June 1, 2009 Rotogram

AGRICULTURE AND COMMERCE

Dr. Lester Spell, in his third term as Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce, will address Mississippi’s largest business today. Mississippi agriculture and forestry earn about $6 billion annually in cash receipts.

PRESIDENT GRANT COMES TO STATE

Next week, John Marszalek, MSU history professor emeritus, will detail Mississippi State’s coup in becoming the repository of Ulysses Grant’s presidential papers.

May 18

Invocation and Pledge: Brian Jones
Attendance: There were 111 members (29 exempt, 1 honorary) present, and 89 (24 exempt, 9 honorary) absent.
Guests and visitors: Visiting Rotarian was Tom Knecht of the Habersham Co., Ga., Club. Members’ guests included George Light of Betty Black, Granddaughter Katie Walker and Ruth Remy of Keith Remy, Sara Foster of Bill Foster, and Warren Oakley of Larry Box. Guests of the Club were Randy Aycock, Taka Sato, Youth Exchange Student, Paul Sims and Shea Staskowski, Starkville Daily News, and, Jarred Reneau, Ambassadorial Cultural Scholar.
Makeup: Carey Hardin in Columbus, Ga.
Community note: President Chip reminded Rotarians of the grand opening of Starkville’s new multi-purpose recreational facility. The Club was one of eleven early sponsors of the city’s sports complex.

AMBASSADORIAL CULTURAL SCHOLAR

The Club’s third Ambassadorial Scholar in as many years briefed us on his plans for this fall.
Jarred Reneau, MSU alumnus and current MSU aerospace engineering graduate student, will study at a Japanese language institute. As the Club’s first Cultural Scholar, Jarred will spend only 3 months with a host family in Wakayama City south of Osaka.
The Slidell, La., native is interested in Japan because of the nation’s participation in space exploration. He is looking forward to touring JAXA, the Japanese equivalent of NASA.
As an Ambassadorial Scholar, Jarred wants to establish dialogue with Japanese students about the myths between their cultures. A member of MSU’s lacrosse club, he plans to take his gear and engage other young people with the sport.
Nancy Hargrove, Ambassadorial Scholar committee chair, expressed her confidence in Jarred as an ambassador. In her introduction, she complimented him on his diligence taking advice about the application process. The result was that “he blew away the district interview committee.

A HUMAN FACE ON A “FEDERAL CASE”

“A confirmation process is literally taking something and making a Federal case out of it,” said Federal District Judge Sharion Aycock as she explained her journey to the bench.
The Mississippi State University alumna became the 14th appointee to Mississippi’s Northern District Court in 2007. With a MSU BA in economics and political science and a JD from the Mississippi College School of Law, she is Mississippi’s first female Federal judge.
Her track from Tremont led her to State and MC; then to private practice and service as a prosecutor in Fulton. When she was nominated for the Federal position, she was serving as a Mississippi First Circuit Court District judge.
The 2008 MSU Woman of the Year said, “You never know how you may influence course of someone’s career.”
As she approached her 1977 graduation, she had no idea that she would pursue the law. Dr. Billy Jack Eatherly, head of the MSU Finance and Economics Department, suggested she take the Law School Admission test. The following Saturday, with no preparation, she took the LSAT in Allen Hall.
Although the confirmation process is very secretive, it is okay for nominees to speak about it after-the-fact. Aycock testified that the Department of Justice takes the vetting of potential judges “very, very seriously.”
The more than year long investigation of her credentials and reputation was marked by very thorough fits and starts. To top it off, she had not sought the appointment.
Senators Thad Cochran and Trent Lott had the responsibility of recommending candidates to President George W. Bush. Beginning in April, 2006, through some off-hand remarks of acquaintances, she got a hint that she was being considered.
Not until October, when she got a phone call identified as “202*,” did she have direct contact with anyone in authority. Aycock explained that that is an unlisted Washington, D.C. number. Her first interview with Cochran came on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving in Oxford.
In the midst of hearing a case on December 15, she got a note that Senator Lott would be calling in 10 minutes. He informed her that she would have a mid-January interview at the White House.
While shopping for Christmas presents in Tupelo on December 19, she got a “202*” call asking her to be in Washington the next morning. She had to inform the caller that it wasn’t logistically possible to make the trip on that schedule. Allowance was made and she arrived on Pennsylvania Avenue the next Monday.
In her meeting with White House Counsel Bill Kelly, she was subjected to the toughest grilling of her life to rattle any “skeletons in her closet.” She later learned the meeting was designed to see if “you could get through the slaughter” of a partisan Congressional review.
By mid-January, she had become convinced that the interview had gone so badly that she had no chance.  However, she got a package of forms to complete for background. One form alone had 77 pages of instructions and required 153 hours of work.
Four FBI agents were sent to interview 88 people in Fulton alone. She said, “I started getting ‘need to pray for you’ question calls from friends.”
But, the most humorous incident occurred with her neighbor across the street who never acknowledge the agents’ presence. She was afraid they were there to take away her flat screen TV.
Formally nominated on March 19, she had her confirmation hearing on July 19. For months she heard nothing until, while on a Canadian duck hunt in October, she got a “202*” call that she could watch final confirmation proceedings on C-Span the next morning. As she watched the TV, Senator Lott called with congratulations. Not knowing there was a 60 second delay in the broadcast, she asked incredulously, “Are you sure senator?” Then she saw the affirmative vote.

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