Freshman Spotlight: David Rodriguez

David is a freshman from Pembroke Pines, Florida who majors in Political Communication. He has started improving his interpretation skills on the team and we are so excited to see him begin to grow on Texas Speech. We asked him some questions so you could get to know him better!

What’s your favorite UT course so far?

Currents of American culture, interesting look into the way people used to live

 You’re trapped on a desert island. What 3 things would you want with you? Why?
Bed, speakers, and a cool playlist

Law school

Prose, DI

Turtles are cool, I could live in the turtle pond

Haven’t been to many yet, Pluckers is good

Freshman Soitlight: Joel Melendez

Joel is a freshman from Houston, Texas who majors in International Relations. He has gotten involved in Texas Speech, primarily doing platform address speeches. We’re so excited to welcome Joel onto the team and watch him grow as a performer. We asked him some questions so you can get to know him better.


US-Mexico relations has so far been my favorite course. I think it’s specially important today to truly understand how closely interdependent Mexico and the United States are.

Gordon Ramsay. I’d whip myself a gourmet PBJ

1. A lounge chair 2. Sunglasses 3. Pineapple and chicken pizza. If i’m gonnan be trapped on a desert island, it’s going to be a vacation.

Go to grad school (law or business).

ADS – I love making people laugh and I think using humor is a great way to deliver a message.

A raccoon. They’re like glorified rats that get to go out at night and eat food.

Rosita’s Al Pastor in Riverside, they’re by far the best tacos i’ve had in Austin

Freshman Spotlight: Caleb Newton

Caleb is a government major from Austin, Texas. He has started competing on the team doing limited prep and public address events. We asked Caleb a few questions so you could get to know him.


What’s your favorite UT course so far? Tell us about it.

American Studies, because it discusses how the concept of home and the American Identity has been influenced by race, class, gender, sexual orientation, and immigration status. Every time I attend the class I’m taught something new about history and how that impacts us today, which I think is pretty cool.

Rex Tillerson not because I want to be a dinosaur in a suit, but because I love foreign policy and want to become Secretary of State.

You’re trapped on a desert island. What 3 things would you want with you? Why?

Mac & cheese, because it’s all I eat. Coffee, because it’s all I drink. Rachel Evans, because I need someone to figure out how to get off the island while I eat mac & cheese.

What do you want to do when you graduate?

I want to pursue either a law degree or go to graduate school.

What events in college speech are you most excited to do?

I’m most excited for CA, because I think it’s really interesting and entertaining to research and write.

If you were a plant or animal, which would you be? Why?

I’d be that one immortal jellyfish because…well it’s immortal.

What’s your favorite restaurant in Austin?

Every single birthday I go to Zushi Sushi downtown as an excuse to eat my body weight in sushi.

Freshman Spotlight: Juan Alfonso Núñez Rodríguez

Juan is a first year Latinx studies major from Mexico City. He has spent most of his life in San Antonio. Juan is excited to compete as an interper on the Texas Speech Team! The beginning of the speech season has been exciting for him and the team looks forward to watching him develop as a student and performer. We asked him some questions to help you get to know him better!

I absolutely love my intro to Mexican American policy class. At first it was a little intimidating since I’m one of the only freshmen in it and it is a very discussion based course, but I honestly have learned so much just by sitting in it three times a week. I actually got my POI topic from one of our discussions!

If you could be any powerful person or celebrity, who and why?

One of the Olsen twins. Either one, it doesn’t matter.

My copy of “The Mixquiahuala Letters” because it is a beautiful book and there are so many different ways to reread it and find something new. CVS oil removing sheets because of obvious reasons. And probably a blanket because I am forever cold always non-stop.

Become an immigration lawyer to be able to help families like mine.

POI, it was added halfway through my high school speech experience and I absolutely fell in love, I just think it’s so fun to construct and perform.

If you were a plant or animal, which would you be? Why?

A monarch butterfly. So (this is probably the only thing I remember from biology) the monarch butterflies have a migration journey from Mexico to Canada, but it takes several generations to get there. Each generation is stronger and can endure more than the one that came before. Eventually, the last butterfly is so strong that it is able to return to Mexico from Canada in one lifetime. I just think they mirror the story of so many Mexican immigrant families and have always found their journey to be inspiring and relatable.

What’s your favorite restaurant in Austin?

Café No Sé (shoutout to my awesome mentor for telling me about it)

Freshman Spotlight: Gerard Apruzzese

Gerard is a freshman math major from Summit, New Jersey! He’s an interper with a passion for Program Oral Interpretation and is excited to explore the public address events. Gerard has spent the last semester growing on the Texas Speech Team and exploring the Forty Acres!  We asked Gerard some questions to help you get to know him better.

