Once a year in the middle of February I make the long trek to Annapolis, Maryland to help the Truman Foundation read through its applications for the coming year’s class of Truman Scholars.  I leave my SLS applications behind (well, not completely behind because as long as I have my laptop you are always with me) and hop on that non-stop flight from SFO to BWI and then enter a very different world for a few days.  I sit among a few other admissions colleagues, I sit among former Truman Scholars who are now dedicated public servants, I sit among scientists, I sit among doctors, I sit among former deans, and I sit among policy makers.  And we read, and we discuss, and we make decisions. [As a funny aside, I fondly remember a dinner from a few years back where a small group of us grabbed dinner at a local Annapolis restaurant.  Conversation at one point focused on running for political office because it became clear that a number of those sitting around the dinner table had that common experience.  I had one of those OMG moments where I just cringed from thinking I did not belong at this table.  They’re going to ask me about public office and I have nothing to offer up.  Well, being the egalitarian group that they were, the question did finally reach me.  But, hey, I rose to the occasion because I remembered that I had indeed run for office.  Never mind that it was way back in middle school – yes, 8th grade to be exact – but, I had in the fact run for student body vice-president!  What a relief.  Of course, most important was the fact that I succeeded in bringing comic relief to the table as things were getting way too serious.  What happened to talking about good books we’ve just read?  What offices we’ve run for?  Come on.]

In reality, leaving cozy Palo Alto in February to head back to the storm-ridden east coast for four days spending time reading another organization’s applications may not seem to make a whole lot of sense. It’s not as though I’m caught up with my work here as there are still many files yet to be read.  It’s not as though the phone has stopped ringing and the emails have slowed down.  Then why do I make this journey?  Beyond the obvious reason of being involved with a great organization, it all has to do with what I take away with me after reading the Truman applications.  I walk away amazed at what college students committed to public service are capable of doing and I walk away amazed with their sense of purpose.  I walk away reassured with the knowledge that I have seen an engaged and committed group of young people who will be shaping policies, creating organizations, and building bridges in the years to come.  I walk away knowing we are in good hands.

I’ve not forgotten you, though, SLS applicants.  I took that non-stop back to SFO from BWI and landed by 9:30 am.  How did I spend my Sunday? Watching the Angels and Demons DVD I’ve had on loan from Netflix for the last 8 weeks?  No.  Reading the latest issue of Saveur which highlights Los Angeles cuisine?  No.  Watching a recently taped episode of Criminal Minds (you know I’m a fan)?  No.  I logged on to the computer and pulled up files, hunkered down and spent the day reading.  My focus is back on you.  Another round of offers went out this week and the work continues.