Speakers laud Truman's legacy
The decisions President Harry S. Truman made three-quarters of a century ago – and the example he set – continue to shape the country, speakers at a Truman virtual event said.
“He really is still very much a living presence in Washington, D.C.,” said Chris Wallace, a Fox News journalist and author of the recent book “Countdown 1945: The Extraordinary Story of the Atomic Bomb and the 116 Days That Changed the World.”
Wallace spoke Thursday night at the annual Wild About Harry event, a fundraiser for the Truman Library Institute. The event raised $630,415. The institute is a private non-profit that promotes and supports the work of the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum in Independence.
The Truman Library has been closed for a major renovation and expansion since the summer of 2019 – a closure extended by the pandemic. No reopening date was given Thursday night.
The institute is also raising money for a statue of Truman to be placed in Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol next year. It’s still $100,000 shy of its goal, though the statue is far along in production
Speakers at the event described Truman as a giant among America’s leaders and said the statue is a fitting tribute.
“And giants must always be remembered,” said Congressman Emanuel Cleaver II.
Wallace used the example of the atomic bomb to illustrate Truman’s decision-making process. He said Truman was meticulous, holding “meeting after meeting” in May and June 1945, even before the first test in New Mexico that July showed that the bomb would work. Truman sought out different and dissenting views, Wallace stressed.
He said Truman, who was decisive once he reviewed the facts and his options, looked at the military, geopolitical and moral issues as the war with Japan dragged on.
“But in the case of dropping the bomb, he agonized over that decision,” Wallace said.
Truman ordered the use of the bomb, ending the war.
Samantha Power, who this week was sworn in as the director of the U.S. Agency for International Development, was given the Truman Legacy of Leadership Award. In 2003, Power won a Pulitzer Prize for "A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide,” about the country’s inaction in the face of genocide during the 20th century.
She said Truman knew that signing the U.N. Charter as World War II ended was “the only path to enduring peace.”
In accepting the award, she said couldn’t help but think of Truman leading soldiers in battle in World War I and then watching the promise of peace – the idea of the League of Nations in particular – simply wither. A generation and a world war later, Truman stressed strong multi-lateral efforts among nations and America’s commitment, in his words, to “assist free men and free nations.”
But there are always voices of isolationism.
“There is a crisis of confidence, I think, among Americans that contributes to this tendency to pull away,” she said.
She said the pandemic has at least for the moment erased many of the gains against poverty around the world, and now is a time for nations to cooperate instead of pull back.
She also stressed that China is offering the world a different, darker vision of the future.
“China really does seek a different kind of world order than the one Harry Truman bequeathed us.”