Welcome to the 2017 Texas Tribune Festival!

The Texas Tribune Festival is an innovative and engaging three-day event for people who are passionate about the issues that affect all Texans. Each year, the Festival brings together some of the biggest names in politics to explore the state’s — and nation’s — most pressing issues.

Our 2017 event featured more than 60 sessions and 250 speakers in lively discussions on education, climate change, President Trump, the role of media in 2017, and much more. See our thank you video below and links to video and audio of sessions. Thank you!


Thank you!

Looking back at #TribFest17

From breaking news on the upcoming 2018 election cycle to discussing the impact of Hurricane Harvey, the seventh-annual Texas Tribune Festival was one for the books. Revisit the weekend by glimpsing through our live blog, archived footage from various panels and the best moments from our first podcast track.


Did you miss any of this year’s panels? You can watch several of them here, including our opening keynote with U.S. Sen. Al Franken and our closing conversation with U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn.

Community Forum on Race & Justice

MSNBC host Chris Hayes and Slate’s chief political correspondent, Jamelle Bouie, talked about institutional racism, criminal justice and more with Texas Tribune CEO Evan Smith.

One on One with Al Franken

U.S. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minnesota, kicked off the festival on Friday with Smith, discussing whether bipartisanship can fit in Washington and the GOP’s latest health care overhaul effort.   

Trump and the Presidency

The panel discussed President Donald Trump’s unpredictable temperament — and how it could be running up against the checks and balances of the federal government. One panelist, Rice University professor Douglas Brinkley, said the president’s protectionist ideology is nothing new.

One on One with Steny Hoyer

U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer, a Maryland Democrat and U.S. House minority whip, told The New York Times Magazine’s Robert Draper that his party is “a broad tent” one — and expressed frustration that his counterparts in the lower chamber haven’t showed a willingness to work in a bipartisan manner.

Trump and National Security

North Korea, cybersecurity and China were the main pillars of discussion on this panel. U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, said Trump “needs to take the fight off Twitter,” and U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, R-Helotes, said the U.S. is not practicing “good digital hygiene.”  

Trump and Congress

Texas congressmen weighed in on Congress handling Harvey recovery aid — and how entire congressional delegation has more or less unified on the issue. The congressmen also discussed the aftermath of a shooting this year in Virginia at a GOP baseball practice.  

One on One with Susan Rice

Former National Security Advisor Susan Rice told the Boston Globe’s Indira Lakshmanan that it would be “the height of folly — and incredibly self-destructive” if the U.S. pulled out of the 2015 Iran Deal.

Trump and the Resistance

What are the limits to resistance — and what happens when that pushback turns to violence? Political activist DeRay Mckesson, one of several on the panel, said, “Protest is not the answer, but [it] creates space for the answer.”

Country Over Party

Putting the nation above a particular ideology or political party comes first, according to a few people on this panel. Matthew Dowd, an independent and political analyst at ABC news, said Democrats need a reasonable candidate to run in 2020 that can speak to large swaths of the country; political strategist Rick Wilson said Republicans would be in trouble if the Democratic Party could find a war veteran from the midwest to run on their ticket.

Trump and Mexico

Speakers from both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border weighed in on the evolving relationship — think DACA, NAFTA and the proposed border wall — between the two nations since Trump took office.

The Story of Harvey

Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo told Tribune Editor-in-Chief Emily Ramshaw that flooding from Hurricane Harvey was “the most surreal experience of my career,” and he called on the Texas Legislature to aid in recovery efforts in Houston and surrounding areas. He also ruled out the possibility of running on the Democratic ticket for governor in 2018.  

A Conversation with John Cornyn and Ted Cruz

U.S. Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz talked Sunday with Tribune CEO Evan Smith about Hurricane Harvey, #TakeAKnee and the upcoming election cycle. Among the news we covered here: Cornyn announced he’s backing Cruz for re-election in 2018, plus he is running for office himself again in 2020.


Full audio is available here, and check out the best moments from our podcast track.


You can also browse photos from all three days of the Festival here — and download them with the code ttf2017.

Free Programming at #TribFest17

The 2017 Texas Tribune Festival kicks off tomorrow and even without a badge, there are plenty of ways you can still participate.

