I just finished reading “Truman” by David McCullough. It is a massive work, 1120 pages (a 55 hour listen by audio-book), but it is well worth the time! This biography won the 1993 Pulitzer Prize and it is just one of two books written by McCollough that garnered the Pulitzer, the other one being his biography of John Adams.
As wonderfully crafted as the biography is by McCullough, it is the story of Truman himself that will sweep you off your feet, guaranteed. In your imagination you will want to run across the street and stop the little man with round eyeglasses who is walking stridently past your house and greet him. You will want to tell him how much you appreciate him. If it were me I would give him a bear hug, let him get me to laugh and tell him that he is my hero.
Truman was a true American hero. He was self deprecating and genuinely humble, honest, candid to a fault and dedicated to correct wrongs and make the world a better place for those around him. He was a steady-Eddie who got up every morning and took up where he left off the day before. And he kept at the task until it was done.
Harry Truman was the unlikely hero-president who was liked by many but considered by all to be too common and simple of a man to make a real mark in the world. He grew up on a farm in Missouri where he learned the value of hard work. Small for his age and considered a bit odd by his classmates because of round spectacles he wore to offset his poor eyesight, he as bullied at school. He ended retreating into the world of books and music. He read every book he could find. Legend has it that he read every book in the Independence Library during his school years. He was especially fond of biographies and history. As a southern Baptist, he also read the Bible regularly.
Truman later said history offered “solid instruction and wise teaching which I somehow felt that I wanted and needed.” Years later in his Memoirs, Truman acknowledged, “My debt to history is one which cannot be calculated. I know of no other motivation which so accounts for my awakening interest as a young lad in the principles of leadership and government.”
His mother began teaching him to play piano when he was 10, and while he stopped taking lessons at age 15, an appreciation for music stayed with him and served him the rest of his life. As president in 1945, while playing for a group of Methodist women at a county fair, he told them that when he played the piano for Stalin, the Soviet leader responded by signing the Potsdam Agreement.
Indeed, Truman’s deep grasp of history gave him a strong moral compass as he led our country and the world through some of the most turbulent times in history. This man, in fact, was a history maker.
We know Harry Truman as the 33rd president of the United States. But for him, becoming president was a most unlikely and truly providential event. Here was a man who never attended college because he was called back to save the family farm right when he was about to enroll. Here was a man who married the girl he had known since he was 6 years old—the only girl he ever loved—and had to wait until he was 35 years old for her to say yes. Here was a man who though too blind to get accepted to the military, memorized the eye chart and enlisted as an officer in World War I and never expected to make it back home alive. He told his fiancée (who had just decided to agree to marriage when she saw his bravery) that she must wait because it would be too tragic if he died after they got married.
THIS MAN was recruited by God to succeed the towering presidency of FDR and lead our nation through the gauntlet of earth shaking decisions that brought an end to World War 2 and led us forward into the new world. Yet it was never easy. He was never accepted by the masses who always saw him under the shadow of the only president that generation had ever known, FDR. Even as president he had to work hard and had to be true to himself and earn his stripes, That he did: now recognized as one of the greatest presidents ever. For me, after reading this biography, Harry Truman takes his place as one of my top 3 presidents of all time: Abraham Lincoln, Ronald Reagan and Harry Truman. These are the three who I admire most, not just because of their stellar leadership, but because all three were great inside and out. Great to the core.
I highly recommend this book! If you prefer to listen to the book, the Audible narrator/reader is OUTSTANDING!
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