The Next Truman

A hard job, the presidency. Of this, our country, and of this time. It is difficult to lead in any country in this time.

Harder still, it seems, when so much attention is paid to your efforts (and your non-efforts). So I wonder what we are doing about nurturing and fostering leadership that still grows somewhere within our chaotic system of governing, waiting for its own time to bloom in the sunshine of attention.

Thought about this when reading a short summary of the “late blooming” of Harry S. Truman (1884 – 1972). This was written by Brendan Gill:

“It is a commonplace to say of Harry S. Truman that few men have ever been less prepared to assume the duties of president of the United States. No vice president under Franklin Delano Roosevelt would have been encouraged to share official responsibilities with him, but Truman had a further disadvantage: He was a comparative stranger to FDR, who had discarded Truman’s immediate predecessor in office, Henry A. Wallace, because his political advisers had said Wallace was too radical and would prove a handicap when FDR ran for an unprecedented fourth term.”

“Senator Truman of Missouri was the product of the Democratic party machine in Kansas City, and his early life had been marked by a series of failures, from farming to selling haberdashery. Little was expected of him when, at the age of sixty, he succeeded FDR. To the general surprise, Truman proved to be a tough-minded executive, who quickly made his weight felt in foreign affairs: He approved the dropping of the atmoic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki; he sponsored the Marshall Plan in Europe; and he dismissed General MacArthur at the height of the Korean War. He ran for president in his own right in 1948, against the seemingly more popular Republican candidate, Thomas E. Dewey, and defeated him. Two of his favorite remarks were ‘The buck stops here’ and ‘If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen.’ He declined to run in 1952, retiring to his home in Independence, Missouri, and becoming in his seventies and eighties one of the most respected and best-loved public figures of his time.”

When you consider your own workplace, or even your own family, or the community of public service closest to your home, who might the next Harry S. Truman be? What is he or she doing now?

Might our next Truman be you?


  1. says

    Two people I have always admired were Abraham Lincoln and Harry Truman. And for the same reasons:
    Both had to make extraordinary decisions during their time in office compared to any other President. Both failed miserably in seeking success in certain areas prior to becoming President; both were sorta “dark horses” and both, in my opinion, were extraordinary human beings and role models….then and now.
    Thanks for reminding us of Truman.