Presidential Leadership Scholars Module Two recap 

The PLS Class of 2024 met for the second time last month at the Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock, Arkansas. Over the course of three days, Scholars had the opportunity to dive into the module theme of “Vision and Communication” and learn valuable lessons on leadership from President Bill Clinton, as well as guest speakers Secretary Henry Cisneros, Secretary Rodney Slater, former White House press secretary Dee Dee Myers, and Congressman French Hill. 

Thursday began with a warm welcome from Stephanie Streett, Executive Director of the Clinton Foundation, and the opportunity for Scholars to explore the Clinton Presidential Library and Museum, which showcase the legacy of President Clinton’s life and administration.  

That evening, Scholars had the privilege of hearing from President Clinton himself, who took part in a Q&A moderated by PLS Co-Director Mike Hemphill. During the hourlong conversation, he gave the Scholars insight into what galvanized his interest in public service, how to connect with people who don’t agree with you, and how to maintain optimism in moments of defeat. 

Friday kicked off with an early start at the Clinton Center, where Scholars had a classroom session with Hemphill. They learned strategies to effectively frame the core statements of their personal leadership projects.   

A conversation with Cisneros followed. Cisneros, who served as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in the Clinton Administration, shared insight on how he got involved with public service, his transition from Mayor of San Antonio to Secretary, and how his time in the Clinton Administration impacted his approach to leadership. 

Scholars also heard from Myers, who was the first woman and the second-youngest person to hold the position. She spoke to the Scholars about her journey to the White House, how she dealt with being a young woman in a predominantly male workplace, and what leadership means to her. 

“Leadership has to be authentic to who you are and where you come from,” Myers said. “There are many, many paths to leadership. The idea that there’s one path and that leaders are a certain type of person – which for so long was a male and preferably White – that has changed dramatically.” 

Slater, who served as Secretary of Transportation in the Clinton Administration, told Scholars about his experience working with President Clinton since he was the Governor of Arkansas. He also discussed how he leveraged his experience and leadership as Secretary to bring equity into transportation for communities across the country. 

As his conversation – and Module Two – came to a close, Slater shared a simple yet profound insight on what it means for Scholars to embark on their own leadership journeys. 

“I think, at the essence, that’s what our country is all about: It’s about believing that tomorrow can be better than today. It’s about believing that we, through our individual efforts, can be a part of creating that more perfect union. It’s about our founders starting out with the words, `We the People’ in crafting the government that now governs us. And it’s about all of us believing that we are part of these people.”