No. 1271



Have you ever known someone who, long after they were dead and buried, you would like to dig up and clone? If there has ever been a good candidate for this, former President Harry Truman would be at the top of my list.
I have always liked President Truman. In fact, he is one of my all-time favorites of all the men who have served in our nation’s highest office. To be sure, he 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 preceding him. However, a measure of his greatness may rest on what he did after he left the White House.
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 Truman drove home to Missouri by themselves. There was 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. Now, several decades later, considering what has happened since those days I believe you will agree that Harry Truman was indeed “A Different Kind of President.”
If you keep up with the news today, you know that 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 office. Personal offices are now for sale. Good old Harry 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.” And a quick aside, it is somewhat ironic that he was from Missouri. Over the years I have known a good number of people from this great state, and it is true that in most cases you do have to show them. In case you don’t know, Missouri is known as the “Show Me State.”
In light of Harry Truman’s great example, we might ask the question – Where have we gone wrong? I think most politicians want to get into public service for the right reasons, but then greed and ego seem to take over and WE THE PEOPLE are forgotten.
Personally, I believe those who came after Harry Truman simply reflect the values and attitudes of the society around them. When you have an ever increasing violent culture, more fraud, corruption and scams, and less character and integrity on behalf of most Americans, we are truly reaping what we have sown. As one from the older generation who relates to the values lived out by Harry Truman, I pray for America to have a spiritual revival. Franklin Graham is right: only when our nation returns to God, will things really change and get better.
(Editor’s Note: JIM DAVIDSON is an author, public speaker, syndicated columnist and founder of the Bookcase for Every Child project. Since its inception in 1995, Jim’s column has been self-syndicated to over 375 newspapers in 35 states, making it one of the most successful in the history of American journalism.)