Chem 301 because my professor is the best. She makes the class ten times better and everyone loves it!

Probably either Lady Gaga or Kesha because they are two immensely talented beings and they are all I hope to be.

You’re trapped on a desert island. What 3 things would you want with you? Why?

Water, pop-tarts, and my binder. We need food and water plus my binder is my child.

The Cold War, A Political Game

By: Maxim Belov

Despite being backed by most policymakers, the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan was doomed to fail from the start. However, the Afghan quagmire did not result from military inferiority, rather from a strategic one. Our strategy was simple: win the war. Anything short of victory was a failure. On the other hand, the Taliban was fighting to survive; it could be killed but could not lose. While seemingly complex, most decisions during the war could be explained by Game Theory – an attempt at introducing mathematics into value-based decision making.

Under game theory, there are two possible games: finite and infinite. (more…)

A Day Without Women




by: Rachel Evans

photos from: IWD; The Huffington Post

March 8, 2017 : International Women’s Day. A day thousands across the world will celebrate the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women.  But as individuals across the world gather to celebrate their accomplishments, they also are gearing up to protest for today’s Day Without Women. (more…)

Revisiting the “Black” Box

Jordan 1


By: Jordan Auzenne

Photos from: Getty Images / Kevork Djansezian; Solange Knowles; Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

Oscar’s Sunday 2017 was a foggy morning, but the weather matched the date. While I waited in line at Starbucks, actor and producer Tracee Ellis Ross seemed to confirm the overcast on my timeline, as she donned a grey sweatshirt, hood on, with the name “TRAYVON” written big, black and capital. It was February 26th, the 5th anniversary of his death. Yet almost as soon as the photo was posted, several commented that it wasn’t the Hollywood elite’s job to call the rest of us out, to “fix her makeup and get ready to celebrate herself”. I grabbed my black coffee and got to work.

The role of Black people in the media has always been a complicated one. As the Pew Research Center explained in 2016, African Americans only make up 5.5% of those in newsrooms, sets, and stages across America. Yet as Black artists like Ellis Ross attempt to use their platform to progress the narrative of blackness, they are being shut down. It’s clear that as Black culture and aesthetics are being featured in media now more than ever, we want to enjoy Black work, so long as they stay quiet.

The timeliest example of this is Queen Bey. Black history month kicked off with a brilliant exhibition of Black strength, beauty and artistry as Beyoncé announced her pregnancy, in a photo that would later become the most liked on Instagram. Immediately, outlets like VOX, Elle and even Cosmopolitan were quick to admonish her. One writer even argued that “Beyoncé alienates other women who wish to be pregnant”, completely overlooking her (and Black women’s) history of miscarriage.

Jordan 3


What garnered the most backlash was her performance at the Grammy’s on Feb.12th, in which she donned a golden halo and bejeweled dress, giving off Virgin Mary vibes. As PBS speculated, her embodiment of Oshun, a Yoruba water goddess of “female sensuality, love and fertility,” was meant to pay respect to Black womanhood. But while columnists grappled with their conceptions of sacrilege, they missed an incredible point: that Beyoncé could be used as a performance, but not honored as an artist.

Beyoncé lost Album of the Year for the second time, to the fabulous and formidable Adele. As her younger sister, Solange, tweeted, “there have only been two black winners in the last 20 years for album of the year[.] there have been over 200 black artists who have performed”. She elucidates what several of us are realizing, that the music industry knows how powerful Beyoncé, and other artists like Kendrick, Kanye, and Nicki, have become. They recognize their influence in the community and their ability to innovate and redefine music, but only so far as to utilize their performance for viewership, then hand the award to someone else.


This cycle of exploitation occurs just as frequently in Hollywood, where certain movies can revolve around the concept of jazz without any recognition of the Black people who created it. Which is why the Academy Awards felt surreal this year. Even my RTF colleagues who adored La La Land admittedly agreed that a feel-good movie about Hollywood nostalgia shouldn’t be awarded over a film traversing the turmoil of intersectionality, of Black manhood and Black sexuality, a movie (FINALLY) where the characters weren’t either slaves or maids. What Moonlight accomplished was monumental. The low-budget indie film turned $1.5 million into $25, with an all-Black cast (including a fellow Longhorn), and little advertising. The anticipation going into Oscar’s Sunday was therefore unbearable.

