Mayor Turner speaks to students about Harvey, mayorship in SPEC event

Edited by Joe Griffin

Applause thundered through the Lowe Theater as Mayor Sylvester Turner entered the space full of students waiting in anticipation to see Houston’s leader.

Mayor Turner was an incredibly unexpected guest due to his busy schedule following the devastation Hurricane Harvey inflicted on Houston. Students and faculty alike were thrilled to have him at the school.

On Monday, Oct. 23, Turner visited to inform students about his past 3 campaigns to become mayor of Houston and to discuss Houston’s primary political issues. Student Political Education Club leaders, juniors Jackson Edwards and Jack Trent, reached out to Mayor Turner over the summer after discussing potential speakers for the school year.

“We never actually thought Mayor Turner was a realistic candidate for a speaker. When we were lining up speakers at the beginning of the school year, we literally contacted every speaker we could think of, regardless of how plausible we thought the speaker would be,” Edwards said.

Turner’s team responded three weeks later, agreeing to come and speak to the students at school. Once Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, Edwards and Trent expected a postponement or cancellation.

“Honestly, I thought there was no chance he would come. I didn’t hear from him for about two months after his initial response, but a week before his scheduled time, his scheduling assistant called me to confirm his attendance,” Trent said. “We are incredibly grateful that he came even after such a tragic event.”

We are incredibly grateful that he came even after such a tragic event.

According to Director of Facilities and Security Richard Still, Turner’s visit was met with some concerns regarding the security protocols and media attention; however, standard protocol regarding visits by dignitaries to the school ensured the safety of all.

The travel route is discussed within 30 minutes of departure, but often changes and is not solidified much more than 5 minutes prior to departure to keep the route secret. An advance team comes out two hours prior to arrival to go over several things including entry and staging,” Still said. “The event went flawlessly from a security standpoint.”

Turner discussed his early childhood as one of nine children with two parents who did not graduate from high school. Turner was the valedictorian of his class at Klein High School before attending University of Houston and then Harvard University.

Turner further expressed his love of governing such a diverse, open-minded city.

“There is no other city that is more diverse than Houston,” Turner said. “When you want to see where the country is going in 25 years, look at Houston, Texas. We are a city that doesn’t build walls; we build relationships.”

Turner later went on to discuss the devastation that Hurricane Harvey caused Houston, noting that the hurricane had dumped more rain on Houston than anywhere else in the history of the country. Turner also professed that the natural disaster has brought the city together like never before.

Hurricane Harvey did a lot of what politicians could never do. My hope is that one, five, 10 years from now, the spirit of unity will still exist in Houston.

“Hurricane Harvey did a lot of what politicians could never do,” Turner said. “My hope is that one, five, 10 years from now, the spirit of unity will still exist in Houston.”

Although Turner was able to take a few student questions, the mayor was pressed on time and eventually cut short, even though he had already run 20 minutes into the next class period.

“There were actually two moments when Mayor Turner’s assistant tried to conclude the Q&A due to the Mayor’s schedule that day, but he got on a roll, and waved his assistant off — he definitely wanted to spend more time with the St. John’s students,” Head of Upper School Hollis Amley said.

To conclude his speech, Turner was named an Honorary Maverick and given a school hat to commemorate his visit. SPEC leaders Edwards and Trent hope that Turner’s monumental visit to the school will help to establish the new club’s standing in the school.

“We want to redefine club culture and get the whole school excited for awesome speakers and cool events,” Trent said. “I hope this event brought some legitimacy and hype to SPEC because we want to do things no club has ever done before.”