by Ryan Nickerson
Beto O’Rourke’s defeat by Ted Cruz last year was humbling, albeit heartbreaking for Texas Southern students and faculty, who had high hopes for Beto after he spoke at Sawyer Auditorium last fall.
“It crushed me when I found out he lost,” said junior Trey Waddy, “he seemed like such a positive voice in the community.”
Alongside Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, Beto captivated many hearts at Texas Southern as he encouraged students to vote and stand for the greater good in the midterm elections. He inspired hope that Texas could finally have a senator who cares about and understands the power behind HBCUs.
His narrow loss cut that dream short.
“I think the old money here in Texas backed Cruz and that’s why he lost the senate race.” said radio, television, and film professor Bob Willems, “but he gained a national audience because of it.”
After the Senate race, Beto remained in the mainstream, using social media and blog posts to keep his audience up to date with what he’s been doing. He immediately took to the road, chronicling the sites, people, and sometimes even his mysterious thoughts.
His blogging became a sensation as America got the opportunity to continue their Beto fascination. No other politician blogged about their morning jogs or their dog named Rosie— he knew people cared about him so he gave them what they wanted, and he continues to do so.
Now he’s running for President and has raised more money than any other Democratic candidate in twenty-four hours: $6.1 million.
Beto officially launched his campaign on March 30 in El Paso, then traveling to Texas Southern and finally Austin, all in the same day.
Although Beto was late to Texas Southern’s rally, the crowd and media coverage was considerably larger than Senator Kamala Harris’ rally at Texas Southern a week before.
Filled with passion, Beto took the stage in front of the MLK building.
“Huge honor for us to be back here in this community that means so much for us personally,” Beto said at the beginning of his speech. Then he told the story of Thelma White, an African American civil rights activist who, after attending El Paso’s segregated school for Blacks in 1954, she applied to Texas Western College.
She was denied entry into the college because of racial discrimination and, with the help of Thurgood Marshall, was able to help pave the way for every other African American to enroll in Texas colleges.
This rally would be Beto’s third trip to Texas Southern within the past year. His first visit, while he was campaigning for the Senate, had only a crowd of around fifty people. Now, hundreds of people spill onto the Tiger Walk.
Beto went on to talk about reshaping student loan debt (receiving a lot of support from the crowd) and even forgiving student loans for loaners who go into professions that help veterans.
He also talked about gun control, climate change, investing in public education, income inequality, prison reform, universal healthcare, women’s reproductive rights, and marijuana legalization.
“Out of all the candidates, he seems to have the strongest voice,” said Harris County resident Cesar Espinoza after the rally. “I’m very happy he came to TSU, he talks a lot about issues that plague Houston, and issues that plague the nation.”
With the list of Democratic candidates seemingly ever expanding, Beto immediately stands out in the crowd.
“I look back to what Obama had done,” said Willems, “and it seems like Beto has new ideas just like him.”
So far out of all the candidates I feel like he has the strongest voice,” said Espinoza. “He supports a lot of the issues that I care about.”
Unlike most politicians, Beto is open about his previous misconduct and takes responsibility for his actions.
He came under criticism recently in Iowa about a “ham-fisted” joke that he made about the role his wife plays in his household. Beto apologized, saying, “I’ll be much more thoughtful going forward in the way I talk about our marriage.”
“I acknowledge the truth of the criticism that I have enjoyed white privilege. Absolutely. Undeniable.” Beto continued, “I have been arrested twice in my life… Those mistakes didn’t end up defining me or narrowing my options in life and it’s not because I’m a great person or I’m a genius or I figured anything out. A lot of it has to do with the fact that I am a white man.”
America seems thirsty for politicians who admit their mistakes, have self-awareness and know how to relate to people on a humane level. With his presidential candidacy, he is sure to shake up the Democratic field and continue to make waves across the country.