Dinh: “Truman community…is rich beyond measure”

Cindy DinhCindy Dinh (TX ’10), who recently completed a Summer Institute internship with the Federal Coordination and Compliance Section of the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, writes about her first TSA National Conference. She can be reached at cindy.dinh@alumni.rice.edu.

As a self-proclaimed, conference junkie, I was looking forward to the TSA 2011 National Conference. With a commute just a short Metro-ride away, the other 43 scholars and I from this year’s Summer Institute came in full force. Despite a strong turnout from the 2010 Truman Scholar class, I found myself weaving in and out of conversation with Scholars of various years, dating back to the very first class of 1977 to the slew of 2006 scholars who filled up an entire table and then some. From the non-stop chatter during the reception on opening night, you can say it was a reunion of sorts.

Indeed, reunions in the traditional sense are meant for people who have already met in the past. As a member of the 2010 class, I have not met as many previous scholars outside of those present at TSLW. However, meeting other Truman Scholars for the first time was like meeting an old friend. Conversations just flowed. People pick up on your interest and start a tangential conversation that bypasses ordinary small talk altogether. To my delight I sat at a table during the Friday night gala with a few folks who had previously worked at my current summer internship, something which made me feel less like a spoke in a wheel amidst an organization as large as the Department of Justice. There were others out there who knew exactly what my office did and who some of my co-workers were.

Arriving in Washington, DC with the policy proposals from our applications still fresh in our minds, some of the recent scholars are probably still figuring out how they’re supposed to be change-agents at a time where discussions on our nation’s financial state have moved at the same rate as thermometers recording nothing but 100+ degree weather.  To quote the keynote speaker, Senator Chris Coons (DE ’83), who in turn quoted The Great Gatsby, “Change comes gradually, then all at once.”

Occasionally, after an irritable drought of change in national politics, a compromises is eked out, followed by a deluge of change.  It’s nice to know that someone in the Truman community is there at the helm of it all. And you can also expect someone to be on the other end, ready to grill a freshman senator about it during an hour of Q and A.

And that’s what I liked about the conference – an opportune time to leave the formalities of our day-jobs at the door and talk candidly, Scholar-to-Scholar. Of course, when you consider the collective experiences of the Truman community, it is rich beyond measure. I was sure of this after the string of seven-minute conversations I had with over a dozen scholars during the speed networking event on Saturday afternoon. It ranged from the “don’t go to law school” warning to the “here’s a few suggestions for the best happy hours in DC” (after we talked about a certain bar in Foggy Bottom that has lured so many 2010 Truman Scholars following our Tuesday night SI presentations). Suffice to say, I came away with a few nuggets of advice.  There really wasn’t much to this activity aside coordinating rotations, but it was probably the most fun I had that day. It’s truly the people that make the event memorable.

As the various threads on the TSA listserv can attest, Truman Scholars are everywhere and are well-connected to a mélange of communities (thanks for all the e-mail forwards). It’s just nice to know that at the heart of it all, we’re each other’s nodes – we connect ideas and people like no other.  Putting a face to the name is the cherry on top.


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