Twenty-eight juniors and seniors recently traveled to the Truman Presidential Library in Independence, Missouri to participate in the White House Decision Center. The decision center is a one-of-a-kind experience where students confront one of five challenges Truman faced while President of the United States. This year, students discussed and debated President Truman’s decision to desegregate the military in 1948.
Students attended four meetings prior to their trip where they learned about the roles of the president, the responsibilities of his many advisors, how to analyze primary source documents, and how to make decisions using a decision-making matrix. At the Truman Library, students were assigned one of seven roles, ranging from President Harry Truman to Special Assistant Philleo Nash. Acting in these roles, students spent time combing through classified documents, gathering information so they could advise President Truman on what course of action to take.
The experience included a press briefing where a handful of students shared with members of the press information regarding military segregation. Following the press briefing, students participated in cabinet meetings where President Truman and his advisors shared information gleaned from their previous work, suggested different options (weighing the advantages and disadvantages of each), and then decided on a plan of action. The activity culminated with a press conference where President Truman announced his decision and fielded questions from the press.
Southeast has been a part of the White House Decision Center since its creation. I’m so thankful the district continues to support our involvement. I believe the students not only have a lot of fun participating in it, but I believe they also get a lot out of it. I already can’t wait until next year’s Truman Group.