January 26, 2009
Cooper Watson is a 13-year-old 8th grader in one of the Austin school district’s magnet schools. He was my sole traveling companion last week to Washington, DC, for the Presidential Inauguration.
The kid was amazing. He went to every event I went to – political meetings, parties, and, of course, the swearing in-ceremony its own self.
He navigated all of this stuff beautifully and with a real sense of humor and style. He engaged people from all over the country on the subway, in crowds, and at the monuments and memorials. He took it all in.
One of my favorite moments was a couple of nights before the inaugural on Tuesday. I’d been invited by a good friend who’s involved in Pennsylvania politics to come to a DC watering hole (in Texas, we’d call it a bar) and watch the Pittsburgh Steelers play the AFC Championship game.
When we got there, the place was packed. I found my buddy surrounded by folks like Rep. Mike Doyle, who represents the Pittsburgh area in Congress, and Tom Vilsack, the former Iowa Governor and now the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture.
Cooper shook hands with all of these folks as he was introduced to them. With the group of dignitaries watching, my friend asked the only kid in the place what he wanted to drink. Cooper said, “Dr. Pepper.”
Now, unfortunately, there are great expanses of the East Coast where you can’t get a Dr. Pepper, so my Steeler friend politely asked, “What if they don’t have Dr. Pepper?”
Quickly, and without missing a beat, Cooper responded, “Wild Turkey.” The crowd needed a second to absorb the answer, and then it roared.
Cooper and I had a great time together. (And for the record, he drank a Coke.)
Of course, on Tuesday, Cooper and I were among the ant-like dots on the National Mall that you may have seen from the satellite shots. It was incredible – just completely crowded and inconvenient, yet with no ill will to be found anywhere.
The mall was overflowing – not just with people, but also with a sense of unity and hope. Those words have been used a lot recently. But, on that day and in that place, they weren’t just words. You could feel their meaning.
Almost 2 million Americans came together from across the country to stand among the nation’s most recognizable and patriotic landmarks, all reveling in the promise of the new administration and the sense of purpose conveyed by our new President.
As President Obama reminded us in his inaugural speech, these aren’t easy times, and they don’t have easy answers. But by facing the future with a shared confidence, hope, and love of country, we can meet the challenges we face and prepare the nation for all that the future offers.
It was inspiring, to say the least. And though it was a long, cold way from Austin, it creates a lot of momentum and good feeling as we prepare for the hard work of the 81st Legislative Session.
Yes, the session starts in earnest this week. The big event will be the Governor’s “State of the State” Speech tomorrow – a big moment in every legislative session where he lays out his agenda for the remaining four months.
I’ll be listening to that speech pretty closely. I hope he’ll focus on issues that are important to all Texans – making sure our kids have the health coverage they need, ensuring students can get and can afford a top-flight college education, and building on our transportation networks, health facilities, school systems, and other vital infrastructure.
Most of all, I’m hoping for signs that despite the stormy economics we’re facing as a state and a nation, Texas will be bold enough to get started laying the groundwork for a 21st Century prosperity to match what we enjoyed over the last 100 years.
In short, I hope that Texas will embrace the future, not fight it.
We’ll probably pass some other important legislative milestones this week. First off, the Lieutenant Governor’s expected to appoint committees. This is, of course, a vital event in the Senate. Every bill has to be passed by a committee before it comes to the Senate floor, so committee members and particularly the chairmen and chairwomen have considerable influence over what becomes law.
During the last session, I served on the Business and Commerce, Jurisprudence, and Nominations committees, as well as the Subcommittee on Emerging Technologies & Economic Development. I also was Vice Chair of the Transportation and Homeland Security Committee.
On the other side of the Capitol, the state House of Representatives will probably take up the debate over its rules.
In 2007, of course, the rules debate basically lasted all the way through the session – becoming the main stage for the fight over the Speaker. This year, with a new speaker and more bipartisan House, it will probably go a lot easier.
At the very least, I hope it’ll be more pleasant than the Senate’s rules debate this month.
I took a bunch of pictures of Coop on the trip to Washington last week – in front of various monuments (we rented bikes and rode all over the place seeing historic places), in front of Capitol and the White House, and with all sorts of people.
This is one of his favorites, with his new friend Tom Hanks.
(I may need to start paying more attention to the backgrounds before I start snapping photos.)