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Past Truman Scholar Events - Running For Public Office Conference
Truman Scholars Day on Capitol Hill

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."

Additional Information

Past Truman Scholar Events
Ethics and Public Service Leadership Seminar
Conference on Civil Rights
Commissioning of the USS Truman
Truman Scholars Association Meeting
Running For Public Office Conference
Regional Conferences
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