Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Give 'Em Hell, Harry!*

Harry S. Truman was President of the United States from April 12, 1945, when he was sworn in following the death of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, until January 20, 1953, when Dwight D. Eisenhower was inaugurated to succeed him. He was the 33rd president and it was during his term of office that the Baby Boom generation came into being. It can fairly be said that the Boomers' parents, and so by extension the Boomers themselves, were affected by the policies, politics and principles of Harry S. Truman. If George Washington was the "Father of Our Country" it can safely be said that Harry Truman was the "Father of the Baby Boom".

Mr. Truman was noted as much for the type of politician he was as for his politics. He was, in a phrase, "plain-spoken", known for telling it like it is, especially when speaking about Republicans and their policies - hence the phrase, "Give 'em hell, Harry!", about which he was reported to say, "I never give them hell, I just tell the truth and they think that it is hell".  Unlike most politicians, Mr. Truman didn't waffle on issues or hesitate to take a stand - "I never sit on a fence. I am either on one side or another". When a decision was necessary he made it, and he never backed away from responsibility for the consequences, most famously the decision to use the Atomic Bomb to bring an end to World War II. "It was the hardest decision I ever had to make. But the President cannot duck hard problems - he cannot pass the buck." So let's call him forthright, decisive,  and willing to take responsibility - we should never settle for less in anyone who aspires to the high office of president.

As to his politics, Harry Truman was a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat who believed in the core principles of the party. "Every man should have the right to a decent home, the right to an education, the right to adequate medical care, the right to a worth-while job, the right to an equal share in the making of public decisions through the ballot and the right to a fair trial in a fair court." (July 6, 1947) As to the role of government in securing these rights, this excerpt from his State of the Union address on January 7, 1948, sums up his view: " We do believe that governments are created to serve the people and that economic systems exist to minister to their wants. We have a profound devotion to the welfare and rights of the individual as a human being."  He was passionate that the Democratic party was the right party for America, as he stated at a rally Chicago in September, 1953: "It is our duty to win if we can - for the simple reason that the principles and programs of the Democratic party are what's best for the United States.

All of that was more than 65 years ago; we Baby Boomers have grown old and been replaced by Gen- Xers and they in turn are giving way to the Millenials, with Generation Z (still waiting for a catchy new name) waiting in the wings for its turn. How would a man like Harry S. Truman fare in politics today, and how would his principles and policies apply to the political issues facing the nation in the second decade of the twenty-first century?  Those are the questions that I hope to explore in advance of the upcoming mid-term elections, perhaps with the hope of nudging some folks around to see that what was good for the country in the mid-twentieth century is still good for the country today.

To that end I have created a facebook page (because "social media" seems to be where it's at these days and fb is the only one I know how to use) where I will share posts and articles on current events from various sources and then discuss them in terms of what Harry S. Truman had to say on similar issues back in his day. It should be an interesting exercise to see how well his political philosophy and principles apply to the challenges faced by modern-day America. I hope you'll join me and participate in the discussion.

*The title and all of the quotes included in this post were obtained from "Give 'Em Hell Harry", edited by Mark Goodman (copyright 1974 by Universal-Award House, Inc.)

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