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T-Squared: Presenting the 2018 Texas Tribune Festival Program

More than 90 panel discussions and one-one-one interviews. Nearly 340 speakers from across Texas and around the country. A mix of local, state, national and global politics and public policy. A sparky new location in the shadow of the Capitol. #TribFest18 is going to be our best fest yet.

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Today we announced the lineup for #TribFest 18, the eighth Texas Tribune Festival. It's our first in downtown Austin — in the shadow of the Capitol. It's the first with two full days of programming. And it will absolutely be the best.

There are more than 90 hourlong sessions — moderated panel discussions and one-on-one interviews with an array of local, state and national newsmakers. It's our most elaborate, ambitious program ever. We have entire tracks of content on the 2018 state and federal elections, the upcoming 86th legislative session, what Texas is going to be like in 2050 and what it will take to get there, key aspects of the second year of the Trump administration, the collision of politics and the press, public and higher education, diversity and immigration, infrastructure and natural resources, health and human services, criminal justice and the law, and the economy — plus some cool throwbacks. Once again some of the best podcasts — from the likes of Slate, Vox and Politico — will be recorded before a live audience at the fest.

There are nearly 340 speakers — the most we've ever had. Many state lawmakers: House and Senate, Democrat and Republican, veteran and newbie. Many members of Congress from Texas and elsewhere. Many mayors from Texas and elsewhere. Current and former governors of other states. (But not our own governor. Yep, we asked, as we do every year.) Cabinet members and ambassadors from previous presidential administrations. Policy experts from left, right and center. An extraordinary number of big-name, award-winning journalists who cover politics, along with our favorite print, broadcast and online commentators. And — not insignificantly — many people thinking about running for president themselves someday. No better time to hear them out, kick the tires or poke holes than this early, in a cozy setting like this one.

Speaking of presidential candidates, for our opening session on Thursday, Sept. 27, we’re excited to welcome a recent one: former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. He’ll talk with me about his new memoir, "Every Day is Extra," and the world at a crossroads: Russia, North Korea, Iran, NATO, NAFTA and more.

For our closing session on Saturday, Sept. 29, I’ll sit down with three-term U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke, D-El Paso, to talk about his headline-making race for the U.S. Senate against incumbent Republican Ted Cruz: the issues, the politics, the big money, the long odds and his vision for a better America. (In case you're wondering, we asked for a debate to close the fest between O'Rourke and Cruz, but the Cruz campaign declined. We also invited Cruz, who has appeared at four previous Tribune Festivals, including last year at our closing session, to sit for a long interview at any point over the several days of our event. The Cruz campaign likewise declined that invitation.)

On the night of Friday, Sept. 28, the cast of Showtime's "The Circus" — John Heilemann, Alex Wagner and Mark McKinnon — will talk about Donald Trump, 2018 and 2020 at TribFeast, our annual dinner to support nonprofit journalism. MSNBC's Steve Kornacki will emcee rounds of political trivia at Scholz Garten, while our old friend Larry Wilmore will record his "Black on the Air" podcast before a full house at the Stateside Theater.

I've only scratched the surface. Spend time with the schedule. You’ll wish you could go to everything — or clone yourself. Be one of the thousands who’ll dive deep that weekend. Get tickets now, because the price will only go up as the fest approaches. See you there!

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