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Saturday, January 3, 2009
A reflection on Harry Truman
Harry Truman was a different kind of President. He probably made as
many important decisions regarding our nation's history as any of the other 42
Presidents. 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 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 $13,507.72 a year. Congress, noting that he was
paying for his stamps and personally licking them, granted him an 'allowance'
and, later, a retroactive pension 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.
Political offices are now for sale.
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."