Inaugural Truman Scholars National Conference a Major Success

Inaugural Truman Scholars
National Conference a Major Success
Jeff McLean (WI ’03) & James Gibson (AL ’02)

The Truman Scholars National Conference, held June 19-21, 2009 in
Washington DC, was by all accounts an incredible success. More than a year in
the making, the conference brought together the largest group of Truman
Scholars in one location in the scholarship’s 33-year history, with over 300
Truman Scholars and 100 guests in attendance.

The conference kicked off on the afternoon of Friday, June 19, with a
cocktail reception at the historic National Press Club in downtown Washington.
There, Trumans from the entire range of class years caught up with old friends
and met many new ones. The night’s formal programming commenced with a
black-tie-optional dinner, highlighted by remarks from Truman Foundation
Executive Director Frederick G. Slabach (MS ’77) and a moving tribute to the
late Brooks Roy Burdette (GA ’80). Mr. Burdette was memorialized by his sister,
Ila Burdette, and fiancée, Corine Hegland (IA ’97). Both women spoke of Brooks’s
lifelong commitment to helping others and to the Truman Foundation, noting that
at the time of his passing, he was involved in planning this very conference
and co-chairing the TSA Fundraising Drive. In honor of his consistent and
selfless dedication to the Truman community, Brooks was posthumously awarded the
first “TSA Distinguished Service Award.”

The evening’s keynote address was delivered by Dr. Madeleine K.
Albright, former U.S. Secretary of State and current Truman Foundation
President. Dr. Albright gave an inspiring and humorous speech on her life in
public service and took questions from the scholars in attendance. Following
dinner, nearly everyone stayed until late in the evening, enjoying drinks,
dancing, and each others’ company.

Saturday’s programming, also held at the National Press Club, consisted
of five sets of panel discussions and a working lunch featuring keynote speaker,
former Governor of the State of Arizona, current U.S. Homeland Security
Secretary, and Truman Scholar Janet A. Napolitano (NM ‘77). Secretary Napolitano’s
inspiring address reaffirmed the virtues of public life despite its challenges
and provided unique insight from a member of the first class of Truman Scholars.
The panel discussions, moderated by Trumans from a wide array of class years,
were incredibly engaging and capitalized on the vast amount of professional
expertise available at the conference. Panel topics ranged from education and
health care policy to methods for effectively partnering with the private
sector.

On Sunday, those scholars whose travel schedules permitted took part in
a community service project by cleaning up the riverbank at East Potomac Park
in the Hains Point region of Washington. The group, comprised of scholars from
various years, literally got their hands dirty (very dirty) and made a significant
difference in the landscape of the park. The service project was a fitting coda
to a successful National Conference that underscored the impassioned,
all-hands-on-deck approach exemplified by President Truman and aspired to by all
honored with the scholarship that is his legacy.

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