The Academy Awards were in all sense of the phrase a “must see”. After 3 and a half hours, La La Land was initially announced as Best Picture, and as crew worked to fix the mistake, host Jimmy Kimmel “wanted to see [La La Land] win too”, arguing that “there are plenty of awards to go around.” It was producer Jordan Horowitz who mustered Adele-like grace, replying: “I’m going to be really proud to hand this to my friends at Moonlight.” But even in their accomplishment, they were overshadowed by whiteness.


As Bustle articulated this morning, “This should have been a moment for people of color…for LGBTQ individuals, for people living in marginalized communities. This should have been a moment for their stories to be celebrated and seen, and instead it was a moment that turned into a punchline.” Moonlight had time to vouch for both of the films, forgive the Academy, and leave the stage. People will talk about how happy they are that they won. Or maybe how Lion or Manchester should have. They’ll talk about how wonderful Janelle Monáe looked. But we’ll never talk about the speech, because it didn’t happen. Bustle continues, “We shouldn’t have been laughing. We should have been applauding, and then holding the Academy to the responsibility of maintaining or exceeding this standard next year.”

Yet, it’s still peculiar. How in 90 years, the Oscar’s made this mistake. Still peculiar how Black artists are remembered for amazing performances, but never awards. In a time where media is being threatened more than ever before, where media is the foundation of understanding people who are far away and different from us, it’s peculiar how it keeps getting whiter.


Blay, Zeba. “Beyoncé Has Always Been Political — You Just Didn’t Notice.” The Huffington Post., 09 Feb. 2016. Web. 27 Feb. 2017.

Griffiths, Kadeen. “‘Moonlight’ May Have Won For Best Picture, But It Still Got Robbed.” Bustle. Bustle, 27 Feb. 2017. Web. 27 Feb. 2017.

Mettler, Katie. “The African, Hindu and Roman Goddesses Who Inspired Beyoncé’s Stunning Grammy Performance.” The Washington Post. WP Company, 13 Feb. 2017. Web. 27 Feb. 2017.

Midgette, Anne. “Beyoncé and the Apotheosis of the Pregnancy Announcement.” The Washington Post. WP Company, 02 Feb. 2017. Web. 27 Feb. 2017.

Moore, Suzanne. “The Oscars Mix-up Matters Because This Night Was Always about Racial Bias.” First Thoughts. Guardian News and Media, 27 Feb. 2017. Web. 27 Feb. 2017.

Vogt, Nancy. “African American News Media: Fact Sheet.” Pew Research Center’s Journalism Project. N.p., 15 June 2016. Web. 27 Feb. 2017.


The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Texas Speech team.

How to Testify


by: Alex Meed

photos from: Alex Meed; Texas Senate video feed

A loud, insistent series of beeps jolts me awake. Its source is my phone, where the numbers “5:30” appear in the corner of the tiny screen. My hands and feet move faster than my brain as I wash my face, comb my hair, don my suit, and scarf down a hasty breakfast before bolting out the door.

But this isn’t a tournament weekend, it’s a Thursday. My speech teammates are fast asleep, my Persuasive Speaking handouts left behind in my room. And a bit under two hours after I awoke, I would step through the North Entrance of the Texas Capitol.

On February 2, 2017, alongside hundreds of my fellow Texans, I testified against SB 4, a bill to ban sanctuary cities and revoke their state grant funding. It was my first ever time testifying—and it was exciting, nerve-racking, and thrilling all at once. I wanted to talk about my experiences, in the hopes that more of you will seek to replicate them.

I first heard about SB 4 when it showed up on my Facebook feed. I’d been following the case of Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez, who’d been embroiled in a fierce debate over her own sanctuary city policies. But when I saw that SB 4 was scheduled for a hearing, and how many people were planning to testify, I figured I’d add my own voice.

I decided to testify a few days before the hearing. On Tuesday evening, I started piecing together my testimony. I finished it up on Wednesday, printed it out, practiced a couple of times, and then went to sleep.

When I walked into the Capitol and found the Senate Chamber, one thing struck me: the crowd was massive. At 7:30a, an hour before the hearing, the second floor rotunda was already packed with people. And, reassuringly enough, many were against the bill. Those who testified during the hearing represented a vast cross-section of Texas, from immigration attorneys to members of the clergy to people who were themselves undocumented. Eventually, at around 1:15p, after I had heard so many people telling their stories and making their arguments, it was my turn.


