Greetings from Tampa! For the next week students and faculty from The University of Tampa will be giving you their inside take on all things RNC. You see, our campus is less than two miles from the convention site, and yes, the RNC coincides with our first week of class. There is nothing like mixing approximately 50,000 delegates with 15,000 members of the press, throwing in a few thousand protesters and a scattering of potential anarchists with 6,000 new and returning college students. Fun times! Any other institution would delay the start of class but at UT we say "Bring it on!" This is after all Tampa, home of MacDill Air Force Base, U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM) and U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM). So having an extra 70,000 visitors in our city for a week, please... we run wars from this city.
So let's begin the educational process. Tampa is the Calusa Native American tribe word for "Sticks of Fire." Some believe this name was given based on the high concentration of lightning strikes that Tampa Bay receives every year during the hot and wet summer months. Did you guess which summer month is the hottest and the wettest? Yes, give that student in the back a "Lightning" t-shirt, August it is! And for those of you who require additional education, "Tampa Bay Lightning" is the name of our professional hockey team and they play at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, site of the RNC convention. Anyone else wants to take a guess at what else happens in Florida during the summer months? Anyone... Bueller?... Anyone? Need a clue? Andrew. He visited Florida in August. No, he is not a new first year student... If you guessed a hurricane you must be a native Floridian!
All kidding aside, these are all facts about our state and particularly our city. So if you are a young Capitol Hill staffer, a media intern, or an idealist who is coming to our town to exercise your right to protest, let me give you some advice, the same advice we give all our new students. You will need rain gear and lots of H2O, it is hot and humid!
Lightning does not discriminate but it really loves computers, don't plug it in unless you have a surge protector and get a hurricane guide on route from your nearest supermarket, you just never know! While you're there grab some sunblock because Welcome to sunny Florida is code for "sunscreen is NOT optional." Other than that enjoy -- there are no gators near the convention site, even though it is surrounded by water. If you do encounter a critter that you may think is a roach, in Florida we call them "Palmetto Bugs," because we don't want to alarm the tourists and mosquitos come in only one size -- extra large! Really they are more like small birds. Did I mention the HEAT, HUMIDITY and LIGHTNING!
Now for the last lesson of the day, what is a Minaret you say? The main building at The University of Tampa is Plant Hall. Plant Hall is a national historic site and the symbol of Tampa Bay. The distinct feature of the building is its Minarets. Six shining beautifully illuminated dome-like structures that are scattered throughout the length of the building, every picture of Tampa includes UT's Minarets. I think it's a law.
UT is a very special place and Plant Hall is its heart. This building has hosted many dignitaries including generals, U.S. presidents and yes, British royalty (more on this in later blogs). In the coming days I, together with our faculty and students, will be filling you in on all our history and giving you a "humorous" account of our day-to-day experiences.
For now all you need to know is that we are all very excited to be a part of our country's political process, although some of us in the administration feel a little like the Madagascar penguins -- holding it all together with "spit, grit and a whole lot of duct tape." We will, however, be "smiling and waving" to all of you from the Minarets. So, have a safe convention.
Then, go home!