Friday, January 29, 2010

A Statesman Instead of a Politician

I recently received an email from my uncle about a fascinating individual who had a very significant impact on the history of the world. He was the 33rd President of the United States. At different points in his presidency, he earned both the lowest public approval ratings that had ever been recorded, and the highest approval ratings to be recorded until 1991. Most American historians consider Harry S. Truman to be one of the greatest US Presidents.

With slight modifications, this is what my uncle sent to me:
"Harry Truman was a different kind of President. He probably made as many, or more important decisions regarding our nation's history as any of the other Presidents preceding or following him. However, a measure of his greatness may rest on what he did after he left the White House.

The only asset he had when he died was the house he lived in, which was in Independence Missouri. His wife had inherited the house from her mother and father and other than their years in the White House, they lived their entire lives there.
When he retired from office in 1952, his income was a U.S. Army pension reported to have been $112.56 per month. Truman was quoted in 1957 as saying, "Had it not been for the fact that I was able to sell some property that my brother, sister, and I inherited from our mother, I would practically be on relief, but with the sale of that property I am not financially embarrassed."

In 1958, Congress passed the Former Presidents Act offering a yearly pension to each former president of $25,000 per year.

After President Eisenhower was inaugurated, Harry and Bess drove home to Missouri by themselves. There was no Secret Service following them.
When offered corporate positions at large salaries, he declined, stating, "You don't want me. You want the office of the President, and that doesn't belong to me. It belongs to the American people and it's not for sale."
Even later, on May 6, 1971, when Congress was preparing to award him the Medal of Honor on his 87th birthday, he refused to accept it, writing, "I don't consider that I have done anything which should be the reason for any award, Congressional or otherwise."
As president he paid for all of his own travel expenses and food. Modern politicians have found a new level of success in cashing in on the Presidency, resulting in untold wealth. Today, many in Congress also have found a way to become quite wealthy while enjoying the fruits of their offices.
Good old Harry Truman was correct when he observed, "My choices in life were either to be a piano player in a whore house or a politician. And to tell the truth, there's hardly any difference!"
Thank you, Uncle John. Harry S. Truman was a statesman instead of a politician. We need more like him today.