Archive for Thursday, July 16, 2009

Tough times not a first

July 16, 2009

It is easy to fall into a funk of “doom and gloom” when you read the morning newspaper or watch the evening TV news. If you are a pessimist, you might have a hard time seeing a bright future for the world as the problems appear to mount.

A recent trip to the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum quickly reminded me our nation has faced challenging and dangerous times before, and we have prevailed. Walking through the museum, I was reminded of how dangerous and complex the world was in the late 1940s and early 1950s. The world was grappling with the chaos of post-war Europe, the expansionism of the Soviet block and the danger of a nuclear holocaust. Oh, yes, we faced lots of problems in the United States ranging from a fragile economy, difficulties with labor unions and agriculture to race relations.

Those seeking an interesting local trip should consider driving the 30 or so miles to Independence, Mo., to visit the museum. For people my age, it is a walk down nostalgia lane, while young people can begin to understand some of the background that has shaped the world. The grounds are attractive and feature the final resting place of the former president, his wife, Bess, their daughter, Margaret and her husband, E. Clifton Daniel.

I will admit I have gained respect for President Truman over the years. As a child who grew up in an ardent Republican home in Kansas, President Truman was certainly not highly regarded. Probably another reason was that he was from Missouri, and we also had deep suspicions about leaders from a state we regarded as politically corrupt. Looking back, I really believe President Truman probably faced more problems than almost any other president. He also had the least amount of background and experience yet he was a “quick learner” and provided excellent leadership at a crucial time in our national history.

If you remember, he had a checkered career before entering politics. He served as presiding judge of the Jackson County Commission and was a senator from Missouri when he was nominated for vice president in 1944. The sudden death of President Franklin Roosevelt in April 1945, just about three months after taking office, catapulted Truman into the presidency.

The first challenge he faced was ending the war with Germany and Japan. In the latter case, he faced a decision that is still debated today — dropping the atomic bomb on Japan. He never wavered in his belief he made the right decision, and lives were saved by using the ultimate weapon.

After the war, he had to deal with an ambitious Russia who had goals of controlling Europe. In addition, much of Europe was devastated, and he had to devise a plan to rebuild much of the continent.

At home, there was industrial strife and problems with returning millions of veterans to regular society. There were shortages, strikes and general frustrations.

President Truman was able to navigate the troubled waters, and just as it appeared the world was returning to normal, the Korean War erupted.

Whether or not you agreed with President Truman, you have got to admit he handled many tough situations. He always took decisive action whether it was dealing with unions or firing Gen. McArthur. And, yes, President Truman was and still remains controversial.

The museum is well organized following his career from his early life through his presidency and after leaving office.

But more important, the museum reminds us that our nation has always faced challenges and that we have survived and today’s problems will be tomorrow’s history.

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