Harry S Truman on Principles & Values



Former Presidents Act provides $250,000 per year for life

When Harry Truman left the office of the presidency in 1953, he was so poor that he moved into his mother-in-law's house in Missouri. All he had to live on was his pension as a former army officer of $112 a month. He refused to trade on his celebrity, turning down lucrative consulting and business arrangements. "I could never lend myself to any transaction, however respectable, that would commercialize on the prestige and dignity of the office of the presidency," he wrote. His only commercial gain from office was when he sold his memoirs to Life magazine.

[Until recently], former presidents tended to recede from public and commercial life. The irony is that back in 1958, President Eisenhower and Congress felt so bad for Truman that they passed the Former Presidents Act, which authorized a lifetime pension that today pays former presidents $250,000 a year and gives them a budget for staff and the like. The money-making activities of former presidents surged after we started taking care of them.

Source: The War on Normal People, by Andrew Yang, p.205-6 , Apr 2, 2019

1945: transition to presidency included no military

Aspects of the transfer of power which made such transfers fraught with uncertainty and danger in other nations had barely ever been thought of. At the time of Roosevelt's sudden death, no one even thought to ask where the military's support lay. Harry Truman, raising his hand in 1945 to take the oath as Roosevelt's successor before a group of officials in the Cabinet Room of the White House, realized that "although we were in the midst of a great war, only two uniforms were present," and, noting that "this passed unnoticed" by anyone but him, understood the significance of that fact: "The very fact that no thought" was "given to it demonstrates how firmly the concept of the civil authority was accepted in our land," he wrote.
Source: Passage of Power, by Robert Caro, p.340-341 , May 1, 2012

Fair Deal: alleviate social and economic injustice

Roosevelt never got a single major social reform bill through Congress during the 8 years of his presidency remaining after the Court fight.

The Fair Deal fared little better. Harry Truman's program was a far-reaching attempt to alleviate social and economic injustices in a nation which, rich though it was, had left most of its citizens unprotected against the ravages of old age and unemployment; a nation in which an inexcusably high percentage of the population was still ill fed, ill clothed, and ill housed; a nation which denied to millions of citizens, those whose skin was black, the most fundamental rights of citizens. In the new 1948 election campaign, the new Democratic majority in Congress and a rising public outcry against Jim Crow gave liberals confidence that the long-awaited day of social justice was at last at hand. It wasn't.

Source: Passage of Power, by Robert Caro, p.453 , May 1, 2012

1952: Officially created National Day of Prayer

Our National Day of Prayer is a significant part of our heritage. In 1775, during a meeting of the Continental Congress, all of the colonies were asked to pray for wisdom as the policies to govern the nation were being formed. During the Civil War, President Lincoln proclaimed a day of "humiliation, fasting and prayer," and in 1952, President Truman signed a joint resolution from the Congress officially creating a national Day of Prayer.
Source: America the Beautiful, by Ben Carson, p. 47-48 , Jan 24, 2012

As president, I can't pass the buck to anyone

"I don't pass the buck, nor do I alibi out of any decision I make."

"It is my duty, as president of the US, to make the decisions, because I can't pass the buck to anybody; and if I can get all the facts, I have found that the decision I make as a result of the facts are satisfactory to everybody."

"You can get all the facts and you make up your mind."

"I've always tried to get all the information I could on every job I ever had. So nobody could put anything over on me."

"As president, I always insisted on as complete a picture as possible before making a decision, and I did not want fuzzy statements that concealed differences of opinion."

Source: The Wit & Wisdom of Harry Truman, by Ralph Keyes, p. 29 , Oct 12, 1999

In 1917, Bess accepted one of Harry's many proposals

During Sunday school at the First Presbyterian Church, Harry saw someone he later described as "a very beautiful little lady with lovely blue eyes and the prettiest golden curls I've ever seen." This was Elizabeth Virginia "Bessie" Wallace, to whom he'd eventually be married for 53 years. "I was smitten at once," Truman later said of their 1st meeting, "and am still am."

In 1917, Bess accepted one of Harry's many proposals of marriage. He was 34, she 33. When Truman enlisted in the Army, the two postponed their wedding. "I didn't think it was right to get married and maybe come home a cripple and have the most beautiful and sweetest girl in the world tied down," he explained.

