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Former Senator McCaskill to receive Truman Public Service Award

By Jeff Fox

Former U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill is the 2020 recipient of the Harry S. Truman Public Service Award, given by the city of Independence to someone in public life considered to have embodied Truman’s “qualities of dedication, industry, ability, honesty and integrity.”

Claire McCaskill

“For as long as I can remember, he was my role model. He was my gold standard,” McCaskill said last year when accepting another major award given in the name of the 33rd president, the Truman Good Neighbor Award.

The city also is honoring the Japanese Sister City Program, which for more than 40 years has fostered an active relationship between Independence and Higashimurayama, Japan. The Special Recognition Award is given at the same time as the Public Service Award.

Both awards are to be given during a virtual event at 2 p.m. Dec. 2. The awards are typically given on or near Truman’s May 8 birthday in a ceremony free and open to the public at the Truman Library in Independence, but the pandemic has delayed many things and the museum remains closed after an extensive renovation begun in mid-2019. 

McCaskill was a U.S. senator for two terms and lost a bid for a third term in 2018. She was the Missouri state auditor and, before that, the Jackson County prosecutor and a Missouri state representative.

“Throughout her public service, Sen. McCaskill has embodied the no-nonsense attitude President Truman was so well known for but like him, she also knows how to work across party lines to get things done,” Mayor Eileen Weir said in a release announcing the award.

The Truman Public Service Award has been given annually since 1974. The first recipient was Henry Kissinger, secretary of state in the Nixon and Ford administrations, and last year’s winner was, posthumously, U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona.

McCaskill is the 10th woman to receive the award. Others have included Coretta Scott KIng (and Martin Luther King Jr., posthumously) in 1983, Margaret Truman in 1984, former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright in 2007, and, two years ago, former Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano. 

One caveat: In 2012, the award went to all of those – men and women – who have served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The award has gone to three presidents – Ford, Carter and Clinton – and more than a dozen congressmen and senators of both parties, including six senators from Missouri whose time in the Senate stretches back to the 1950s: Stuart Symington, Thomas F. Eagleton, John Danforth, Christopher S. Bond, Jean Carnahan and now McCaskill. It’s gone to Gen. Matthew Ridgway, who commanded American forces during the Korean War; Vice President Hubert Humphrey; Truman biographer David McCullough; presidential historian Michael Beschloss and dozens of others.