Tune in for livestreams of all keynote discussions — including our opening keynote featuring U.S. Sen. Al Franken and a series on President Donald J. Trump's first year in office — as well as a liveblog of key moments from more than 60 panel discussions on education, climate change, the role of media in 2017, and much more. The livestreams will be closed captioned for the hearing impaired. Transcripts and videos will be available post-event. 

In addition to the livestreams, all Saturday programming in the Community Hub at the Union Ballroom is free and open to the public. Check out the program here, and below are additional highlights: 

Overheard with Evan Smith Tapings
Various Times | KLRU Studio 6A 
Please join KLRU's Overheard with Evan Smith and The Texas Tribune Festival for several free tapings:

  • Jason Kander, President of Let America Vote, on Sept. 22 at 9 a.m. RSVP
  • U.S. Sen. Al Franken on Sept. 22 at 4 p.m. RSVPs are closed, but you can watch online here
  • The Federalist's Ben Domenech & MSNBC's Katy Tur on Sept. 24 at 12:15 p.m. RSVP
  • Mayor of South Bend, Indiana Pete Buttigieg on Sept. 24 at 3 p.m. RSVP

Live Broadcasts of KERA’s “Anything You Ever Wanted to Know” and “Think”
Friday | 12 p.m. | Texas Union Theater
Beginning at noon in the Texas Union Theater, KERA is hosting a free, open-to-the-public live broadcast of KERA’s long-running weekly call-in show hosted by Jeff Whittington. You can attend in person, call in or send Jeff a tweet @JeffWhittington

Immediately following, you can join acclaimed journalist Krys Boyd for “Think,” a show that sparks the most interesting conversations in Texas through intimate, thought-provoking interviews on an array of subjects. The show will feature Fest speakers – Esquire's Charles P. Pierce and The Tribune's Abby Livingston – as well as Eric McDaniel, professor of government at the University of Texas at Austin.

No badge or RSVP required to attend either KERA show. 

The Story of Harvey

We’ve been preparing all summer to gather in Austin to explore our state and nation’s most pressing issues, but in the face of the unprecedented disaster wrought on the Gulf Coast, our work takes on new urgency. Our event is a community space to come together to talk about what happened and how Texas moves forward from here.

So we’ve added a keynote conversation on Hurricane Harvey to be moderated by The Texas Tribune’s Editor-In-Chief Emily Ramshaw on what happened and the long road to recovery. This discussion, featuring Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo, will be livestreamed at 3:05 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 23, and available to watch free on our website.

Neena Satija, reporter for The Texas Tribune and Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting, who was on the Peabody Award-winning “Hell and High Water” team, will lead a panel with state Sen. Sylvia Garcia, D-Houston; Stephen Costello, Houston’s chief resilience officer; Mary Anne Piacentini, of the Katy Prairie Conservancy; and Hanadi Rifai, professor of environmental engineering at the University of Houston, on why flooding happens and how to keep it from destroying our communities.

Tribune reporter Kiah Collier, the second half of that award-winning team, will lead a discussion including former Houston Mayor Annise Parker, along with Austin Mayor Steve Adler; South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg; and San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg on how cities are tackling climate change.

There is still time to register or volunteer and attend for free

Barbecue Feast

We were so sorry to hear about the recent fire at Franklin Barbecue, the home of our pre-Festival event for the last few years. But we're grateful that our friends at Google have invited to host the event in their new downtown Austin office, and we're excited that LeRoy and Lewis, rising stars of Freedman's fame, will provide the 'cue. The larger space allows us to offer a few more tickets.

Texas Tribune cofounder and CEO Evan Smith will moderate a discussion with Steve Schmidt, a longtime Republican political strategist and top adviser to the presidential campaigns of George W. Bush and John McCain; and Donna Brazile, a veteran Democratic political strategist, former interim chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee and former campaign director for Al Gore’s presidential run.

Tickets are not available at the door.

The Barbecue Feast is presented by NRG Energy and hosted by Google. Media support is provided by CultureMap. Libations are provided by Big Bend Brewing Company.

Program Additions + Last Chance for the Summer Special

Former National Security Advisor Susan Rice, U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess, former White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, and former Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele top the list of newly added speakers to this year’s already-packed Texas Tribune Festival lineup.

