Reflections from a New Scholar

Reflections from a New Scholar
Matthew Garza (CA ’09)

In the past three months, there have been a few moments when I began to
feel like a Truman Scholar. As a member of the youngest class, I sometimes have
the feeling of being a guest at Truman events, invited to witness the
brilliance and warmth of this community – but only temporarily. As my fellow
classmates will attest, we harbor a latent fear that the Foundation might
recognize that one of our scholarships is the result of a clerical error.
Things are changing, though.

The defining moment for me was a brief remark from Frederick G. Slabach
(MS ’77). As hundreds of us gathered in the National Press Club for lunch, he
announced matter-of-factly that he was proud of us. All of us. Even those still
in college (this last part was implied). It was then that I took a more
deliberate look around the table and around the room to reflect on what it means
to be a Truman Scholar. With speakers like Madeleine K. Albright and Janet A.
Napolitano (NM ‘77), it is easy to equate this scholarship with power and
prestige. However, Mr. Slabach’s comment helped me recognize a more convincing
message that was repeated, not always explicitly, throughout these past months
and in particular at the conference. We are a community that values one another
regardless of how we choose to serve. As someone who is rather quiet and
eschews public exposure, that was important to hear.

Throughout the weekend it was readily apparent that there is no specific
model for being a successful Truman Scholar. I remember one Saturday session in
particular when a woman saw that I was a member of the Class of 2009 and jumped
out of her seat to tell me all about the importance of serving in municipal
government and her interest in being a mentor. Another man was quite adamant
about the role of small business in urban development. From the moment I
arrived on Friday evening, so many wonderful people were quick to grab my hand
and introduce me to someone else who might share an interest or have advice
about graduate school. Even those who were seeing old friends for the first time
in years made a point to welcome me.

When I think about the conference, I did enjoy the learning component.
I took good notes during the sessions and did my best to learn about non-profit
management and the intersection of academia and policy. More importantly,
though, for the first time I started to sit back, loosen my shoulders, and feel
comfortable with the idea of being a Truman Scholar. It is still just as
intimidating as it is exciting, but now I am confident that I will find my own
role among the thousands who have come before me. It is a privilege to be a
part of this community, and I look forward to extending the same welcome to all
future classes.

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