From Sept. 22 to 24, students and professionals of all interests will gather to attend the seventh annual Texas Tribune Festival at the University of Texas at Austin.
Story by Zoya Zia and Rochelle Friedewald
Featuring over 250 speakers and 60 sessions, the event offers attendees the opportunity to discuss pressing issues in different tracks including diversity and the law, politics and the media, and transportation, energy and the environment. The festival will kick off in an opening session with democratic Senator Al Franken of Minnesota and Evan Smith, CEO of the Texas Tribune.
ORANGE Magazine has compiled the following list of notable sessions and speakers within each track.
Diversity & the Law
Session: Texas and the Refugee Crisis
Key Speaker: Ali Noorani
Clashing with the push to welcome refugees, xenophobia and anti-refugee sentiment continue to rise. This session will explore the various perspectives on the issue within the context of Texas. Ali Noorani, Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum, a national immigration policy organization, will join the discussion by bringing nearly nine years of policy experience to the table. As a son of Pakistani immigrants, he is directly motivated in his line of work and aims to open doors for future immigrants. However, the session may challenge the notion that one must be an immigrant in order to care for refugees around the world.
Public & Higher Education
Session: The Right Response on Sexual Assault
Key Speaker: Sierra Smith
Last year, the sexual assault scandal at Baylor University led to widespread anger and demands for change from college administrations. Those affected by the scandal face the consequences of the scandal on a daily basis. However, sexual violence on college campuses is an issue that extends beyond Waco and must be addressed by universities across the country. Sierra Smith, a student at Baylor University and advocate for Sexual Assault Survivors shared her story before the House Higher Education Committee earlier this year. As a speaker at this session, she will provide an important viewpoint in the company of academic officials, journalists and politicians.
Transportation, Energy and the Environment
Session: The Tyranny of the Commute
Key Speaker: John-Michael V. Cortez
From rush-hour traffic to day-to-day congestion, traffic is a growing concern for Austinites and other Texans in large cities including Houston, San Antonio and Dallas. The state-wide demand for affordable and accessible public transportation grows more apparent each year, as the population increases and infrastructure remains limited. John-Michael V. Cortez, Special Assistant to Mayor Adler, will give insight at this session on transportation. He knows Austin well, given his previous involvements with Capital Metro and the City of Austin. Through the session, attendees may be able to voice their discontent with the current system and reinforce the need for change.
Health Care & the Economy
Session: Why are So Many New Mothers Dying?
Key Speaker: Marsha Jones
Texas’ maternal mortality rate is not only the highest in the United States, but it is also considered the highest in the “developed” world. This rate doubled over the course of two years but lawmakers did not take proper action. Black mothers are disproportionately affected by the problem. As the co-founder and executive director of the Afiya Center, an organization that strives to fill the disparities for Black women, Marsha Jones will join the discussion on a major issue and relay her expertise on the subject. The maternal mortality rate can no longer be ignored - Texas mothers depend on immediate action.
Key Speaker: Mayor Steve Adler
With the federal government on a climate change policy backslide, it seems up to the state elected officials to pick up the slack. Austin mayor Steve Adler will be a key component in the city climate change discussion involving two other mayors, one former and the other current, of large Texas cities. The upcoming panel is a pertinent one, considering the climate change implications surrounding Hurricane Harvey, a recent natural disaster that ravaged the state’s coast.
Trump: Year One
Session: Trump and the Resistance
Key Speaker: Cecile Richards
On paper, there seems to be few as qualified as Cecile Richards in terms of spurning political activity. President of Planned Parenthood since 2006, Richards has led a nationwide campaign to save preventive women’s healthcare federal programs and founded America Votes, an organization working to increase voter turnout and support for progressive policy. ORANGE is looking forward to hearing this political heavy hitter discuss how the president’s critics should increase the movement’s staying power.
Session: One on One with Beto O’Rourke
Key Speaker: Congressman Beto O’Rourke
Congressman Beto O’Rourke, the U.S. Representative from El Paso, is posed to challenge Texas junior senator Ted Cruz in 2018, and will discuss his underdog campaign. The spunky, young Democratic congressman and ex-punk rocker just finished up his 34-day Town Hauling Across Texas Tour, which had the politician trekking deep into the heart of conservative Texas. Surprisingly, O’Rourke attracted substantial and enthusiastic crowds in smaller Texas towns and has harnessed social media tools like Facebook Live to relate to a young Democratic base. O’Rourke, an avid supporter of multicultural communities, is a sight for sore eyes among wilting Democratic efforts to gain national political traction.
Politics & the Media
Session: Disrupting the News
Key Speaker: Peter Hamby
It’s no secret that traditional news sources have long passed their golden age. After all, millennials are not typically seen holding a newspaper. Peter Hamby, the Head of News at Snapchat and former national policy reporter for CNN, along with fellow media innovators, will discuss how to raise current levels of civic engagement and ORANGE cannot wait to hear how editors plan to cut through the clutter and reach audiences outside the typical mold.