Zack Mason, a senior history major with a minor in philosophy, played the role of President Harry Truman in deciding whether to drop the atomic bomb on Japan in World War II. He says, "My experience playing such an important historical figure was both difficult and enlightening. On one hand, it was hard not to allow my own modern perspective to influence the way in which I addressed my role as President Truman. On the other hand, through playing the role I was able to realize the sheer magnitude of the implications that such a decision would entail. In the end, I left the role play with a greater appreciation of the challenges that men and women with great responsibilities face.
"Although we often judge people based on what they didn't do or what they could have done, this experience has made clear to me that hindsight often disregards the historical context in which the decisions were based. In the moment, great men and women, such as Harry Truman, have only one chance to do the right thing. If they don't, history and future generations will be their greatest judge. It is up to us to judge them fairly. "
Professors for the first year of the Critical Thought Symposium were Professor Cathy Anderson, professor of business administration and business law; Dr. Mohammed el-Nawawy, communication; Dr. Norris Frederick, philosophy; Dr. Karen Geiger, leadership, Dr. Mark Kelso, political science; Randy Kincaid, economics; Dr. Greg Pillar, environmental Science and chemistry; and Dr. Alexa Royden, political science and international studies.
Simulation topics have included the atomic bombing of Japan in World War II, German Reunification, the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction of 2011 (the Supercommittee), and a Volcanic Eruption Crisis. Intensive readings prepare the students with an overview of the situation and with particular information for the role they are playing. For example, for the German Reunification simulation, Drs. Kelso and Royden presented the students with a list of 27 resources with multiple points of view, including The Politics of Diplomacy, by James Baker; The Gorbachev Factor, by Archie Browne; Diplomacy and Disillusionment at the Court of Margaret Thatcher, by G. R. Urban; Mitterrand, The End of the Cold War, and German Unification, by Frederic Bozo.
After graduation, Zack Mason plans to study Greek and read literature for a year, then apply to graduate school in ancient history or ancient philosophy. He says, "I am grateful to have had the opportunity to take part in the Critical Thought Symposium for two important reasons. First, it has allowed me the chance to study many different events, both past and present. This has pushed me to take interest and become knowledgeable in subjects that I may not have otherwise studied. Second, and, most importantly, it has allowed me to take the insight I have gained from each role-play and apply it to the way in which I reflect on the most important things in life. As a member of a political community, I will have many roles within that community throughout my life. This course has done much to prepare me for those roles of an engaged citizen."