Barnes: Heady talk in a presidential suite

Apr 10, 2013

By Michael Barnes

[Austin American Statesman, April 10 2013]

The social beat sometimes gives your columnist a passing glimpse into a world apart. Please allow me to share the privilege.

I wouldn’t have traded away this intimate dinner in the LBJ Presidential Suite for any other party this year.

You’re high up in the LBJ Presidential Library. A vast view of Austin opens out from the south window. The furniture and decor — high modern mixed with global culture — is from the 1960s.

Located right behind the library’s Oval Office replica, this gold-tinged room is where President Lyndon Baines Johnson once held court. With 10 or 20 guests, he’d conduct a “one conversation” dinner, which in his day sometimes meant “a monologue.”

Library director Mark Updegrove made sure that the talk this evening was more evenly shared. The topics — off the record — included politics, demographics and the media. The guests of honor were San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro and his twin brother U.S. Rep Joaquin Castro, who wore red and blue ties to help strangers distinguish them.

They proved exceptionally articulate and yet down to earth. Earlier in the evening, they had answered sharp questions from Texas Tribune honcho Evan Smith in the library’s auditorium. One can see why they are both mentioned in the same sentences as “future governor” or “future senator.” read more