Using the word “colorful” to describe Louisiana’s political scene has become so cliché. With grandiose political personalities in every corner of the country from Senator Robert Byrd, to Governor Schwarzenegger and Senators Larry Craig and Ted Kennedy, Louisiana isn’t the only state with famous politicians. Louisiana, however, still maintains control of its own style of government. If American politics is “colorful,” then Louisiana is like a page ripped from a three-year-old’s coloring book. Imagine the picture- smudges and scribbles using each crayon in the box, without no attempt to stay inside the lines.
For someone looking for unmatched career experience related to government, there’s no better place. The good, the bad, the ugly; they all co-exist beautifully in what we call “The Bayou State.”
Louisiana has produced its fair share of decent, honest public servants, along with back-room, wheeling and dealing scoundrels. Sometimes it just depends if you’re a “half-empty” or “half-full” type of person.
Climbing the political ladder isn’t as simple as having name recognition and a sizeable war chest. While the candidate provides the raw elements, political consultants help paint a picture using the most vibrant qualities they can muster. From newspaper and television ads to polling and focus groups, targeting specific groups using persuasive communication is essential to mounting a legitimate political campaign.
Persuasive communication and its application in journalism is the focus of a course I am taking, taught by Raymond Strother. Strother, who attended NSU for two years until being asked to leave because of political activities, helped create the profession known today as political consulting. Strother’s list of clients is only a minor testament of his success. Al Gore, Gary Hart, Lloyd Bentsen, Bill Clinton, Roy Barnes, and even Mary Landrieu are a few big names who trusted Ray Strother to lead their campaigns. For a complete biography of Mr. Strother, click here.
I thought this class would complement not only my Political Science minor, but also my personal interests. It has turned out to be one of the most engaging courses since coming to Northwestern State in 2004. Sophomore year, I was awarded a scholarship by Mr. Strother on behalf of the American Association of Political Consultants. This is when I began to explore my interests in history and government as a career niche within journalism.
Strother is teaching students to become better writers by using persuasive language to trigger key thoughts and emotions of the target audience. Each week, renowned professionals lecture on their area of expertise. The “all-star” cast of guest lecturers are a clear indication of Raymond Strother’s profound impact in the fields of politics and journalism.
At no expense to the university, the class has attracted professionals such as targeting expert Hal Malchow; republican pollster Whit Ayers; President Clinton’s speech coach Michael Sheehan; media buyer Bobby Khan; focus group expert Mark Mellman; political consultant Jerry Austin; AT&T Vice President Bill Oliver; Carin Pratt, Executive Producer of CBS News Face the Nation; CBS Evening News producer Mary Walsh; and White House Reporter Carl Cannon. Most universities would be lucky to host just one of these speakers in a single year.
Just as ambitious politicians seek out and hire the most-qualified consultants to shore up a solid win, NSU students are learning the ropes from nationally recognized names. Between reading Strother’s book, Falling Up, and hearing stories during class, I am fascinated by his choice of class philosophy. Strother chose author and artist John Ruskin’s statement “To see clearly is poetry, prophecy, and religion all in one.” His constructive criticism and encouragement has helped me to strengthen my skills as a writer, primarily by remembering the name of this blog “Straight to the Point.”