Source: The Wit & Wisdom of Harry Truman, by Ralph Keyes, p. 72-75 , Oct 12, 1999

On FDR's death: if you ever pray, pray for me now

On April 12, 1945, Harry Truman [was called by] Eleanor Roosevelt to her study. Mrs. Roosevelt put her hand on his shoulder. "Harry," she said, "the president is dead."

"Is there anything I can do?" stammered Truman.

"Is there anything WE can do for YOU?" Mrs. Roosevelt responded. "For you are the one in trouble now."

After taking the oath of office and meeting briefly with cabinet members, Truman wrote in his diary, "Went to bed, went to sleep, and did not worry any more."

At the White House, President Truman had his first meeting with reporters. "Boys, if you ever pray, pray for me now," he told them. "I don't know whether you fellows ever had a load of hay fall on you, but when they told me yesterday what had happened, I felt like the moon, the stars, and all the planets had fallen on me."

"Good luck, Mr. President," one reporter said.

"I wish you didn't have to call me that," responded Truman.

Source: The Wit & Wisdom of Harry Truman, by Ralph Keyes, p. 85-86 , Oct 12, 1999

I just told the truth and they thought it was hell

"You know my program was 'Give 'em Hell' and if they don't like it, give 'em more hell."

"I never did give anybody hell. I just told the truth and they thought it was hell."

Source: The Wit & Wisdom of Harry Truman, by Ralph Keyes, p. 24 , Jan 15, 1953

Jesus rejected despots in both Church and State

"A couple of golden crowns with all kinds of expensive jewels have been stolen from a Roman Catholic shrine in Brooklyn. The crowns were on images of Jesus Christ and Mary his mother.

"I've an idea if Jesus were here his sympathies would be with the thieves and not with the Pharisees who crowned him with gold and jewels.

"The only crown he ever wore was one of thorns placed there by emissaries of the Roman emperor and Jewish priesthood. He came to help the lowly and the down trodden. But since Constantine the Great he has been taken over by the Despots of both Church and State."

Source: The Wit & Wisdom of Harry Truman, by Ralph Keyes, p.149 , Jun 1, 1952

1950: Assassination attempt killed one bodyguard

"I've always thought that if I could get my hands on a would-be assassin he'd never try it again. But I guess that's impossible. The grand guards who were hurt in the attempt on me didn't have a fair chance. The one who killed was just cold-bloodedly murdered before he could do anything. But his assassin did not live but a couple of minutes--one of the Secret Service men put a bullet in one ear and it came out the other. One of the guards yelled "Get back." I did, then dressed and went down stairs. I was the only calm one in the house. You see I've been shot at by experts and unless your name's on the bullet you needn't be afraid--and that of course you won't find out, so why worry."
Source: The Wit & Wisdom of Harry Truman, by Ralph Keyes, p.132 , Nov 17, 1950

The basic source of our national strength is spiritual

The elements of our strength are many. They include our democratic government, our economic system, our great natural resources. But these are only partial explanations.

The basic source of our strength is spiritual. For we are a people with a faith. We believe in the dignity of man. We believe that he was created in the image of the Father of us all.

We do not believe that men exist merely to strengthen the state or to be cogs in the economic machine. We do believe that governments are created to serve the people and that economic systems exist to minister to their wants.

The faith of our people has particular meaning at this time in history because of the unsettled and changing state of the world.

We must devote ourselves to finding answers to these anxieties and aspirations. We seek answers which will embody the moral and spiritual elements of tolerance, unselfishness, and brotherhood upon which true freedom and opportunity must rest.

Source: Pres. Truman's 1948 State of the Union message to Congress , Jan 7, 1948

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Other past presidents on Principles & Values: Harry S Truman on other issues:
Former Presidents:
Barack Obama(D,2009-2017)
George W. Bush(R,2001-2009)
Bill Clinton(D,1993-2001)
George Bush Sr.(R,1989-1993)
Ronald Reagan(R,1981-1989)
Jimmy Carter(D,1977-1981)
Gerald Ford(R,1974-1977)
Richard Nixon(R,1969-1974)
Lyndon Johnson(D,1963-1969)
John F. Kennedy(D,1961-1963)
Dwight Eisenhower(R,1953-1961)
Harry S Truman(D,1945-1953)

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V.P.Dick Cheney
V.P.Al Gore
V.P.Dan Quayle
Sen.Bob Dole

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Page last updated: Feb 22, 2022