Saturday, August 22, 2009

Give 'em hell, Harry!

Although I was a small child when Harry S. Truman was president, I do have hazy memories of Mother and Daddy talking about a newspaper headline stating that Dewey had defeated Truman.
"I kind of feel sorry for Dewey," says Mother, "Don't you?"
"No, I don't," laughs Daddy, "I'm just glad Truman got back in!"
I remember the adults quoting him: "The buck stops here," "If you can't stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen," and the hoopla caused when a man yelled, "Give 'em hell, Harry!"
I remember seeing him in the newsreels at Milwain's; in one, he was walking at a fast clip around the White House grounds, Secret Service and newsmen trying to keep up. And I remember everyone talking about the atomic bomb. And Hiroshima.
A few days ago, a friend shared some little-known facts about our thirty-third president, and I found it most interesting.
Many U. S. scholars today rank Harry S. Truman among the top ten presidents. He probably made as many important decisions regarding our nation's history as any of the other forty-two presidents.
Truman paid for his own travel expenses and food when he was president. And when President Eisenhower was inaugurated, Truman and wife Bess drove home to Missouri by themselves. There were no Secret Service following him. (I can just picture the Trumans, giddy with relief, speeding toward Missouri, the weight of the world off their shoulders!)
The only asset he had when he died was the house in which he lived. His wife had inherited the house in Independence, Missouri from her mother, and other than their years in the White House, the Trumans 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. After Congress discovered he was paying for his own stamps and personally licking them, he was granted an 'allowance.' Later, he received a retroactive pension of $25,000 per year.
When offered corporate positions at large salaries, he declined. "You don't want me," he said, "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."
Today, politicians have found a new level of success in cashing in on the Presidency, resulting in untold wealth. Many in Congress also have found a way to become wealthy while enjoying the fruits of their offices.
"My choices in life were either to be a piano player in a whore house or a politician," Harry Truman once said, "And to tell the truth, there's hardly any difference!"
I agree. Today's politicians have proven that.


Anonymous said...

A priceless wealth of knowledge, you are!

Suzanne said...

Great piece!

Suz said...

I enjoyed this so much!

Way back when dirt was still young and I was in college, I admired what I learned about Harry Truman, and it's been good to see how in the following decades his good points have become more generally appreciated.

Rhonda Hartis Smith said...

Ah the good old days!

Brenda said...

Thanks, y'all! Too bad there aren't politicans like Harry anymore.

All words and pictures © 2008 Brenda G. Wooley