Harry S. Truman Distinguished Lecture Series

Truman Lecture Series

The Harry S. Truman Distinguished Lecture Series began in 1971 when former President Harry S. Truman gave his stamp of approval for Avila University (then Avila College) to offer a lecture series in his name. Later that year, the first Truman lecture was delivered by David E. Bell, vice president of the Ford Foundation and Truman’s first administrative executive.

2020 Truman lecture

The 2020 Harry S. Truman Distinguished Lecture centers around the book Life in a Jar by Jack Meyer, this year’s First-Year Experience Common Reading. Life in a Jar is a dramatization of the life of Irena Sendler, a Polish Catholic social worker who organized a rescue network of fellow social workers to save 2,500 Jewish children during the Second World War. Her story disappeared until it was rediscovered by three Kansas high school girls and refashioned into a drama, now performed across the globe.

Due to restrictions of Covid19, the Truman Lecture has been modified for 2020. Our presenters, Norm Conard of the Life in a Jar Foundation and Megan Felt of the Lowell Milken Center for Unsung Heros, will be presenting virtually to a socially distanced in-person gathering of the Avila University first-year class. All other campus community members and friends of the University will be able to join us virtually via a live stream of the event.

Thursday, October 22, 2020
3 p.m.

2020 Event links

Watch recording on YouTube: Link Coming Soon
Open the Digital Program: Click Here

Recent Truman Lectures

On an early September morning in 2006, 19-year old Utah college student Reggie Shaw was driving on a highway he’d taken hundreds of times before. This particular morning he was also texting to his girlfriend when his car crossed the yellow line, hitting another car and causing the death of James Furfaro and Keith O’Dell. Reggie initially denied that he was texting and driving, eventually admitting his guilt when faced with damning evidence. A Deadly Wandering is built on a series of articles in The New York Time written by Pulitzer Prize winner Matt Richtel. The narrative of the book centers on this horrific crash, the aftermath and the scientific studies on human attention.

Reggie Shaw delivered the 2019 Harry S. Truman Distinguished Lecture on October 14 on the campus of Avila University. Since 2008, Reggie has given more than 300 presentations around the country, telling his story in heart-wrenching honesty. His public speaking began as a court order, but it quickly became his mission to impact others with his very personal, very passionate, message against distracted driving. “Don’t be like me.”

To view pictures from the 2019 Truman Lecture click here.

New York Times bestselling author and inventor, William Kamkwamba delivered the 2018 Harry S. Truman Distinguished Lecture on October 24 on the campus of Avila University. Kamkwamba spoke on his inspired autobiography The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, which tells the story of human inventiveness and its power to overcome crippling adversity.

Born in Malawi, a country where magic ruled and modern science was a mystery, Kamkwamba grew up in a land of drought and hunger where hope and opportunity were hard to find. Then Kamkwamba discovered a book about windmills. He dreamed big. Kamkwamba was going to build a windmill that would bring electricity and water to his village and change his family’s life forever. Mocked him and called “crazy,” Kamkwamba shows them, and all of us, what grit and ingenuity and hope could do.

To view pictures from the 2018 Truman Lecture click here.

Award-winning novelist and memoirist, Reyna Grande, delivered the 2017 Harry S. Truman Distinguished Lecture on October 18 on the campus of Avila University. Grande spoke on her memoir The Distance Between Us, which tells the story of growing up split from her parents by the pull of the United States and her journey to America when her father brought her and her siblings across the border.

Grande was two when her father left the family in Mexico and crossed the border into the United States, hoping to earn enough money to build a home in Mexico when he returned. He later sent for their mother, but left Reyna and her siblings, who suffered a great hardship under the unforgiving hands of their father’s mother. Abandoned by both parents, the three endured but longed for the return of their mother and father. After an eight-year absence, her father took the children with him across the border.

To view pictures from the 2017 Truman Lecture click here.


“A long life in public service has convinced me that the future of this country rests squarely on the right – and the obligation – of its citizens to do what you are doing tonight – to inform yourselves about the important public issues so that you can act, and vote, on the basis or knowledge and not prejudice.”

Former President Harry S. Truman / Opening of the first Truman Lecture / October 12, 1971
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