My words are hollow until they fill them with substance. They give meaning to my words; they make them real.
I am talking about Krystafer and Sarah and 18 other University of Houston students who are currently interning in Austin. As a university president, I am often in Austin defending our budget, showcasing our progress, and making our case for future investments. In fact, I have already testified four times and will probably do so four more times before the session is over. I am always proud of the UH story and am equally passionate about telling it to whoever will listen. But it is not about my telling the story, it is about people believing it.
Last week, I walked into Rep. Jessica Farrar’s office and was greeted by Krystafer with his broad and confident smile as if the office belonged to him. Rep. Farrar could not say enough wonderful things about him, but it was not what people said about him but how they behaved toward him that caught my attention. Krystafer is valued for his work and respected for his work ethics. He was telling the UH story in his own way, and it was real to people.
Ten minutes later, I stopped by to greet Rep. Jim Murphy in the hallway and he asked me if I would not mind stopping by his office and say hello to Sarah, another UH intern. “We love having her and she is terrific,” was how Rep. Murphy described her to me. Two hours later, I stopped by his office and once again was greeted with a beaming personality. No one had to say anything (although they all did) but I knew what Sarah was bringing to that office.
A similar scene awaited me in Rep. Garnet Coleman’s office with Yvonne and Jose, and in Senator Rodney Ellis’ office with Mili. Come to think of it, every office that housed a Cougar had praises to sing. Rep. Coleman even funds many of these internships.
So, when I stand in front of the Texas legislature and say, “UH is a Tier One university”, or that “we are a place of opportunity for all”, or that “we are a university on the move,” I am surely being heard…but those are just my words and they can be dismissed. However, you cannot dismiss Krystafer or Sarah or Jose or Yvonne or Mili.
They are the real UH story in Austin.
(Krystafer and Sarah are Honors College students, double majoring in Political Science and History/Economics. Yvonne is in the Graduate College of Social Work. Jose studies Political Science and Philosophy, and Mili is in Law Center.)