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James Mismash is a second-year Government and History dual-major at The University of Texas at Austin. Originally from Waxahachie, Texas, James’s passion for leadership and public speaking sprouted from his involvement in clubs like the Texas FFA Association, which allows him to travel the state as a leadership program facilitator. James was selected as a Terry Scholar at UT because of his commitment to success in leadership and academics. This past semester he was inducted in the Frank Denius Normandy Scholars Program, a prestigious and intensive WWII scholar program. In addition to academics, James is committed to working with policy at the state and federal level. He has been chosen as an intern for top policy internships in Texas, including for the former Texas House Speaker and the Legislative Budget Board, and he now leads in student lobbying efforts for his university.

James received the Student Leadership Award (now known as the Ronald Reagan Leadership Medal) in 2017 for his continued dedication to leading through service before self. In summer 2018, he served as an intern for the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute, and later that year, he led a volunteer team for the Reagan National Defense Forum. Throughout his time with the Foundation, he worked for the Education team in leadership development for high school students, assisted with national events, and conducted research in the National Archives and Records Administration.

This summer, James returns to the Reagan Library as a paid intern working with the Student Leadership Program. Following his undergraduate studies, he plans to attend law school and work towards a J.D. and a master’s in public policy. James is passionate about leadership opportunities in politics and constitutional law, and after graduate school he will seek work as a policy maker, lobbyist, or general counsel.


What advice would you give someone going into a leadership position for the first time?

Don’t be afraid to look to others. Real leaders understand that the strengths of those around them are what makes positive changes come to life. The best quality of a leader is the ability to identify the strengths and weaknesses of oneself and others, so that they can most effectively delegate tasks and communicate their message. Take charge but also note what others can offer.

How do you approach challenges?

I approach challenges with excitement. Challenges are a really big motivator for me because I see them as an opportunity to test my skills and strengthen areas of weakness. When approaching a challenge, I like to research the problem, examine possible solutions, and surround myself with a team of similarly motivated individuals who are passionate about finding a solution.

If you could meet anyone, past or present, who would it be and why?

If I could meet anyone from the past, it would be Jan Karski. Karski is a hero of the Polish Underground during WWII and fought against the oppression Poland faced under German-occupation. I believe that Karski is an example of the selfless leadership and resistance to persecution that we all hope to exemplify, and I would be honored to meet such an empowering and inspiring individual.

If you had the opportunity to spread a message to a large group of people, what would it say?

Never doubt the power of one voice. Whether it is voting in an election, a post on social media, or raising your hand in class or at work, you have something to add and your voice deserves to be heard. You never know if you are the one vote that swings the election, change the life of the one person that sees your posts, or the one kid in class that needed to hear what you said. Too often we fear that amid popular movements that what we say doesn’t matter, but that is not true. An idea starts with one, empowers many, and can change the world…don’t be afraid to be that one.

Favorite meal?  Nothing beats Tex-Mex and Texas BBQ.

Favorite TV Show? The Crown.

Apple or Samsung? Apple.

Chocolate or Vanilla? Vanilla.

Cat or dog? Dogs. BIG dogs.

Coffee or tea? Coffee, and lots of it.

Movies or books? Movies during school months, books when on break.

No TV or no music? No TV.

No phone or no social media? No social media.