Camp 43 Focuses on Leadership

Don’t count on meeting George W. Bush during Camp 43. Don’t count it out either.

The former president puts the free day camp for older teens on his schedule and likes to surprise participants if it works out, Sharon Brannon, education specialist for the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum, said.

While there’s no guarantee of a presidential encounter, camp participants can count on meeting government and industry leaders, working on leadership skills, and role-playing top decision makers during a national crisis simulation, she said.

“We want to help create informed citizens who are doing more and may evolve into government officials we can put our trust in,” Brannon said.

Camp 43: Leader of One, Leader of Many was conceived four years ago by the library’s education docents, who lead the program alongside the library’s education staff and with support of the George W. Bush Foundation.

“If you are really serious about leadership — if you are really serious about making an impact, not just in your personal life, but [in] the world — then this is the best camp to come to, because we are going to plant seeds that will grow,” Brannon said.

The first day, with “Leader of One” as the theme, focuses on personal values, principle-based decision making, goal setting, and planning. On day two, themed “Leader of Many,” students explore the challenges of leading others. Day three, themed “Leader in Action,” involves working together on leadership projects such as an annual reunion of Camp 43 participants.

Along the way, the teens build lasting relationships with each other and with new mentors from business and government, Brannon said.

“As they look for internships and references, they are set up for success,” Brannon said.

Woodrow Wilson High School senior Lauren Mora described the camp as a beneficial experience, in feedback she gave the library.

Teens attending Camp 43 tour the Oval Office and other rooms of the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum. (Photo courtesy Bobbi Gruner)

“The guest speakers and their accomplishments were amazing,” Mora said. “Hearing their real-world advice, and learning about their challenges and how they fought to overcome them, will absolutely help me when I enter the workforce.”

Camp 43 students also participate in the Situation Room Experience, which is not on the public tour.

In 2006, the president ordered a renovation and modernization of the White House Situation Room, and the Main Conference Room and the Secure Video Transmission Site were preserved and reinstalled at the George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan Presidential Libraries.

Both libraries run simulation experiences, allowing students to play the roles of cabinet members, news reporters, and other key leaders as a crisis simulation unfolds in real time.

Bobbi Gruner, public affairs and marketing manager at the Bush library, explained that tablet devices are used in detailing players’ roles and what information they may have.

“You have information that nobody else has,” Gruner said, adding that students must decide how or whether to share what they know.

The June camp is open to teens who will be high school juniors, seniors, or college freshmen in the fall.

Participation is limited to 24 students, chosen from applications that include three short essays and two letters of recommendation.

“We are not really looking for a straight-A student, but someone who has leadership potential that needs to be tapped into,” Brannon said.

The library primarily promotes Camp 43 to students at public, private, and charter schools across North Texas, but with the Internet and social media, word gets out across the country, Brannon said.

Last year, a participant came from Austin; two campers drove in each day from two hours away; and the camp would have had a participant from out of state except for a late cancellation.

“If you can get here and find a place to stay, you are welcome to come to the camp,” she said.

When: June 21-23

Cost: Free

Apply by: April 14


William Taylor

William Taylor, editor of Park Cities People and Preston Hollow People, shares a name and a birthday with his dad and a love for community journalism with his colleagues at People Newspapers. He joined the staff in 2016 after more than 25 years working for daily newspapers in such places as Alexandria, Louisiana; Baton Rouge; McKinney; San Angelo; and Sherman, though not in anywhere near that order. A city manager once told him that “city government is the best government” because of its potential to improve the lives of its residents. William still enjoys covering municipal government and many other topics. Follow him on Twitter @Seminarydropout. He apologizes in advance to the Joneses for any angry Tweets that might slip out about the Dallas Cowboys during the NFL season. You also can reach him at For the latest news, click here to sign up for our newsletter.

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