We’re also excited to announce Overheard with Evan Smith tapings with U.S. Sen. Al Franken; Jason Kander, president of Let America Vote; Benjamin Domenech, host of The Federalist Radio Hour; and Katy Tur, correspondent for NBC News and an anchor for MSNBC Live, in her only public appearance at the Festival. The tapings are free to attend but do require an additional RSVP.

New speakers include:

  • Susan Rice, former National Security Advisor to President Barack Obama and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations

  • U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Lewisville

  • Josh Earnest, former press secretary for President Barack Obama

  • Michael Steele, former Republican Party chairman and former lieutenant governor of Maryland

  • Crisanta Duran, speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives

  • Nicole Hudgens, policy analyst for Texas Values

  • Melinda Taylor, executive director of the Kay Bailey Hutchison Center for Energy, Law, and Business at the University of Texas Law School

  • Pamela Colloff, senior reporter at ProPublica and writer-at-large for the New York Times Magazine

  • Charles C.W. Cooke, editor of the National Review Online

  • Naomi Narvaiz, member of the State Republican Executive Committee

  • Michael Hall, executive editor of Texas Monthly

  • Ken Morgan, director of the Energy Institute at Texas Christian University

  • Tony Plohetski, investigative reporter for the Austin American-Statesman

The last chance to register for the Festival at the summer special rate ends on Labor Day, so get your tickets today. Discounts are available for students, educators and Texas Tribune members — or volunteer and attend for free.

Al Franken Announced for Opening Keynote

We’re excited to announce our opening keynote speaker, best-selling author and U.S. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minnesota. He will join Evan Smith, co-founder and CEO of the Tribune, at the Hogg Memorial Auditorium on Friday, Sept. 22, to discuss his best-selling memoir, Al Franken: Giant of the Senate.

Franken’s book covers his decision to run for office and his unlikely 2008 campaign. It also examines our “deeply polarized, frequently depressing, occasionally inspiring political culture, written from inside the belly of the beast.” Before entering politics, Franken was an award-winning comedy writer for Saturday Night Live, an author and a radio talk show host.

To join the conversation with Sen. Franken and more than 250 other speakers set to take the stage throughout the weekend, get your Festival tickets today!


Full Program Now Available + Download the App

We are thrilled to announce the program and schedule for the seventh-annual Texas Tribune Festival. This year’s Festival will cover new ground, with lively discussions on various aspects of President Donald Trump's first year in office; the changing relationship between politics and the media; the 2018 election cycle; and hot topics in public and higher education, criminal justice, immigration, health care, energy, the environment and transportation.

Among the most anticipated panels are:

  • A rare joint appearance by U.S. Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz of Texas

  • The state of accountability journalism with The New York Times’ Amy Chozick; Pulitzer Prize-winner David Fahrenthold of the Washington Post; Bloomberg’s Joshua Green, author of the #1 best-seller Devil’s Bargain; and The Wall Street Journal’s Eli Stokols

  • Lessons of urban policing with Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo and former Dallas Police Chief David O. Brown

  • Trump and the Resistance, with The Indivisible Project’s Ezra Levin, civil rights activist DeRay Mckesson and Planned Parenthood’s Cecile Richards 

  • Public broadcasting and the public interest, with Frontline’s Raney Aronson-Rath and PBS CEO Paula Kerger

  • Panel discussions on the biggest agenda items of the 85th Legislative Session, including sanctuary cities, school finance, maternal mortality, foster care reform, mental health and bathroom access

  • Plus an entire track of podcasts recorded live, including Larry Wilmore’s Black on the Air, Ana Marie Cox’s With Friends Like These, and Ben Domenech’s Federalist Radio Hour

View the full program and download the app to create your schedule (iOS or Android). And register or volunteer today!

#TribFest17 Teaser Video

Accessibility at TTF - Travel Grant Application Now Open

The Texas Tribune Festival strives to be accessible to all who are interested in participating.

We are pleased to announce that we have again received a grant from the Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities to provide a limited number of travel stipends to selected Texas residents with developmental disabilities. To apply, fill out this application no later than Aug. 18, 2017. Selected participants will be notified no later than the week of Aug. 28.

For more information on accessibility at the 2017 Texas Tribune Festival, click here.

