|
|
Examiner
  • Jeff Fox: Read, learn and find reassurance

  •  A confession: I haven’t yet been to the Thomas Hart Benton exhibit that opened a couple of months ago at the Truman Library.



    I’ve only got – we’ve all only got – until mid-October, but that will roll around in no time, so I’d best get to it.

    • email print
  •  A confession: I haven’t yet been to the Thomas Hart Benton exhibit that opened a couple of months ago at the Truman Library.
    I’ve only got – we’ve all only got – until mid-October, but that will roll around in no time, so I’d best get to it.
    We are, of course, in Truman season, centered on his birthday this week. The Wild About Harry dinner is held, people are honored, and Truman’s story is told. The Public Service and Good Neighbor awards are given, and the story is told.
    That story does not get old. Modest roots, hard work, ambition, bravery, persistence.
    And a refusal to accept the idea that the world and its complexities are too much, that we are driven by events less than we can shape them. Historian David McCullough points out that young Harry grabbed every book he could from the public library in Independence and just sat down and read history. And he never stopped.
    I cringe when I hear someone day, “If Harry Truman were alive today, he’d say ...” Still, I can’t help but ponder what he would make of our ahistorical, incurious age. We twitch from crisis to trivial crisis, reacting as if each is unprecedented in human affairs. We are willfully rootless.
    Truman knew better. He knew because he read history. He talked to people, he studied politics, and he solved problems. A wise professor once said history is just the study of the way things happen, the way people get things done. Dive deeply into that, and the world becomes a good deal less scary or incomprehensible.
    So much of this is at our fingertips. Sure, go to the Smithsonians (and give yourself lots of time). Go see the Liberty Bell. Go to Gettysburg and Vicksburg, Yellowstone and Yosemite.
    But go to the Truman Library, too. It’s right here, and it’s amazing. Go to the World War I museum in Kansas City, go the battlefield in Lexington – our Lexington here in Missouri, that is – and go to the Vaile Mansion in Independence.
    This is only partially about names, dates and places. It’s about the worlds inhabited by Truman or Harvey Vaile or soldiers on the battlefield. It’s about lives and times that have passed but that shape us yet today. It’s about the challenges they faced, what scared them, what drove them, what gave them a sense of opportunity.
    It’s a reminder that the things we take for granted – clean water, easy travel from city to city, longer and healthier lives, a thousand other things we call progress – always came as a result of struggle or, as Thomas Edison is said to have said, 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.
    Page 2 of 2 - Benton painted that great mural at the Truman Library, and I’d love to hear more of the story there. Let’s all go. Bring the kids. They need to hear the story.
    Follow Jeff Fox on Twitter @Jeff_Fox.

      calendar