t murdered because he was black or that Matthew Shepard wasn’t murdered because he was gay, and I would say a lot of college campuses — UT included — had rallies and people coming to speak in response to these national stories. The ’90s were this time of a groundswell of conversation about civil rights in a different way than it had been talked about before.”

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

Former U.S. presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton will be among those on campus for a Civil Rights Summit in April to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the LBJ Library and Presidential Museum announced Monday.

The Summit, scheduled for April 8-10, is one of many celebrations of the civil rights movement the University, LBJ Library, LBJ School of Public Affairs and the LBJ Foundation will be hosting in the next several years.

The Summit will also feature presentations from a diversity of individuals ranging from athletes including former NBA center Bill Russell and former NFL running back Jim Brown to former first daugthers including Luci Baines Johnson and Lynda Johnson Robb.

“Fifty years ago, President Johnson’s vision for a more just and honorable America contributed to the passing of the Civil Rights Act, the most transformational civil rights legislation since Reconstruction and a crucial step in the realization of America’s promise,” said Mark Updegrove, director of the LBJ Library, in the release.

Editor’s note: This is the fifth in a weekly series in which The Daily Texan looks back at something it covered in its 113-year-old history.

One of the biggest competitions in party politics surfaces near the end of each fiscal year.

In a game of high-stakes political chicken, Republicans and Democrats stand firm in backing federal budget positions they may or may not support. This year, party leaders raised the stakes, pushing the federal government into its second-longest shutdown to date.

November 1981 saw the first-ever federal government shutdown under former President Ronald Reagan. The shutdown — a result of disagreements between Reagan, the House and the Senate regarding funding cuts to social programs and foreign aid — furloughed an estimated 400,000 federal government employees for half a day, according to two United Press International articles printed in The Daily Texan on Nov. 23 and 24. The Nov. 24 article called Reagan’s quick shutdown of nonessential government services a “dramatic gesture.”

Reagan signed a $400 million temporary funding bill on Nov. 23, ending the shutdown less than 12 hours after he vetoed a $427.9 million congressional compromise.

“Several members of Congress said approval of the three-week stopgap was as much a sign of Congress’ desire to go home for Thanksgiving holiday as it was a major win for Reagan,” the Nov. 24 article said.

Prior to 1980, government agencies’ nonessential duties were only minimized when the president and Congress failed to agree on an aspect of the federal budget, a period known as a funding gap. But in the early ’80s, Attorney General Benjamin Civiletti issued two interpretations of the 1870 Antideficiency Act — which had, up until that point, prohibited the government from spending more than was allotted in the budget. This led to the creation of government shutdowns, as the attorney general’s opinions asserted that, in accordance with the act, nonessential government agencies must be suspended during funding gaps.

In the 30 years since their inception, only a few shutdowns have occurred in the U.S. — the longest and most memorable being the December 1995 to January 1996 shutdown. In November 1995, the government shut down for six days because of disagreements between former President Bill Clinton, the House and the Senate about cuts to social program funding, including education cuts.

Tensions between the two parties manifested during the shutdown, with House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a Republican, claiming that Clinton’s mistreatment of him and Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole during a recent trip had contributed to the budget standoff, a Nov. 16 Daily Texan article said. Alternately, Democratic Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle blamed Gingrich.

“He wants chaos,” Daschle said of Gingrich in the article. “He wants collapse of the government, and now he’s got it.”

The November 1995 shutdown ended when Clinton and Congress agreed to attempt to balance the budget in seven years, continue debates about the budget and temporarily continue government agency funding in an agreement known as a continuing resolution.

The continuing resolution expired Dec. 15, and a second shutdown began — this time spanning 21 days. In January, Clinton and Congress agreed to a seven-year budget plan with modest spending cuts and tax increases. The shutdown came to a close at a cost to the Republican Party, which a majority of Americans blamed for the shutdown.

In this year’s shutdown Democrats and Republicans held tight to opposing agendas, resulting in a temporary extension on the debt limit and halt on the shutdown. So while the players may change over the years, results stemming from political differences many times don’t.

Three previously out-of-print books by Christopher Hitchens have been re-released by Twelve Books, a publishing company committed to publishing works of cultural significance. (Photo courtesy of Christian Witkin)

Christopher Hitchens never followed the rules of polite dinner party conversation. Boisterous, argumentative, stubborn and, most frustratingly, often right, he had a way of making his views — often about politics and religion — known using the most efficient of language, never giving a damn what anybody else thought of them. Although he died this past December after a bout of esophageal cancer, his memory lives on, as do his numerous debates via YouTube and several of his books.

Unfortunately, books go out of print from time to time, and some of his most impressive works have become difficult to find. Twelve Books, a publishing company intent on releasing no more than a dozen books per year, each culturally significant, has made an effort to correct this by reprinting three of Hitchens’ most controversial works. The three books each take aim at a different well-known figure, effectively eviscerating Bill Clinton (“No One Left to Lie to,” originally published in 1999), Henry Kissinger (“The Trial of Henry Kissinger,” in 2001) and Mother Teresa (“The Missionary Position,” in 1995).

