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Stanford junior selected for $30,000 Truman scholarship

Eric Beerbohm, a Stanford junior majoring in political science, is among 69 students nationwide to receive $30,000 Truman scholarships for 1997.

The scholarships are awarded annually to undergraduates who are committed to a career in government or public interest and public service organizations. There have been 37 Truman scholars from Stanford since 1977, including Beerbohm.

This year there were 718 applicants from 370 colleges and universities around the country. Each campus can nominate up to four students. Through an interview process 243 applicants were selected as finalists who then competed for up to 75 scholarships.

"Beerbohm has intensity, good spirits, intellectual acuity, the ability to listen and an absence of arrogance that make an impressive package," said Robert McGinn, Stanford's Truman Scholarship Faculty Representative, director of the interdisciplinary Science, Technology and Society Program and professor (teaching) of industrial engineering and engineering management.

Beerbohm, who is from Belmont, Calif., attended the Stanford in Washington program. While there he served in the Associate Attorney General's office in the Department of Justice and on the health policy team of the Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources. While at Justice he was involved in the department's deliberations on the California Civil Rights Initiative, legislation that it ultimately decided to oppose. While working on the Hill, Beerbohm got involved in the Newborn Protection Act, sponsored by Sen. Nancy Kassebaum, including drafting public remarks that the senator made on the subject.

While in Washington, Beerbohm also worked with homeless people at the So Others May Eat soup kitchen in Georgetown. Last year, he and several other students went to Skid Row in Los Angeles to make a video of homeless people. They produced a video that includes interviews with not only homeless people but also with policemen and policymakers in the area. They are currently looking for ways to distribute the documentary to high schools around the country.

"One of the things that really impressed me in Eric's application," said McGinn, "was his statement that in shooting this documentary he asked his people to sit down with their subjects over a cup of coffee and get to know them a little before pulling out the clipboards and cameras. He has the ability to treat individuals like this as people, rather than as statistics or victims."

During his last alternative spring break, Beerbohm worked with a youth community service organization in East Palo Alto on a program that brought young people from a number of local communities together with their peers in East Palo Alto. "It was fantastic to see kids from poor and wealthy neighborhoods interacting so well, even writing poetry together," he said.

Beerbohm has applied to become a coterminal senior and hopes to leave Stanford next year with both bachelor's and master's degrees. At this point he is not certain what he will do after graduating.

"I have a lot of different plans. I could see getting a law degree and going into civil rights law or staying on in academia to get a Ph.D. in government or philosophy," he said.


By David F. Salisbury