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The Long Road to the Short History

of the Truman Center at UMKC

This collection of events and upcoming plans along “the long road to the short history” of the Truman Center was prepared for our friends and supporters – for those who believe in the power of civic education and civic engagement, as Harry Truman did.We hope you enjoy our story. We would welcome an opportunity to discuss programs or plans that are of specific interest to you.

Dr. Dale Neuman

Program Director

phone: 816-235-2787


Gayla Curtis

Administrative Assistant

phone: 816-235-2720


Or visit us online at

The Establishment of the Truman Center at UMKC

In the Beginning…

In 1969, President Harry S. Truman, in a letter to UMKC Chancellor James Olson, authorized the establishment of the Harry S. Truman Center for Governmental Affairs. Over the course of the next 25 years, committees meet, studies are done and recommendations come forth to no avail. The Center lies dormant.

A New Start

Beginning in 2007, following a mandate from a new chancellor, a transition advisory committee that included persons from public life and the university was created to develop a mission statement and identify initiatives for the Truman Center.

Harry S. Truman,

33rd President of the United States

Truman Center Mission & Initiatives

Truman Center Mission:

To honor Harry S. Truman’s legacy of public service, leadership, and the importance of the contribution of the ordinary citizen to the well-being of the political community through public affairs and educational programs.

Truman Center Initiatives:

It was agreed that each initiative must address something that was important to Harry Truman and, when taken together, could serve to honor his legacy.

Those initiatives came to be Civic Education,

Civic Engagement and Local Governance.

Cooperating Partners

In June 2007, Dean Karen Vorst of UMKC’s College of Arts and Sciences, and Dr. Michael Devine, Director of the Truman Presidential Library, sign a Memorandum of Understanding whereby the two Truman-named entities would become cooperating partners in programming to honor Truman.

Dr. Dale Neuman and Dean Karen Vorst of UMKC, and Dr. Michael Devine and Dr. Ray Geselbracht of the Truman Presidential Library gather to sign the Memorandum of Understanding

Subsequently, the Truman Forum of the Kansas City Public Library began to partner with the Truman Center by providing a venue for our programs.

Programming & Events:2007-Present

Inaugural Event

In November 2007, Frank K. Kelly a UKC alumnus, Class of 1938, inaugurated our public affairs series when he returned to Kansas City and UMKC to discuss writing speeches and working for Truman in 1948.

Frank K. Kelly, former Truman speechwriter, at UMKC


In February, 2008, Ken Hechler, who worked in the Truman White House from 1949-1952, came to UMKC to discuss issues of staffing the White House Office and the difference between the way Truman and presidents of recent years chose and used advisors.

Ken Hechler, assistant to Truman from 1949-1952


In April 2008, David Moore, former Gallup vice president and senior editor of the Gallup Poll came to Kansas City and revisited the difficulties with opinion polls in the Truman election of 1948. Moore also discussed issues relevant in the conduct of recent polls.

David Moore discusses “Polling in America: From Truman to Bush”


In May 2008, two undergraduate students, are named the first two Harry Truman Bootstrap Scholarship Interns. In June, they are sent all expenses paid to Washington to intern in Congress for both Senator McCaskill and Representative Cleaver.

The scholarship included tuition and fees so interns could earn academic credit by combining an academic program with real-world experiences.

United States Capitol


In October 2008, UMKC celebrated its 75th anniversary. As part of the celebration, William Worley, adjunct history professor, provided an impersonation of Truman, recreating memories and events, including Truman’s acceptance of an honorary degree on the steps of Scofield Hall at the University of Kansas City.

Truman accepts honorary Doctorate of Law degree at UKC in 1945.

William Worley as Truman in 2008.

Truman’s honorary diploma from UKC, 1945


Later that month, the Truman Center partnered with the Kansas City United Nations Day Committee to host a program on global warming.

Dr. John M.R. Stone, provided a presentation titled “Challenges and Opportunities of Climate Change,” in which he discussed his work on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with former Vice President Al Gore.

Dr. John M.R. Stone


In February 2009, the Truman Center hosted Dr. D. Robert Worley, noted expert in national security, for a discussion of the president’s use of the National Security Council, beginning with its initial organization under Truman.