I was a bit caught off guard when I was called. I didn’t have time to gather my notes before the committee chairman told me to begin. Fortunately, I already had a case planned out in my head, so I began along that course. My one-and-a-half minutes of testimony were short, and yet another drop in the bucket of testimony that would drench the committee. But even though I was trembling with nervousness—after all, I was seated before some of the most powerful people in Texas—I was glad to be making my case, and speaking on behalf of a cause I believed in.


cropped still frame from official hearing livestream, at timestamp 4:39:33

Despite our best efforts—and overwhelming opposition—SB 4 passed the committee later that evening on party lines, 7–2. That came as no surprise. Neither did its passage through the full Senate the following Wednesday. I’ve never subscribed to the delusion that stopping this bill would be easy, or that testifying would be sufficient. But I wanted to make sure that I helped amplify the voices of the most vulnerable of us all, of those whom SB 4 would marginalize. And even though the members of the committee in the end didn’t listen to our concerns, I wanted to make sure they heard us anyway.

A democracy requires that we, as citizens, speak up. There are many ways to do so, and testifying is only one of them. The resistance against a Trump and Abbott administration will force us to raise our voices and demand that those elected to represent us actually do so. Because even if they cover our ears and pretend to ignore us, they’re listening—and if they don’t listen to our words, they’ll listen to our votes.

Stay engaged. Stay informed. Texas Fight.

You can read my written testimony or watch my oral testimony (timestamp 4:38:30; Flash required). If you’re interested in testifying, I’ve published a comprehensive guide on how to do so.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Texas Speech team.

Deregulating Democracy: Why Laissez Faire Capitalism and Stable Democracy Are Mutually Exclusive Ideologies

statue of liberty

by: Maxim Belov 

photos from: Getty Images 

Contrary to popular belief, the United States was not always a democracy. The American Gilded Age, lasting from 1870 to 1900, was dominated by robber barons like Rockefeller, Carnegie, and Rothschild. The nation was run by one unopposed political party and guided by the wealthiest twenty individuals. The problems began around 1870, when the United States ventured an attempt at capitalism but failed to stop wealth moguls from hijacking American politics then crushing democracy. It took half a century to liberate America’s democratic system through careful economic regulations. For American politics to remain democratic, the United States needs to maintain regulations over its economic institutions.

Capitalism, at its core, is a system which encourages actors to invest their assets and turn a profit. Early pioneers of political economy believed the best approach to capitalism is one without regulation. Understandably so, from the economist’s perspective, granting entrepreneurs the ability to respond freely as markets fluctuate is critical to rapid economic growth. However, in a free environment, entrepreneurs will hunt for every possible advantage, manipulate the system, liquidate competitors, and establish sole-propriety over entire industries if left unchecked. In short, the natural tendency of unregulated capitalists is to create monopolies.

Mythos surrounding capitalism and democracy often assumes both systems promote individualism, making them a good pair, but democracy does not get its strength from individualism, rather, in spite of it. The true value of democracy is its ability to unite people and achieve for the greater good what could not be done alone. Democracies thrive by keeping elected officials accountable to the people, forcing politicians to align their goals with the people’s collective desires. To continue functioning correctly, however, society relies on all politically motivated actors to protect the political system. To prevent oligarchs from usurping power, there must be a political precedent encouraging political discourse while keeping the electorate well informed. Failing these two requisites, the fine line between democracy and dictatorship is erased. When that line does disappear, power always goes to the wealthy; to those with the financial backing to subvert competition, to misinform, and to monetarily manipulate the regime. For a capitalist democracy to remain stable, the political system must keep watch over the economic system, to regulate it, and prevent monopolies from rising. When democracies fail to do so, the economic system supplants the political system.

The end goal of capitalism is to consolidate power into the hands of the few; the end goal of democracy is to disperse it among the many. For this reason, the two cannot be reconciled without economic regulation or the abandonment of democratic ideals.

Therefore, whenever any presidential administration promises deregulation will make America great or passes an executive order designed to halt creation of new regulations, they force the nation to choose between either laissez faire or democracy. If the people choose “economic freedom”, the only ones who benefit are CEO’s of Fortune 500 companies at the expense of the silenced majority.

  1. “Gilded Age (1878-1889).” America’s Story. America’s Library, n.d. Web. 02 Feb. 2017. <>
  2. “The Trust Buster.” Independence Hall Association, n.d. Web. 02 Feb. 2017. <>.
  3. The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. “Laissez-faire.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, inc., 19 Oct. 2016. Web. 02 Feb. 2017.
  4. Friedman, Howard Steven. “When Capitalism Fails — The Ugly World of Monopolies.” The Huffington Post., 25 May 2011. Web. 02 Feb. 2017.
  5. Mesquita, Bruce Bueno de, and Alastair Smith. The dictator’s handbook: why bad behavior is almost always good politics. New York: PublicAffairs, 2011. Print.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Texas Speech team.