Roslyn Dawson Thompson was in the big crowd at the George W. Bush Presidential Center on Thursday, June 27, for a graduation ceremony honoring the 2019 class of Presidential Leadership Scholars (PLS). The PLS is an executive-style leadership program that former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush started five years ago. Those selected for the program spend six months learning about topics like communication and decision making from the experiences of former presidents Clinton; Bush; Bush’s father, George H.W. Bush; and Lyndon B. Johnson.
This year’s class of 58 scholars boasted five North Texans, including two Ros had showed up to support: Thear Suzuki and Alan Cohen. (Ros knows both in her capacity as president and CEO of the Texas Women’s Foundation.) According to the program’s organizers, each presidential scholar is charged with choosing an issue or problem to work on during the six months. Thear, who’s Americas Advisory Talent Leader at Ernst & Young, used her time to create a “leadership program that provides deep awareness and learning about invisible gender differences in the workplace.” Alan focused on developing the Child Poverty Action Lab nonprofit in Dallas.
Another 2019 scholar from North Texas, Ian Dailey of Linking the World, spent his six months assessing how to transform Linking the World into a for-profit consulting firm. Meantime, scholars Mark Haidar of Dallas’ Vinli Inc. said he “created a foundation to address global peace by helping youth in high-conflict areas,” and Jamila Thomas, a consultant from Cedar Hill, spent her time in the program developing “collaborative action models … to address the needs of juveniles currently and formerly incarcerated.”
During the graduation ceremony, held in the Bush Center auditorium on the campus of Southern Methodist University, former Presidents Bush and Clinton praised the PLS program, which now has graduated nearly 300 leaders in its five years. If people are “discouraged about the future of our country, I strongly suggest they meet people from PLS classes,” Bush said. Added Clinton about the program, which boasts geographic, ideological, and ethnic diversity among its scholars: “Diverse groups make better decisions than homogeneous ones.”
Before the ceremony, Bush and Clinton visited with Big Thought CEO Byron Sanders at one of Big Thought’s youth programs on the SMU campus. Sanders, a graduate of the Presidential Leadership Scholars Class of 2017, said his experience with PLS inspired him to leave his job in finance and join Big Thought. The PLS program is supported by entities including three founding partners: The Moody Foundation, the W.W. Caruth Jr. Foundation at the Communities Foundation of Texas, and the Miles Foundation in Fort Worth.
* Photo provided by Grant Miller for the George W. Bush Presidential Center