Student Academic Grants and Awards

Truman Sample Questions

You may be asked questions about everything from the specifics of your policy proposal or your background experiences, grades or assignments in specific courses, and your opinions about aspects of Harry Truman's career or policies under his administration, to current affairs or your favorite fictional character. Expect the unexpected!
In the meantime, here are some sample questions from real Truman interviews to give you a sense of the range of inquiries you might face:

Questions about foreign relations and foreign policy:

  • If you were Secretary of State in 25/30 years- would you prioritize relationships with our dictator friends or enemies that act against our interest?
  • What are three things the U.S. can do to improve its image in the Arab World?
  • If you were a Congressman and the Dubai Ports vote came up and it was incredibly unpopular in your district, would you vote for it?
  • Who was the best Secretary of State in your mind? Was s/he a lawyer?
  • Did the Marshall Plan have any effect?

Questions about domestic policy:

  • What would you tell the President about immigration policy if you had two minutes to talk with him?
  • Other than your policy proposal subject, what policies do you see as important to discuss with the President?
  • If you had an opportunity to sit in front of the Head of the Dept. of Agriculture, what would you say to him about pesticides in strawberries? (in reference to discussion of pesticides)
  • Do you think children of illegal aliens should be allowed to attend government-funded schools?
  • Was NSA spying unconstitutional? If so, what provisions did it violate?
  • What do you think about "don't ask don't tell?"
  • I see you spent time at ____ Native American Reservation. What do you think about the UN's recommendation that the people be given back their land? How would you convince the Governor that this needed to happen?
  • What are the biggest strengths and limitations of the Americans with Disabilities Act? Is it reasonable to make every bench in a courtroom accessible?

Questions about civics:

  • You say that you want to work as an election law specialist, who is a person that currently has this kind of job?

    You mention that majority support in elections is critical but, isn't incumbency the real election woe?
  • What is your opinion of incumbency, term limits, the Electoral College?

    What are two policies you would implement to address term limits?

    What are the specific, negative effects of incumbency?

    You say that America is not a democracy, what kind of a government does America have? A dictatorship?

    Why is an electoral majority so important?
  • Why do you want to reform national politics? Aren't politicians inherently corrupt and power hungry?
  • I am going to write a primer for about America, can you tell me: what is a Democrat, and what is a Republican? (Grade your response)

Questions about policy proposals:

  • One of the problems facing transnational corporations (TNCs ) in enforcing better labor standards is that employees are forced to lie about their hours and working conditions. In your policy proposal you suggest a labor standard that TNCs would be held legally accountable for. How do you propose they get an accurate picture of what the labor standards are in these overseas locations?
  • Wouldn't these new higher labor standards result in a loss of competitive advantage for American TNCs?
  • On the domestic front, what are some of the major labor issues you see facing workers and businesses in the United States and how would you address them?
  • Your proposal would result in a rise in the cost of production; this would lead to a rise in the price for the consumer. Do you think consumers will actually care enough about labor standards that they would be willing to pay $400 for a pair of Nike shoes they previously paid only $200 for?
  • The laborers that are employed by these TNCs are happy to receive the $12 per week they get. This is enough to feed their family, send their kids to school, and live a decent life. Why do you think it makes sense to raise wages and conditions for them, and raise costs and prices for us, just to improve on something that already is an improvement for workers from their previous economic condition?
  • Isn't evaluating students subjective? (proposal related to the No Child Left Behind Act, shifting emphasis from standardized testing scores to teacher evaluations of students)
  • Who is the most influential Superintendent of Schools and Secretary of Education?
  • Do there need to be different teaching methods for male and female students, who show differences in test scores?
  • What is meta-learning? Can you give an example? (policy proposal was on teaching meta-learning [learning to learn] in schools)
  • What are your favorite educational statutes?
  • If you had two minutes with President Bush, how would you make a case that he needs to spend federal funds on preserving Native American languages?
  • Why did you write your policy proposal on this topic out of all the other problems that could be addressed?
  • Did you write your policy proposal because it was achievable or because it was important?

Questions about academics:

  • With your emphasis on economics, doesn't it make more sense for you to major in economics than International Relations?
  • What is a recent issue that you read about that used Econometrics?
  • About your transcript-why didn't you get any units for the algebra II course you took?
  • What is the most difficult part of OLS (Ordinary Least Squares Regression)?
  • What are Gini coefficients? (math/economics relation question)
  • Why is math important?
  • Looking at the course you took on the Holocaust, how did you learn the importance of considering different sides of an issue?

Questions about personal background and plans:

  • You are pretty focused on local work. Do you see yourself doing something nationally?
  • Why study international law if you want to work in the State Department?
  • Why would you stick to public service if offered a $500K job at an international law firm?
  • Why parachuting? What does it bring to your future as an officer? How does it contribute to society?
  • Given that you were home-schooled and haven't been through K-12 in the public schools, what makes you qualified to affect the education system? Given that you were home-schooled and haven't been through K-12, why would you want to help the education system?
  • How is being a teacher going to help you affect policy?
  • If you decided to drop out of teaching, what would you do with your life?

Questions about anything and everything else:

  • Why are organizations formed?
  • What are the three best things the Bush administration has done?
  • Can an occupational force create a democracy?
  • What play would you recommend for President Bush to see and why? What role would you have him play (in a well-known play) and why?
  • What do you think of charter schools?
  • If you could be any public official and implement any one policy, who and what would you/it be?
  • Who would you choose as the next Nobel Laureate in Economics? (Explain the idea and the person)
  • What does the race statistic tell us about the military? (Referring to statement about 40% of enlisted females are black…not representative of U.S. demographics)
  • If you were a professor, how would you still be a change agent or affect policy?
  • There is currently a Hawaiian Sovereignty movement. How would you decide who is considered Hawaiian and who can vote?
  • What book have you read in the past year that has had the most impact on you?
  • So you want to spend a year in Japan teaching English; what are their views on gay rights? How are you going to reconcile your views with living in a country that does not acknowledge this? (in response to her position on the issue)
  • What is the main difference between Japan's political system and the United States system?
  • Name a national news story from the past week that has interested or horrified you.
  • Have there been any U.S. court cases that inspired you to pursue disability law?
  • Can people with vision or hearing impairments be effective members of a jury?
  • Can a person who speaks a foreign language be an effective jury member?
  • What would you do to determine if a person with a cognitive disability is an honest, valid witness?
  • As a judge, if an Alaskan man supporting his family on subsistence were convicted of domestic violence, would you take away the gun with which he hunts to provide his family's sole source of food?