Presidency of Harry S. Truman: Part I
Alan Brinkley professor, history, Columbia
Melvyn Leffler professor, history, University of Virginia
Clifton Truman Daniel grandson, Harry S. Truman
Alan Brinkley, professor of history at Columbia University; Melvyn Leffler, professor of history at the University of Virginia; and Clifton Truman Daniel, grandson of Harry S. Truman, discuss the Truman presidency. This is the first in a two-part series.
The death of Franklin Roosevelt catapulted Harry S. Truman, former farm boy, World War I soldier, failed haberdasher, and district judge turned US senator, into the 33rd president of the United States.
With a candor that was to be his trademark, he shared with the world his own misgivings at the turn of events that made him president. "I pray to God," he quipped, "that I can measure up to the task." As the historian, Alan Nevins, wrote, "This mixture of modesty and confidence was part of Truman's great appeal." While he made his share of mistakes, "To err is Truman," carped one critic, he also faced a myriad of difficult issues in a distinctly clear-sighted and confident manner. The very fact that someone so seemingly like us could come to power in such extraordinary times helps explain in part the position President Truman continues to hold in our nation's memory.
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