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Monday, August 17, 2009


We miss Truman. We miss the country he was president of a whole lot more.

Harry Truman

Harry Truman was a different kind of President. He probably made as many important decisions regarding our nation's history as any of the other 42 Presidents. However, a measure of his greatness may rest on what he did after he left the White House.

The only asset he had when he died was the house he lived in, which was in Independence,Missouri . His wife had inherited the house from her mother and other than their years in the White House, they lived their entire lives there.

When he retired from office in 1952, his income was a U.S. Army pension reported to have been $13,507.72 a year. Congress, noting that he was paying for his stamps and personally licking them, granted him an 'allowance' and, later, a retroactive pension of $25,000 per year..

After President Eisenhower was inaugurated, Harry and Bess drove home to Missouri by themselves. There were no Secret Service following them.

When offered corporate positions at large salaries, he declined, stating, "You don't want me. You want the office of the President, and that doesn't belong to me. It belongs to the American people and it's not for sale."

Even later, on May 6, 1971, when Congress was preparing to award him the Medal of Honor on his 87th birthday, he refused to accept it, writing, "I don't consider that I have done anything which should be the reason for any award, Congressional or otherwise."

As president he paid for all of his own travel expenses and food.

Modern politicians have found a new level of success in cashing in on the Presidency, resulting in untold wealth. Today, many in Congress also have found a way to become quite wealthy while enjoying the fruits of their offices. Political offices are now for sale. (sic. Illinois )

Good old Harry Truman was correct when he observed, "My choices in life were either to be a piano player in a whore house or a politician. And to tell the truth, there's hardly any difference!

I say dig him up and clone him!!


RE: Harry Truman: Virtute non astutia (character not craftiness).

Dear Steven and friends:

Very Amusing and as far as I know completely true. {SEE ABOVE}

Truman also spoke very unfavorably of Lyndon Johnson’s integrity which is interesting since they came from the same party. Truman did not hesitate to call Richard Nixon a ‘”no good lying bastard” and seemed to predict that Nixon’s duplicity would be his greatest Nemesis. And Truman was the least formally educated of all our modern presidents –never getting past high school.

But we know from the David McCullough biography that Truman was a great reader and an autodidact. Truman learned from what he read and from what he experienced. Truman said: “In reading the lives of great men, I found that the first victory they won was over themselves... self-discipline with all of them came first. “

Truman was , in all aspects , of his life, from his business partnership and its bankruptcy, his austere lifestyle in Washington, his lack of interest in money, his great integrity and civic virtue a man of integrity. His ability to change and grow wiser were remarkable. WWIII changed his attitudes on race –and he admitted this- and Truman, if he had ever been anti-Semitic or anti-Catholic –and there is no evidence of this- did all that he could not to display bigotry. He was encouraged and invited to join the Klan in the 1920’s to further his political appeal but he found their bigotry unacceptable. Integrity defined his personal and public life. Samuel Johnson wrote “Integrity without knowledge is weak and useless, and knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful”.

Truman was a Lincoln in his devotion to the truth, public service in the true sense of the word –sacrifice not self-aggrandizement. He said, famously, “I never did give anybody hell. I just told the truth and they thought it was hell.”

Truman was brave –he had great physical and moral courage- and he was humble yet wise.

I admire Truman and his legacy because like Lincoln he had great faith in America and the proposition that “all men are created equal” and endowed with natural rights which certainly are “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” (the Declaration) and within reason embrace with great seriousness not only life and liberty but also “property” rights (The Constitution).

Truman, like Lincoln, believed in Right and Wrong and the immutability of truth. Truman had confidence in the rightness of his opinions and acted accordingly and when he made a mistake he owned up to it. Never apologizing and never admitting that one does not know all the facts is evidence of a very dangerous attitude of hubris or vainglory.

Truman knew that people change their minds –he did on race- and that mankind in the course of history had passed up and down from knowledge to incomplete knowledge to error and prejudice and then overcoming error, prejudice and attempting as far as humanly possible to gain true knowledge and wisdom. In his wisdom he knew not all could be known but when he made a decision he stuck with it and moved on. He did the best he could where he was with what he had and who could ask for anything more of a U.S. president?

Yes, Truman excelled in the American virtues.

Truman celebrated the importance of Duty to the Republic, under God, but also to individuals whose natural rights demanded they be treated with dignity, freedom and respect. Truman’s life was one of simplicity, self-control and moderation yet he was not excessively Puritanical –he drank whiskey, played cards and used, at times, a taste for manly, soldierly, direct and profane language, a habit he no doubt did not learn in school but as an officer of men in the field. For let us not forget, Truman was one of the Doughboys who helped secure the freedom and security of Britain and Europe against the Kaiser and his legions. Truman was, in fact, a hero of two great wars and a true soldier of freedom and justice.

As a Christian he refused the accolades of Glory per se and though like any other man Truman had pride but he always moderated his pride as a man and as an American with humility. It is this combination of meekness and courage combined with a gentle, humble and merciful heart, purged of most conceit and selfishness that really were the mark of this truly admirable and very American character.

Truman did not encourage the USA and the UN to recognize Israel as an independent state because it was popular or an easy thing to do but because it was right. Truman said “I had faith in Israel before it was established, I have in it now. I believe it has a glorious future before it - not just another sovereign nation, but as an embodiment of the great ideals of our civilization.” I believe no man has ever said it better. Truman recognized we, the gentiles, should never forget the great gifts of the Jews to all humanity.

I of course never met Truman nor his contemporaries but I did have the opportunity some years ago (the early 1970’s) to meet Earl Miller, FDR’s personal bodyguard –formerly of the New York State Police- and speak to him as regards to his opinion of the great statesmen with whom he had contact. He was personal friends with Gus Gennerich and all of the inner circle of FDR’s personal bodyguards who were all composed of New York City Police officers and New York State Policemen who first came into service when FDR became governor of New York.

Naturally, Miller loved FDR and had the highest regard for Mrs. Roosevelt. He told me interesting and amusing stories about FDR driving with him at high speeds in his specially designed convertible. Miller said to me of FDR “either he was the greatest actor in the world or he was a man who deeply cared about people. And that’s what I believe. He was like everyone’s favorite uncle. I loved him. I would have laid down my life for him.” Of Churchill he said “bodyguards and servants did not even exist for him; he seemed to have aristocratic contempt for them.”

And what of Truman?

Miller said quite truthfully he did not really get to know Truman well because FDR so rarely called upon his services.

But Miller said something that was very interesting. Truman had the reputation of being a very simple, unassuming man who was very considerate with his drivers, with the White House servants and cooks. Miller said he might have been the most beloved and respected man ever to live in the White House among the workers there with the possible exception of FDR himself. That of course was just one man’s opinion but it seemed to me to be a very worthy and informed opinion though of course not without prejudice. But I am not likely ever to come closer to the truth than this.

Harry S. Truman was an American Cincinnatus in the tradition of Lincoln and Washington.

Truman was not the most influential and greatest of the 20th century presidents but he was a very competent and honest president with a strong and successful foreign policy and a man who was an extremely important precursor for the Civil Rights achievements of the 1950’s and 1960’s

Truman was and remains a great example for what a democratic statesman can be at his best.

We shall never see his like again in this age of voluptuous, profligate politicians who live drink, party like Lords of some Imperial Empire while they write laws for confiscating other people’s earnings to use as their free spending money.

Truman inspired patriotism and civic responsibility; the pols of today mostly without term limits in their safe gerrymandered districts do just the opposite. No wonder many citizens are so demoralized they never vote and no wonder taxes are so high and our government is a web of corruption, secret insider deals, lavish living, immorality, sexual scandals, special favors, incompetence, parasitism, nepotism and waste.

Harry Truman was an exemplar of civic virtue and he knew our free society was based up a limited government as well as a positive passion for the public or common good.

Truman knew that the survival of the American Republic is not based on arms, though arms we need, nor on material prosperity, though we should seek some measure of material security as a basis of civilized life but upon the education and character of our citizens and their elected leaders.

Harry Truman: virtute non astutia (character not craftiness).

Harry Truman was a great man, a leal and true man who makes one proud to be an American and have lived during his lifetime.

He needs no monument.

The whole Free World is his monument.

Ne obliviscaris (do not forget): Harry Truman. Never was a man more truly named than Harry Truman.

Yours mostly sincerely and with deepest respect,


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Animo Non Astutia is twin of your quote about Truman who is one of my heroes, Munro. Please do yourself a favor today, 9/11/09 and read Fr. George Rutler's words in the link I sent to another place we are both joined up. He mentions the word if only to point out how clever are the ones who have neither courage nor character.

Peadar Ban