Since 1991, the Stennis Center has developed a strong working partnership with the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation. The Stennis Center has conducted 20 events with Truman Scholars. The most recent was Truman Scholars Day on Capitol Hill on June 24, 2011.
Senator Stennis was the first chair of the Senate Ethics Committee and drafted the first code of ethics for the United States Senate. The Stennis Center's interest in this program stems from his reputation as a model for moral leadership in politics.
Twenty-seven young adults who are active in politics gathered over a weekend to discuss what constitutes ethical and effective leadership from a moral perspective. A third of the participants were high-ranking Congressional staff who have served as Stennis Fellows. Truman Scholars made up another third, and a third were elected and appointed officials from North Carolina.
Speakers included Heidi Heitkamp, former North Dakota State Attorney General; James A. Joseph, former U.S. Ambassador to South Africa; Sandra Mortham, former Florida Secretary of State; and David Price, Congressman from North Carolina.
The focus of the event was moral leadership in politics. Two issues in particular received attention: (1) compromise and disagreement and (2) money and politics. Examples of ethical dilemmas which were discussed included truth versus loyalty, individual versus community, and justice versus mercy.
The Truman Scholars Conference on Civil Rights was held in conjunction with the Truman Scholars Association on February 4-6, 2000 at The Carter Center in Atlanta, Georgia. The purpose of this conference was to help Truman Scholars better understand the history and significance of the civil rights movement and recognize the need to continue to improve race relations in America. The keynote speaker was Reverend C.T. Vivian, a veteran of the civil rights movement who many remember as the man television cameras captured being punched in the face by Sheriff Jim Clark in Selma, Alabama in 1965. He challenged the group to work toward that unfinished business of bringing equality and reconciliation to America. In addition, the Southern Regional Council facilitated a dialogue on race among Truman Scholars. The conference also included a visit to the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site, which includes his birthplace, his gravesite and a museum on his life. Truman Scholars concluded their weekend by attending a worship service at Ebenezer Baptist Church, where King, his father and his grandfather were pastors. The Stennis Center has enjoyed its association with Truman Scholars and looks forward to future opportunities to help these talented young leaders accomplish their public service career goals.
The Stennis Center, the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation, and the Truman Scholars Association brought together Truman Scholars on July 24-25, 1998 for the commissioning of the USS HARRY S TRUMAN in Norfolk, Virginia. The Stennis Center has a relationship with the U.S. Navy from its involvement with the USS JOHN C. STENNIS CVN-74.
"...The American people still feel a strong affection for Harry Truman. He seemed to some an ordinary man, but he became an extraordinary President. He represented the best in us, and he gave us the best of himself. He never failed to live up to the words of his fellow Missourian, Mark Twain, which he kept on his desk at the Oval Office: 'Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest.'" -- remarks by the President at the Commissioning.
To learn more about the USS HARRY S TRUMAN, visit the Official Home Page.
Over three days, which coincided with the 1998 Martin Luther King Day weekend, the recipients of the Harry S. Truman Scholarship gathered at the Little White House to discuss tax reform, higher education policy, and environmental concerns, as well as issues concerning women and politics, youth and community service, and strategic planning to form and sustain a lifelong commitment to public service. The Scholars were also privileged to meet with US Senator Bob Graham (D-FL) and Sheila Mullins, the Mayor of Key West, and to hear a talk by Ken Hechler, who served as an aide to President Truman, and later wrote the book, "Working With Truman." Mr. Hechler also served as a Congressman from West Virginia, and is currently the Secretary of State for West Virginia.
The conference, organized with significant assistance from the John C. Stennis Center for Public Service, marked the first time that past recipients of the Truman Scholarship met under the banner of the Truman Scholars Association. The Harry S. Truman Scholarship program was established by Congress in 1975 as a living memorial to President Truman. Each year some 75 college students who are preparing for careers in public service are selected on the basis of academic merit and proven commitment to public service to receive the prestigious scholarship, which provides funds for undergraduate and graduate school expenses.
The Truman Scholars in Key West ranged from the first class of Scholars, selected in 1977, to several recent recipients who are still completing their studies. They met in Key West to formally convene the Truman Scholars Association, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting in Truman Scholars a lifelong commitment to public service in all its forms and to nurturing all aspects of public and community service. The TSA elected its officers and held its first board meeting on Sunday, January 18, 1998, on President Truman's private balcony.
The significance of gathering at the Little White House was not lost on the Truman Scholars. "The setting was both inspiring and relaxing," said Tom Burack, a 1980 Scholar from New Hampshire, who was elected President of the Truman Scholars Association. "Everything from the photos of Truman taking his legendary brisk walks through the streets of Key West to the desk with the plaque, "The buck stops here," emanates Truman's character. It's clear how much he loved this house, and that it provided him with a place from which to reflect on the many difficult decisions which faced him as President."
Hal Walsh, director of the Little White House since 1993, personally conducted a tour of the residence for the Truman Scholars. "This was a special group. I really enjoyed it," he said. "I felt people connected to the history. It shows that there's a younger generation coming up that is really going to be able to provide leadership in the 21st century."
During his years in government service, President Truman, among his many other achievements, worked to reduce waste in government, desegregated the armed forces, and oversaw the Marshall Plan, which helped rebuild a devasted Europe after the Second World War. In this fiftieth anniversary year of Truman's 1948 election to his second term in office, the scholars discussed how strongly Truman's ideals resonate today and how their newly-formed association can work to further the late president's vision.
