LBJ School alumnus Joe Jenkins speaks at SXSW on veteran voices | LBJ School of Public Affairs | The University of Texas at Austin

LBJ School alumnus and United States Marine Corps veteran Joe Jenkins (MPAff DC Concentration '16) spoke on a South by Southwest (SXSW) panel, "Ending Political Football with Veteran Voices," on the potential for military veterans to change the narrative around contentious issues and be a unifying voice in society.

"I think veterans are uniquely positioned at this time in America," he said. "We are given a voice and a platform that few have. If we can offer up a unifying, civilizing voice on some of the most contentious issues in society, we should."

"I think veterans are uniquely positioned at this time in America. We are given a voice and a platform that few have." —Joe Jenkins (MPAff DC Concentration '16)

His fellow panelists were also Texas military vets from the advocacy organization Veterans for American Ideals. Jenkins calls one of those panelists, Scott Cooper, his professional mentor.

"Together, we built and grew Veterans for American Ideals and focused on offering vets a conduit to speak out on a number of hot button issues, including the refugee program and the rising anti-Muslim rhetoric that was pervading the national narrative."

Jenkins became involved with Veterans for American Ideals through a policy apprenticeship at Human Rights First during his time as a DC Concentration student.

"The school gave me an incredible opportunity in the Washington program, which catapults students directly into a policy position while learning from professionals across a number of disciplines. I am extremely proud of the education I received during my time there."
—Joe Jenkins

"A large part of my work in Washington was creating and organizing Vets for American Ideals, which has now grown to thousands of members across the country."

He chose the DC Concentration because he wanted to begin doing the work he was training for right away. The policy apprenticeship students take on during their time in Washington, DC, allowed him the opportunity to do just that.

"As a fellow at Human Rights First, I was able to find my voice at the intersection between military service and human rights. I was immediately given high-level opportunities like writing advocacy material, meeting with lawmakers and members of the executive branch, speaking at public events and organizing a grassroots movement of veterans across the country."

Jenkins says his time in the Marine Corps ignited his passion for public service.

"To me, there's nothing more satisfying than working toward a better future. I felt like that's what I did in the military, and I still feel compelled to do it even after taking off my uniform." —Joe Jenkins

"During my time in the Marines, I served multiple tours in Iraq and Central America and gained a sobering respect for the human experience—not only the incredible difficulties that many face, but also the greatness and resilience in people.

"After my service, I was struck by the generosity that is afforded to veterans through programs like the GI Bill. I felt compelled to continue to serve, so I became a teacher in my hometown of Dallas, Texas. From then on I knew that my place was in public service, so going to the LBJ School was a natural choice to find new opportunities to do that."