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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."