Special thanks to:

Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities

TribFeast Announces Katy Tur

We are excited to announce that Katy Tur of MSNBC (profiled this month in the New York Times) will be our guest at this year’s TribFeast — Saturday night, September 23, smack in the middle of Festival weekend!

Tur was the breakout star among reporters on the 2016 campaign, making the most of an unexpected assignment to cover Donald Trump. Over the course of 16 months, she was called out repeatedly by the candidate and his supporters as a “liar” and worse, previewing the now-familiar refrain that the media is dishonest and journalists are enemies of the people. But she stood her ground, and viewers and fans sprung to her defense, adopting the hashtag #imwithtur.

Unbelievable, her front-row account of the craziest campaign in American history, will soon be published. It tells the story of what it was like to report on the most combative and volatile major party nominee ever to run and win. Come hear her insider tales from the trail — and go home with a complimentary copy of her must-read book.

Individual tickets and tables are available, including a special VIP package for two that includes your Festival tickets.

Already bought a ticket but want to add TribFeast? Contact us.

Proceeds from TribFeast benefit the Tribune's ambitious, award-winning work. We anticipate a room full of thought leaders and philanthropists from across the state, including elected officials and big-name journalists on the Festival program.

A Look Back at #TTF 2016

From lively political discussions during each panel to exciting special events throughout the weekend, the sixth annual Texas Tribune Festival was undoubtedly our best yet! Relive all the action with video, audio and photos from the many Festival highlights and events.


You can now watch videos from numerous sessions, including our opening keynote with Ohio Gov. John Kasich, our closing keynote with Evan McMullin, 2016 independent candidate for U.S. president, a discussion with former state Sen. Wendy Davis and may others listed below:

One on One with John Kasich
Texas Tribune CEO Evan Smith interviewed Ohio governor and former 2016 Republican presidential candidate John Kasich.

A Cure for Cancer
New York Times Magazine Editor-in-Chief Jake Silverstein led a panel discussion with former professional cyclist Lance Armstrong, state Rep. Sarah Davis, MD Anderson Cancer Center president Ronald DePinho and James Wilson, chief scientific officer of the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas.

The Remaking of the Alamo
Author Stephen Harrigan interviewed Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush; Phil Collins, musician and author of "The Alamo and Beyond: A Collector's Journey"; and state Sen. José Menéndez, D-San Antonio.

Big Cities, Big Challenges
Dallas Morning News Editor Mike Wilson interviewed Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner.

One on One With Ken Starr
Texas Tribune CEO Evan Smith interviewed former Baylor Chancellor and President Ken Starr.

Can the Center Hold?
Alex Wagner, senior editor at The Atlantic, led a panel discussion with former U.S. Rep. Tom Davis, R-Virginia, former U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell and former U.N. Ambassador Bill Richardson.

Is Texas Good for Women?
Texas Tribune Editor-in-Chief Emily Ramshaw interviewed former Texas Comptroller Susan Combs and former state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth.

The State of Black America
Author Touré interviewed Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, San Antonio Mayor Ivy Taylor and National Center for Policy Analysis Executive Director Allen West.

What’s the Matter With Congress?
Texas Tribune Washington Bureau Chief Abby Livingston led a panel discussion with U.S. Reps. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, and Bill Flores, R-Waco.

One on One With Ted Cruz
Texas Tribune CEO Evan Smith interviewed U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.

The LGBTQ Agenda
MTV News senior political correspondent Ana Marie Cox interviewed former Houston Mayor Annise Parker.

The View From Elsewhere
New York Times Magazine contributor Robert Draper interviewed Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson.

2016 WTF?
Texas Tribune CEO Evan Smith led a panel discussion with former Washington Post reporter Chris Cillizza, MTV senior correspondent Ana Marie Cox, MSNBC political correspondent Steve Kornacki, Time Washington correspondent Jay Newton-Small and Washington Post national political reporter David Weigel.

One on One with Evan McMullin
Texas Tribune CEO Evan Smith interviewed Evan McMullin, an independent 2016 candidate for president.


Listen back to nearly all the Festival sessions via Soundcloud and relive your favorite moments from each panel!


Browse through photos from all three days of the Festival. The password to download photos is: ttf2016.