Dr. D. Robert Worley


In the summer of 2009, the Truman Center presented “Harry Truman the Road Builder: A Look Forward from 1920 to 2040.” Archivist Dr. Sam Rushay discussed Truman’s fascination with roads and automobiles, along with his impact on transportation issues of the day in Jackson County. Tom Gerend of the Mid-America Regional Council provided a futuristic look at the pressing transportation issues of today, going forward.

Truman and his Stafford car at a picnic

1922 Jackson County, Missouri, campaign flyer

Button supporting Truman’s bond issue concerning roads


In September 2009, the Truman Center presented “Democracy’s Challenge: Reclaiming the Public’s Role,” the first of two Harry’s Front Porch Forums, focusing on Americans turning away from public life and becoming spectators, rather than participants. This was a small-group discussion format, led by a moderator.

Former President Harry S. Truman shakes hands with an unidentified man at the Truman Library ca. 1964


On October 5, 2009, the Truman Center hosted Dr. David Atkinson, UMKC’s Curators’ Distinguished Teaching Professor of Political Science and Law. Dr. Atkinson presented “Appointing the Supreme Court: From Truman to Obama,” in which he discussed the controversial appointments of Supreme Court Justices.

Dr. David Atkinson


In October 2009, the Truman Center participated in the second of Harry’s Front Porch Forums, titled “Preparing Today’s Kids for Tomorrow’s Jobs: What Should Our Community Do?” This small-group discussion focused on the preparation of today’s youth in a rapidly changing economy and world.

President Truman greeting a group of children


On October 20, 2009, authors Allis and Ronald Radosh visit Kansas City as guests of the Truman Center and the Jewish Community Relations Bureau. They discuss their new, highly acclaimed book, “A Safe Haven: Harry S. Truman and the Founding of Israel.”


On October 29, 2009, the Truman Center hosted United Nations Under-Secretary General, Dr. Radhika Coomaraswamy, to discuss the topic of children and armed conflict.

Dr. Radhika Coomaraswamy

Looking Ahead:Programming Ideas & Plans

Programming Ideas & Plans

Truman Legacy Public Affairs Series

  • The President as Manager of the Economy from Truman to Obama(Truman was the first president required to manage the economy by the Employment Act of 1946)

  • The President and the Intelligence Community from Truman to Obama (The CIA was created by Congress during Truman’s first term in the National Security Act of 1947)

  • The President and NATO from Truman to Obama (Truman signed and the U.S. Senate approved the NATO treaty in 1949)

Programming Ideas & Plans

Civic Engagement

  • Broaden Undergraduate Bootstrap Internship Program to include full semesters in D.C. and/or in local Congressional and other placement sites.

  • Identify and fund graduate student internships in local governments (also addresses County Governance initiative.)

  • Encourage service learning opportunities in public and governmental agency environments.

Programming Ideas & Plans

Civic Education

  • Workshops, seminars and brown bag lunches for middle school and high school civics teachers to meet public officials up close and personal (similar to the Taft Seminars for Teachers Program).

  • Learning modules or activities for middle schools social studies students on local government.

  • Essay or project contests for middle school students on local government issues.

Programming Ideas & Plans

Named Symposia & Prizes

  • We are examining the possibility of holding symposia on topics that link back to some aspect of Truman’s legacy and naming them to honor persons important in the public life of the Kansas City area in the recent past or in the name of the donor (or both).

  • We are looking at named prizes for some of the middle school civic education activities being planned.

We hope you have enjoyed the sights found along the “long road” to the start of the UMKC Truman Center. We welcome your questions and would enjoy an opportunity to visit with you regarding topics of interest or suggestions you have regarding the Center.

Dr. Dale Neuman

Program Director

phone: 816-235-2787


Gayla Curtis

Administrative Assistant

phone: 816-235-2720


If you are interested in donating to the Truman Center, please contact:

Debbie Kirchhoff

Development Director

phone: 816-235-5784


Visit us online at

Truman Center Logo

Commissioned by the Truman Center, and developed in

collaboration by UMKC Graphic Design students

Natosha Snidow, Riley Davis, and Samantha Kuns

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