Creating a Classroom for Democracy
World-Shaping Issues and Global Access
Harry Truman’s greatest gift lay not in expression, but in decision – and in decision his courage and independence were exemplary. The list of his epoch-making decisions is extraordinary. Quite simply, Harry Truman changed the world.
– Abba Eban, Former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S.
Truman Library, April 19, 1998
In many ways, history becomes more clear the further away we stand. Bias and personal preference must move aside as time confirms what is true and enduring, and reveals what is ignoble and unstable. Such is the time-honored heritage and enduring power of the Truman legacy. Even Winston Churchill, a Truman contemporary not known for his high regard of many men, beyond his statesman father and himself, was bold in his assessment of Harry S. Truman’s stature and influence, “You more than any other man, have saved Western civilization.” (January 5, 1952).
For almost eight years, President Truman directed the United States through difficult days to new beginnings — the end of World War II, the establishment of the United Nations, the Truman Doctrine, the Marshall Plan, the desegregation of the Armed Forces, the recognition of Israel, the Korean conflict, the Berlin blockade and more. He is also remembered for his political prowess — his Whistlestop campaign, the day of the fair deal, his timeless values, decisiveness and commitment to democracy. At home and abroad, Truman left a permanent impression of historic proportions.
The Harry S. Truman Library Institute, Independence, Missouri, launched its $22.5 million capital campaign with a unique partnership between the public and private sectors. The Creating a Classroom for Democracy renovation project was initiated to support three fundamental concerns: pace-setting exhibits and educational spaces, outreach and public programs, and annual operations support.
On July 28, 2000 Missouri Governor Mel Carnahan announced a $2 million appropriation in state funding for the project. The money was given to support two new permanent exhibits as well as the Learning Center on Decision Making and Citizenship. (Gov. Carnahan was tragically killed in a plane crash in October 2000.) Federal funding followed in August 2000 when Senator Kit Bond announced bi-partisan support from the US Congress for an $8 million appropriation to be used toward the physical renovation of the 43-yr old building and to prepare it for expanded exhibitions and educational programs.
Renovations include: adjusting space on two floors for new permanent and temporary exhibit galleries, constructing rooms for the new Truman Library Learning Center, upgrading the museum lobby, constructing a new video theater, expanding the museums gift shop, modernizing the auditorium, expanding public meeting rooms in the museums east wing, upgrading the museums security system and environmental controls as well as providing accessibility for persons with disabilities.
For the last forty years, the Truman Library has been enjoyed by more than 8 million visitors. Over 10,000 on-site researchers have used the Truman Library archives, which house Truman’s presidential papers and 400 other unique collections. Hundreds of thousands of virtual visitors are now offered information via the internet. Growing interest in the conflicts and resolutions of the World War II era have increased the demand for the Truman Library programming and services.
The $22.5 million capital campaign, conducted with counsel from the consulting firm of Hartsook & Associates, encompassed 39,000 square feet of renovations and added 4,500 square feet of new construction. The original goal was allocated for the three major areas of emphasis: $9.38 million for the design, fabrication, and installation of the pacesetting exhibits and educational spaces, $5.12 million for expanded outreach and public programs and for five years of operating new educational programs, and $8 million for repair and upgrades to the existing building.
True leadership is the lesson taught in this Library that President Truman conceived as a classroom of democracy–and which, 40 years after it first opened is undergoing a fresh renewal and revitalization to reflect both the challenges and the opportunities of a new century. President Gerald R. Ford, May 8, 1998.
In May 2000, forty-five years to the day that Harry S. Truman broke ground for the Truman Library, construction for the Creating a Classroom for Democracy project was publicly announced. An important feature of the Library expansion and renovations was the White House Decision Center (WHDC). This exciting and interactive educational program offers 60 high school students per day an opportunity to step back in time and act as key policy advisors to the President on a specific issue such as the Berlin Airlift, desegregation of the Armed Services, the Korean stage of conflict, and other challenges of the Truman era. Students take the roles of the Secretary of State, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and other key officials involved in the Korean situation. After much discussion ad debate, taking place in seven meeting rooms resembling the West Wing of the White House, the students ultimately reach a Presidential decision on the days issue. Students will participate in research and analysis before defending their positions — bringing the classroom to life and exposing another generation to the real challenges of leadership and decision making.
Speaking at the May ceremony, the oldest grandson of President Truman, Clifton Truman Daniel, provided the keynote address. Beyond the Library there is a beautiful town here that supports the Library, said Daniel. Support for the campaign came from many corporations and individuals. Gifts of a million dollars or more were received from the Hall Family Foundation, the Sosland Foundation, James B. Nutter and family, as well as one anonymous donor.
Private funding will help support all areas of the Classroom for Democracy, explained Larry Hackman, Executive Director for the Truman Library during the capital campaign.
It was Larry’s vision and connectedness to the Kansas City community that gave this campaign momentum, said Bob Hartsook. While he may not have favored fund raising over his other duties, Larry’s sincerity and commitment to the Library and to the Classroom for Democracy gave him tremendous credibility and influence in the philanthropic community.
The Library’s renovated areas will open in phases beginning in February 2001 with the premiere of Presidential Portraits, a traveling exhibition from the Smithsonian Institutes National Portrait Gallery, in the Library’s new changing exhibitions gallery. The Presidential Galleries will focus on the major policies, decisions and events of the Truman Administration and offer an overview of the Truman legacy. The Life and Times Galleries will showcase artifacts that illustrate the story of Truman’s personal life.
Truman Library Institutes second annual gala Wild About Harry raised $155,000 to benefit Truman Library public programs. Hackman announced at this April 2000 event that the campaign had surpassed its original goal of $22.5 million, at that time raising $23.7 in cash and firm pledges, plus $1.6 in deferred gifts.
Hackman offered, The best part of the capital campaign has been the relationships that we have begun to develop with individuals and organizations here in Kansas City. Indeed, of the private gifts and pledges, more than 90 percent has come from the Kansas City area.
Donations of $5,000 and above are recognized on a donor wall in the Truman Library’s lobby. All donations are acknowledged in a book of donors (similar to the one created for donors of the original Library Building Fund in 1957) kept permanently at the museum.
Said Hackman, “We are deeply grateful to business and community leaders in Kansas City for their early support of this fundraising campaign. It is clear that they identify strongly with the Truman Library’s vision for the future. These contributions will help fulfill the hope that this Presidential library will be a Classroom for Democracy for all ages.”