Fort Worth

May 16, 2014

Bush’s chief of staff recounts 9-11 for law graduates

Former White House chief of staff Andrew H. Card Jr. spoke to more than 170 graduates at the Texas A&M University School of Law’s first spring commencement.

The man who whispered into the ear of President George W. Bush on 9-11 that airliners were slamming into the World Trade Center recounted those harrowing moments during the Texas A&M University School of Law’s commencement Friday.

Andrew H. Card Jr., Bush’s chief of staff for more than five years, whispered to the president — who was reading to second-graders in Sarasota, Fla. — that “a second plane hit the second tower. America is under attack.”

“My mind flashed to the fear that must have been felt by the passengers on that plane,” Card told more than 170 graduates at the Fort Worth Convention Center Ballroom.

The graduates participated in the first spring commencement at the law school since the Texas A&M System bought it from Texas Wesleyan University in August.

Card is now executive director of the Office of the Provost at Texas A&M University in College Station, site of the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library.

In the 1990s, Card served as transportation secretary under the elder Bush. And he was George W. Bush’s chief of staff from January 2001 to April 2006.

The crowd politely applauded during Card’s speech, but not all the graduates were happy with the school’s choice of speaker.

Earlier that morning, school officials frantically removed fliers that Colin Kalmbacher and second-year student Travis Gasper placed on ballroom chairs.

The fliers had Card’s picture and listed his key accomplishment as “selling the 2003 Invasion of Iraq to the public.” The fliers also included death counts for Iraqi civilians and U.S. men and women.

During Card’s speech, Kalmbacher also yelled “boo” and “war criminal.” A group of graduates surrounding Kalmbacher yelled for him to “shut up,” with one man saying, “I’ll see you outside.”

Nothing came of the incident, and some students chalked it up to Kalmbacher’s “passion.”

After the brief disruption, Card went on to speak about the importance of the graduating class, one that started with a group of Wesleyan law students and ended with a group of Aggies.

The biggest challenge the graduates face is understanding that “words carry more weight than they used to,” Card said.

“Would you please try to taste your words before you spit them out?”

He also told them: “Don’t command respect. Earn it. And don’t just take it. Give it.”

Little goes a long way

While law school officials weren’t pleased with the source of Kalmbacher’s passion, they awarded others for theirs.

Camesha Little of Arlington received a MacLean & Boulware Endowed Law Scholarship for her character and leadership in several organizations, including the Black Law Student Association and the Student Ambassador Recruiting Team for Admissions.

The 26-year-old worked full time while enrolled, commuting from her job in downtown Dallas, and even married her high school sweetheart in her second year.

She has advice for up-and-coming students: “Keep realistic expectations of yourself.”

“An attorney that made C’s and an attorney that made A’s are still an attorney,” she said.

Little wants to practice education law and hopes to land a job at the law school.

“If it’s your dream, it’s possible,” she said.

From Sweden to the Supreme Court

Former Texas A&M Law Review editor Joakim Soederbaum came to Fort Worth from Sweden on a soccer scholarship in 2006 and double-majored in English and exercise science at Texas Wesleyan.

Though he had no understanding of the American judicial system or the Constitution, he decided that he liked analytical reasoning enough to try to become a lawyer in 2011.

Three years later, the 30-year-old was inducted into the National Order of Scribes at the spring commencement for excelling in legal writing.

“I feel that I have a much better understanding” of the Constitution, he said. “But if there is anything I’ve learned in law school, it’s how much there is left to learn.”

Soederbaum will work for Justice Debra Lehrmann at the Texas Supreme Court in August.

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