Again, I tread lightly when selecting a person from the political realm. But as with Ronald Reagan (Great American Things, February 7, 2011), I admire Harry Truman for the kind of person he was, not just for the job he did as President. But I do admire that as well.
Truman was plucked from obscurity by Franklin Roosevelt to succeed Henry Wallace as Vice President for FDR’s third (and fourth) term. Well, being a U.S. Senator from Missouri isn’t quite obscurity, but Truman wasn’t a leader on the national stage. When Roosevelt died unexpectedly of a cerebral hemorrhage, Truman became the leader of the free world in the midst of a world war.Upon taking office, he said, “Boys, if you ever pray, pray for me now. I don’t know if you fellas ever had a load of hay fall on you, but when they told me what happened yesterday, I felt like the moon, the stars, and all the planets had fallen on me.”
He performed admirably, making the difficult decision to drop the A-bomb on Japan that ended the conflict. Among his other notable accomplishments were implementing the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe, creating the Air Force and the CIA, airlifting crucial supplies to break the blockade of West Berlin, recognizing the state of Israel, and assuring civilian control of the military by firing Gen. Douglas MacArthur.
Truman said of his life, “I always remember an epitaph which is in the cemetery at Tombstone, Arizona. It says: ‘Here lies Jack Williams. He done his damnedest.’ I think that is the greatest epitaph a man can have…That is all you can ask of him and that is what I have tried to do.”