Those familiar with Hitchens’ other work will already be aware of his style, which is sharp, yet restrained. He’ll go straight for the jugular, but never let his passion for the subject get the better of him. His arguments are usually very persuasive. Although it’s difficult to sum up a person’s life in a few hundred pages, by the time a reader finishes with any of these three books, it’s likely that at the very least, he or she will reconsider their position on the given figure.

With Kissinger and Clinton, Hitchens makes it clear that they’re politicians in the worst sense of the word, caring more about self-promotion and preservation than doing what’s right, even when it resulted in the deaths of innocent people. In both cases, these figures ordered military strikes based on bad intelligence to further their political careers, rather than protecting our nation’s security or defending democracy overseas. The two of them are also, in Hitchens’ estimation, compulsive liars.

However, Hitchens really knocks it out of the park with “The Missionary Position,” the shortest of the three books here, in which he attacks Mother Teresa, accusing her of hypocrisy, corruption, narcissism, simple-mindedness and, above all else, making situations worse by refusing to offer modern medical assistance to those in need, despite having the financial means to do so. Although he’s writing a book criticizing one of the most revered figures of the 20th century, Hitchens isn’t just adopting a contrarian viewpoint to be argumentative: He has evidence to back his position up, often in the form of quotes from Teresa herself or those who worked with her directly, and he firmly believes, when judging Mother Teresa by her words and actions, she does not live up to her reputation.

All three books are genuine Hitchens, who, if he ever wrote a bad sentence, has kept it well hidden. Although they’re all fairly brief and written with a large typeface, they’re not short on content and, despite delving into some of the most horrible atrocities of recent history, are an absolute joy to read, thanks to the author’s dry wit.

Additionally, although Kissinger and Clinton are no longer in positions of power and Teresa has been dead for more than a decade, the books remain relevant. Clinton is perhaps even more lionized by the left now than when he was when in office and Teresa is in a position to be canonized by the Catholic Church. While Kissinger is perhaps not viewed as positively as the other two, he can still be brought to trial as a war criminal, which was Hitchens’ purpose for writing the book in the first place.

Although these three books are by no means even a summary of the work that Hitchens created during his prolific career, they do a fine job of representing why he was so revered. While he spent most of his life arguing against specific people and positions, it’s clear that he did so not out of bitterness, but out of a genuine belief in justice and the power of his ideals. The subject matter isn’t always pleasant. However, reading Hitchens is always inspiring, and in the context of these posthumous re-releases, somewhat bittersweet as well.

Political careers can be a roller coaster ride of victory and defeat, but students willing to choose this path found veteran advice at the 2012 Careers in Politics Conference on Saturday.

Students were invited to workshops with former and current members of national political campaigns, including staffers for former presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. The all-day event took place at the LBJ School of Public Affairs, hosted by the New Politics Forum of the Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Participation and the Hatton W. Sumners Foundation.

Events included three panels with staffers in active political careers, a networking lunch with Sherri Greenberg, the director of the Center for Politics and Governance and a keynote address by Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives Joe Straus.

More than 100 graduate students attended the conference, attracted by the ability to bring positive change to the political sphere, said Emily Einsohn, program coordinator for ASICP.

“I think young people are hungry for knowledge,” Einsohn said. “They want to know what the insider perspective is, and they want to understand what a career in politics looks like. Who better to hear that from than the active professionals?”

Students must think about the value of their time in school, and how they spend it if they choose to get into politics, former ASICP president Mary Dixson said, who moderated a panel with political consultants Kevin Burnette and Shamina Singh. She also said an only academic background was not suitable for a political or business career.

“Be careful about digging yourself in a graduate school hole — many academics have never written a resume,” Dixson said. “There’s astronauts and astronomers, and academia is full of astronomers. If you want to be an astronaut, go hang out with the astronauts.”

Singh, who is a former senior advisor to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), said the skills involved in good political careers would carry over to every aspect of a person’s life.

“The same skill set exists in politics and campaigns as in relationships, business and everything else,” Singh said. “It’s challenging and exhausting, but it’s so rewarding.”

A good sense of business and a spirit for impacting politics as a member of society is also important, Burnette said.

“The star of the hour is the entrepreneur, especially given the economic situation we are in,” Burnette said. “It would be so great if everyone in America was a true entrepreneur.”

At a later panel, former Bill Clinton campaign member Ashley Bell and former George W. Bush campaign member Matt Mackowiak spoke on political communication and the direction of their careers.

The emergence of mass social media continues to play an important role in campaigns, Bell said.

“You can’t believe the world of contacts that come out of politics,” Bell said. “Social media is an enigma. We use social platforms to drive interest, [public relations] and marketing back to the websites where we park our information.”

The first step into the world of politics is always the most important, Mackowiak said, a 2003 UT communication alumnus.

“I didn’t know what it was going to be like getting from the University of Texas to Washington,” Mackowiak said. “You have to take the first step, even though you don’t know at all where you’re going to and where you’ll end up going.”