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Harry Truman

I, as I suspect most of you do, like to read. My family over the years has blessed me with more books than I can read in a reasonable amount of time. (I read pretty slowly, but I am persistent!) These books get backed up, on every available surface in our home. Consequently most don’t get read right away. In this case, however, I got on this one quickly. Knowing my love of people and in particular biography, my daughter Abbey gave me a book written in 1992 by historian David McCullough for my 50th birthday in November.(excellent choice Abbey) The book is simply titled, Truman (our 33rd president), and is an amazing ride through a very tumultuous time in our nation’s history. I had no idea. Mr. Truman often gets overlooked, he succeed FDR and came before General Eisenhower. The two giants of the 20th century. Someone loaned me a copy of this book, probably 20 years ago, and I never read it. Not interested, I guess. Mr. Truman could not possibly be worth a thousand pages of text and ten years of research by the author. I figured it would be tedious. How naive I was, and often still am. This was one of the best books I have ever read.


To put it into historical context, in his first 4 months in office, Mr. Truman made more world shaping decisions than most presidents do in one term, sometimes two. He ended WWII, oversaw the Marshall plan, crafted the Truman doctrine, helped create NATO, dropped the first A bomb, met with Churchill and Stalin, instituted the Berlin airlift… the list goes on.


What makes the story so compelling is that he was not just a farm boy, but a farm boy that never went to college and he grew up in the middle of the US far from the eastern power structure. He had only local connections in the Kansas City area, and those were of dubious character.


Any person can be president. His story is worth every page.


What makes the book so interesting is Truman innate optimism. To quote McCullough, “An optimist was a person who thinks things can be done. No pessimist ever did anything for the world. Billy Graham said the end of the world was coming, but Truman didn’t believe it.” He was often considered naive and he was the first to admit he needed a ton of help to run the presidency. He surrounded himself with excellent people. He did not whine or complain. Even while lying in a non air-conditioned hospital during a Missouri summer, the president did not complain or ask for special privileges. There is something so refreshing in a human that does not include entitlement. He was a man of the people and he believed strongly in their ability to decide on issues right and wrong.


Mr. Truman was an early riser, a fast walker, (a shot of bourbon came on the heels of his morning jaunt), a faithful husband, a doting father, generous, loyal, and a very hard worker. He dressed well, loved cars, and played poker whenever he could. He was good to the white house staff, the secret service and anyone in a lower station. He hated pretense and did not strive for popular approval. He strove only to do right by the office he held and the American people and the global citizens as well, as evidenced by his stand in Korea to contain the spread of communism. The list goes on. And on. And on.


In this season of political, social, and economic uncertainty, take some time to read some of our nation’s history. It is good medicine and exactly what this Doctor is ordering. Start with Truman, by David McCullough.




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