for all Texans
New Texas Tribune CEO shares 12 can't-miss events for Austin's 2023 festival
Austin is used to music and arts festivals, but as the state capital, there are some big political ideas to discuss, which rarely happens on a public stage. The Tribune Festival is the long-running solution, and it's just emerging from a milestone change: the departure of former CEO Evan Smith.
The festival returns from September 21-23, with more than 100 dynamic panels over three days, featuring some of the biggest leaders and accomplished speakers in Texas and even the country. It is now in its 13th year of connecting Texans to hot-topic political discussions and civic engagement.
With CEO Sonal Shah newly at the helm, this festival is set to be the most invigorating yet. An economist and former public official, Shah took over from Smith on January 1, 2023. Since her commencement as CEO, Shah has expressed great admiration for her team in planning the festival.
"I think what's exciting about this year is that it is the first year that I'm the CEO, [and it's] the first year that Matt Ewalt is our director of events," says Shah in a call with CultureMap. "We're bringing a lot of new speakers that have never been to the Texas Tribune Festival before, and they will be exciting to have a conversation with."
The newly released panel topics for this year's festival will range from the biggest races in the 2024 election, to hot-button issues like gun control and women's rights. Attendees can also expect to catch podcast recordings with journalism pioneers and book signings by esteemed authors.
In recent years, Texas Tribune Festival has focused more on greater accessibility to the general public, such as broadening interests and tailoring the subjects of panel discussions to entice the average Texas Tribune reader. Tickets for students and teachers are deeply discounted to encourage more young Texans and educators to participate in the experiences.
"The program for this year’s Festival brings it all together — the local angle, the statewide view, and the national connections that put this moment into perspective," said Shah in a release. "Our teams have crafted a program that offers up more than a hundred thoughtful conversations that you really can’t find elsewhere."
Shah shared some of her top can't-miss events with CultureMap to help attendees start building their itineraries. There are only nine sessions planned for Thursday, so Shah chose to focus on 12 must-see events between Friday and Saturday.
Friday, September 22
With 48 scheduled sessions on Friday, Shah chose seven to spotlight throughout the day.
Building Research Powerhouses
University of Houston Chancellor Renu Khator works for one of the fastest-growing state universities, Shah explains. She will be joined by fellow university chancellors Tedd Mitchell of Texas Tech University and John Sharp of Texas A&M University to discuss the future of university research. The Tribune's higher education reporter Kate McGee will guide the session.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Presents: One on One with Brian Kemp
The current governor of Georgia will touch on what Shah says is "the number one issue" in his state. Kemp will be joined by Atlanta Journal-Constitution political reporter Greg Bluestein.
Recording of the "On" Podcast
Former U.S. Representative Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) was one of the only Republicans on the January 6th Committee. He will share his perspective on threats against democracy, the political demographic that controls the U.S. House, and his upcoming book, Renegade: Defending Democracy and Liberty in Our Divided Country. Host of the podcast On, New York Media Editor-at-Large, and Texas Tribune Festival regular Kara Swisher will interview Kinzinger. This session will be livestreamed to the public.
One on One with Asa Hutchinson
This session will preview the 2024 U.S. Presidential election, and will be led by a former Arkansas governor currently seeking the Republican nomination. Hutchinson will forecast his predictions about the Republican primaries. Semafor reporter Dave Weigel will join Hutchinson during the session.
The 19th Presents: One on One with Katie Couric
Iconic journalist Katie Couric will reflect on her career in the media and discuss where she believes the industry is headed. Shah says Couric has broken many boundaries in many ways, and having her speak will be inspiring. The 19th co-founder and CEO Emily Ramshaw will interview Couric. This session will be live-streamed to the public.
One on One with Larry Hogan
This former Maryland governor is one of the most successful Republican state governors, according to Shah, and he fostered his success while navigating the current political climate at the same time. Hogan will be explaining the "sorry state" of modern political parties. CBS News' chief Washington correspondent Major Garrett will moderate the session.
Recording of the "Odd Lots" Podcast
Though Jigar Shah is Shah's cousin, that's not why she chose to highlight this particular session. Jigar is the Director of the Loan Programs Office at the U.S. Department of Energy, and will be interviewed by the Bloomberg podcast hosts Tracy Alloway and Joe Weisenthal on how Shah is investing in clean energy through a $40 billion fund and where Texas fits in with his vision.
Saturday, September 23
Saturday is the last and busiest day of the festival with 68 planned sessions, so Shah focused on five.
The 19th Presents: Women and the Workplace
Former Fox News anchor, women's rights advocate, and Lift Our Voices co-founder Gretchen Carlson explores how far society has come since the beginning of the #MeToo movement. Shah believes Carlson's insight into the news industry is going to be vastly important within the context of the session, considering the lawsuits against Fox News within the last year. Carlson will be joined by her fellow Lift Our Voices co-founder Julie Roginsky, and The 19th Editorial Director Abby Johnston will moderate.
Recording of the Next Question Podcast
11 am - 12 pm
Gun violence has "continued to be a big issue" in Texas and across the country, Shah says, which will be the topic of discussion for the session between former U.S. Representative Gabby Giffords (D-AZ) and her husband (and current U.S. Senator) Mark Kelly (D-AZ). Giffords and Kelly will be interviewed by Next Question host Katie Couric. This session will be live-streamed to the public.
Capital B Presents: Black Life Now
This panel is made up of pioneering Black journalists, such as Columbia Journalism School Dean Jelani Cobb; The 19th Editor-at-Large Errin Haines; NYU School of Law Professor Melissa Murray; The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights CEO and President Maya Wiley; and Capital B Editorial Director Simone Sebastian. Shah pointed out that Wiley "has always been an incredible leader" and has extremely valuable perspectives on diversity, equity, and inclusion battles in 2023.
One on One with Ted Cruz
Referred to by Shah as a "force of nature," Cruz will be interviewed by the Texas Tribune's in-house political reporter Patrick Svitek on why the U.S. Senator (R-TX) should be re-elected for a third term in 2024. This session will be live-streamed to the public.
Race and Higher Ed
This panel addresses one of the hottest topics in recent politics and will be run by Kate McGee. Featured speakers include Rice University President's Distinguished Fellow Ruth Simmons, Paul Quinn College President Michael Sorrell, Lee College President Lynda Villanueva, and Texas State Senator Royce West.
The full schedule of events and tickets for the Texas Tribune Festival ($269 general admission) from September 21-23 in Austin are available at texastribune.org.