The Little White House was built in 1890 as the naval commandant's quarters. President Truman first visited in 1946, and as there was no naval commandant at the time, the President was housed in the cool, comfortable structure distinguished by its symmetrical double facade and its encircling porches enclosed by wooden louvers. The President wrote his wife, Bess, how pleased he was with the residence, and with the fact that he was not "out-ranking" someone out of the house. He returned ten times for vacations during his administration, spending over 170 days in Key West.
Campaign Strategies for Truman Scholars
Commenting on the charge that he was nothing but a "politician", Harry S. Truman replied, "I'm proud to be a politician, for it's a great honor. When a good politician dies he becomes a statesman, and I want to be a politician for a long time."
A number of Harry S. Truman Scholars also want to be politicians. Continuing its long-running relationship with the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation, the Stennis Center organized a national conference for Truman Scholars who are interested in seeking elective office. Running and Winning: Campaign Strategies for Truman Scholars was held February 21-23, 1997, in Little Rock, Arkansas.
The purpose of the meeting was to introduce Truman Scholars to their peers who have similar ambitions for public office and to provide them with specific, practical information about campaigning, fundraising and political organizing from nationally recognized political consultants. Thirty-six past winners of the Truman Scholarship from 27 states attended the conference.
The bipartisan program included presentations from two Democrats and two Republicans. Betsey Wright, senior director of The Wexler Group and former chief of staff to Bill Clinton when he was governor, gave a two-hour overview of the campaign process. She emphasized the importance of having a written campaign plan and a campaign theme. She also discussed the need for candidates to know their own political and personal strengths and weaknesses, as well as those of the opponent. When asked when the right time to run is, she replied, "Run where the opportunity is and for a position in which you are genuinely interested."
Carol Whitney, a political consultant and former executive director of the Republican Governors Association, talked about forming and delivering a message in a campaign. She said, "Don't have a position on every issue. Limit yourself to three or four issues which you think are most important." Tim Hackler, a public affairs specialist and former press secretary for U.S. Senators Dale Bumpers (D-AR) and Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY), made a presentation on communicating effectively with the media. Sheri Lee Norris, a political fundraiser for Republican congressional candidates such as Kay Granger (R-TX) and Bill Thomas (R-CA), discussed the nuts and bolts of financing a campaign.
In addition to the professional presentations, the participants divided into small groups to examine their individual hopes, fears and aspirations regarding elective office.
The weekend seminar was very successful according to the written evaluations of the participants. It helped those in attendance to focus on their public service career goals and learn from professionals and each other about ways to accomplish those goals. For example, Chris Coons, a 1983 Truman Scholar from Delaware, wrote, "I felt reaffirmed in my enthusiasm for running, and I needed this opportunity to discuss specific ideas with other Truman Scholars." Tom Burack, a 1980 Truman Scholar from New Hampshire, commented, "This was a highly informative and motivational program. It provided helpful tools in a bipartisan fashion, and I look forward to putting all this new knowledge to work."
Peter Shapiro, a 1994 Truman Scholar from Maryland and a candidate in a local government race, said, "I thoroughly enjoyed the company of like-minded Truman Scholars and found the workshops to be not only engaging but extremely useful. I can think of no higher compliment than to say I will be referring to my conference notes frequently as I conduct my campaign for office."
Recognizing the benefits from organizing and empowering such an enthusiastic group of young people, the Stennis Center periodically conducts regional conferences with past recipients of the Truman Scholarship. The purpose of these weekend conferences is to revitalize their commitment to public service, to enhance their capacity as leaders and to form a regional network of Truman Scholars.
For example, Truman Scholars from the South and Southwest gathered for the sixth regional conference in December 1994 at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. The Scholars came from nine states: Arizona, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, and Utah. They represented a range of public service careers, including a state legislator from Arkansas, an assistant attorney general from Texas, a district trial counsel with the Securities and Exchange Commission from Utah, and a budget examiner with the Texas Legislative Budget Office.
The program featured interactive, skill-building sessions designed specifically to help Truman Scholars improve their effectiveness on the job and achieve their public service goals. David Biemer, a consultant specializing in personal and organizational management, led a session based on Stephen Covey's book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Barbara Miller, a media communications expert, used video cameras to conduct a seminar on how to handle press interviews, print or broadcast. Psychologists Melba Vasquez and Jim Miller helped the Scholars examine ways to work with others across racial, ethnic, gender and ideological differences.
In the wake of the 1994 national elections, Truman Scholars interacted with Karl Rove, a noted Republican political strategist who was instrumental in the Texas gubernatorial victory of George Bush, Jr. Rove shared his interpretation of Republicans' electoral success and its implications for the 1996 presidential contest.
Max Sherman, dean of the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, delivered the closing address on the value of public service. Calling for a renewed sense of commitment to the highest traditions of public service, he said, "America needs its best and brightest in public service, and I encourage you to be proud to pursue a career in service to your community and your nation."
Judging from the evaluations of the participants, the conference was a great success. The words of Tom Melton, a 1977 Truman Scholar from Montana who now lives in Utah, characterize the feelings of many. He writes, "Thank you for recharging my public service batteries. I thoroughly enjoyed the program which was interesting and thought-provoking. I haven't enjoyed a conference or people like that in a long, long time."