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Sunday, March 26, 2023 — Houston, TX

Hanszen alumnus speaks about experience as Texas Monthly editor

By Kevin Lin     9/28/11 7:00pm

The senior editor of Texas Monthly, a popular American magazine about life in contemporary Texas and read by one out of seven Texas adults, came to Rice to reflect on his time as a Hanszenite and his thoughts on the presidential campaign of Governor Rick Perry.

Paul Burka (Hanszen '63) is well known for his extensive coverage of Texas Governor Rick Perry and was one of the first reporters to predict Perry's run in the 2012 presidential elections.

"Perry timed it perfectly – to enter the race when the field was weak," Burka said. "Republicans were waiting for someone to put some excitement into the race, which Perry did."

Despite an initially strong showing, Perry has made mistakes lately, a prominent example being the recent primary debates, Burka said. He added that Perry had been too sheltered from debates during his career and that his inner circle might suffer from being too small. "Perry never had a debate where he was at a risk of losing an election," Burka said. Perry's strength is during meet and greets and his ability to connect with people, Burka said.

According to Burka, another mistake was Perry's big loss in the straw poll in Florida, which was due to his overconfidence.

Perry needs to watch his statements, both when talking to Democrats and Republicans – these include his remarks about Texas seceding from the Union and calling people who do not support letting the children of illegal immigrants go to college "heartless", Burka said.

Perry has to stop undermining his own positions and put the focus back on jobs. Perry is strong with people over 65, but he is attacking social security, Burka said.

Despite recent events, Burka said that Perry is still one of the top candidates in the Republican primaries. "The biggest threat to Rick Perry, other than Rick Perry, is that someone else will emerge," Burka said.

Writing about politics is a tricky affair, Burka said. "[Reporters] are the counsel to the public for the interpretation of events," Burka said. "That's why people h ate us. We think we know something when we might not know anything."

Burka also spent some time talking about his stay at Rice, back when it was an all male, all white university with no tuition. Burka was working as a sports editor for the Thresher when Rice beat University of Texas at Austin and the college system had just been instituted. Burka said that the Rice of today started in 1968 when the school filed a lawsuit to change the university's charter to let in non-white, non-male students and to start charging tuition.

Burka's talk, which was held in the Hanszen commons, drew the attendance of students and faculty from all over campus. Kevin Bush, a Duncan College senior, was one of the people in attendance. "I've come here because I have an avid interest in politics and am a pretty avid reader of Paul Burka's column," Bush said. "Burka is an astute analyst of Texas politics. His observations on Perry are spot on."

Myles Bugbee, a Hanszen College senior, said that this talk was a good reminder that Rice has strong alumni in fields outside of engineering.

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