August 21, 2007
RSU Student Leaders Study President Truman in Kansas City
What better way to study leadership than to examine the decisions of a U.S. president? As President Harry S. Truman famously said, “the buck stops here.” That’s why members of the Rogers State University President’s Leadership Class recently participated in an examination of the leadership of the 33rd president during a three-day trip to his presidential library in Kansas City.
Serving as hosts for the trip were Dr. Carolyn Taylor, coordinator of the leadership program, Sen. Stratton Taylor, and RSU President Dr. Joe Wiley, each of whom have studied and practiced leadership during their careers. Stephany Foutch, RSU alumni director, also accompanied students on the trip.
“We’re working to hone the leadership skills of today’s student-leaders, who will become tomorrow’s civic leaders” said Dr. Taylor, who also serves as a political science professor at RSU.
The President’s Leadership Class (PLC) is a four-year scholarship program designed to develop leadership skills and enhance the academic experience for participants. PLC members coordinate community service projects, spearhead various campus initiatives, attend alumni and other university events and participate in recruitment events at area high schools. They must live on campus and maintain a grade point average of 3.0 or higher.
During their trip to Kansas City, the 34 students participated in a leadership seminar offered by the White House Decision Center at the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum in Independence, Mo. The White House Decision Center is an experiential learning facility in which students assumed the roles of President Truman and his advisers facing real-life historical decisions.
“I’ve always been interested in leadership,” said Bree Bedsworth, an RSU junior from Skiatook who has served as PLC president for three years. “I really learned a lot about leadership at the Truman Center. I learned that it really takes a large group of advisers coming together to counsel the president on important issues.”
In their exercise, the students studied the Berlin Airlift then came together to advise the President Truman on whether or not to risk confrontation with the Soviet Union and carry out the airlift in which the U.S. military flew food, medicine and supplies into Soviet-controlled West Berlin in 1948. The prospect of nuclear weapons was ever-present. The mission was eventually carried out and proved successful and the Soviets lifted their blockade.
During the exercise, Bedsworth played the role of Lucius Clay, the U.S. military governor assigned to Germany following World War II and chief architect of the airlift.
“These are major decisions that have major consequences and I learned that our leaders do not take them lightly,” she said.
After meeting with his student advisers, the “President” delivered his plan of action at a mock press conference while the other students became reporters and asked questions.
“Playing the role of president was really stressful. The (student) reporters asked some tough questions,” said Adam McCreary, who was selected by his peers to portray the role of President Truman. “We learned how difficult it really is to carry out strategies and plans that affect so many people and impact history.”
As president, Truman faced considerable challenges in domestic affairs, including a tumultuous economy, numerous strikes and the passage of the Taft-Hartley Act over his veto. After confounding all predictions to win re-election in 1948, he was able to pass almost none of his Fair Deal program. He used executive orders to begin desegregation of the U.S. armed forces and launch a system of loyalty checks to remove thousands of Communist sympathizers from government office, even though he strongly opposed mandatory loyalty oaths for governmental employees, a stance that lead to charges that his administration was soft on Communism.
His presidency also was eventful in foreign affairs, starting with victory over Germany, the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the surrender of Japan and Europe, the Truman Doctrine to contain Communism, the beginning of the Cold War, the creation of NATO and the Korean War.
During the educational excursion, RSU student leaders also toured the World War I Museum, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, American Jazz Museum and Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City. In addition, students visited the historic Union Station and attended a Kansas City Royals baseball game.
RSU President’s Leadership Class members include the following students: