Davis: At TSLW, We “Found Our People”

in Arlington Cemetery on a beautiful Memorial Day Monday surrounded by those
whose dedication to service is awe-inspiring, I am struck by the commonality of
all those remembered for their service to our country and the Truman Scholars
in their dedication to public service. Although none of the 2011 Truman
Scholars has given the ultimate sacrifice of our life in the service to others,
their passion to serve others is something that is inspiring.

When I
arrived in Liberty, Missouri for the Truman Scholar Leadership Week (TSLW) 2011,
I was surrounded by some of the most incredible people I had ever met. So,
needless to say, I was a little nervous. And yet, my pre-mature nervousness was
instantly quelled by my fellow Trumans, through their humility and warm
reception. Reflecting on the week I have found it divided into three parts: conversations,
activities, and community.

The conversations during TSLW were unparalleled and varied from the healthcare
system to energy policy and economics. The depth of the Truman Scholars and
their interests was amazing. My first conversation was with a scholar from
California who had just re-enacted the Freedom Ride, retracing the 1961 rides
from Washington, DC to New Orleans, LA. With forty other selected students he
toured the country meeting civil rights activists and heard memories of their
fight for equal rights. Another scholar and I discussed energy policy and his
role in formulating Obama’s campaign strategy for energy. These conversations not
only showed me the impressiveness of the students who were scholars, but allowed
us to learn from one another’s passions and share our own. Whether it was
investigating various religions (including Buddhism), or discussing the
importance of food trucks, TSLW was alive with conversations that occurred deep
into the night and early in the morning.


Throughout the week, our class was brought together by workshops, activities,
and testimonials. We collaborated on some of the most difficult issues in the
“Decision-Center” of the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library, worked on group
policies culminating in one group’s project of the Harry S. Loris Twitter and
Facebook, learned about graduate programs from admissions counselors and how to
finance one’s education, and heard senior scholars experiences in leadership
and finding their identities. It was a week filled with a discovery of new
paths and dismissal of previously held beliefs. As one speaker put it, we were
put into a state of “constructive confusion.” At the end of the week many of
the scholars shared their new friends with their family at the banquet and
awards ceremony. At TSLW I was not only able to share the new friends I had
made with my mother but I gained a new family, one brought together by shared
aspirations for the future.

The Truman Community is something that was previously unimaginable. It is a
catalyst of some of the brightest minds in the country, who are not only some
of the most achieving college students, but who are incredibly humble. During
the week, our class grew as a community as we participated in service
activities that included volunteering at a food bank, a free health clinic, a domestic
violence center, and a homeless shelter. We played mafia at night, rolled down
hills, raced on piggy back, ran in the early morning, and even had a dance. Now
you may be wondering the dance expertise of the Truman scholars, but you would
be very impressed with the ability of scholars to “Swang it” and do the
“Dougie.” Also, doing the “slow loris” is something that will always be
infamous to our class. I was also extremely impressed with our scholars when
there were two tragedies: a scholar’s father passing away and a deadly tornado in
the nearby town of Joplin. The scholars were always there for her to talk to as
well as offer a comforting hug. One of the students proposed a group effort by
the Truman Scholars to raise funds for the Joplin residents. Immediately the
Trumans galvanized their ideas on how to best help the suffering community. The
reaction to these two great heartbreaks evidenced the strength and solidarity
of the 2011 class.

guidance from our senior scholars, Tara Yglesias and Andy Kirk of the Truman
Foundation, and Westbrook Murphy of the Foundation Board, I will forever
cherish the week I had with my fellow Trumans. While we came from diverse
backgrounds and large age ranges, our class instantly became a close family.
Brought together by a common drive for service we, as one scholar commented
were able to “find our people.”

Elizabeth Davis (MT ’11) is
completing her final year at the University of Notre Dame.

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