Harry S Truman showed an ability to grow in office. He always surprised people that he had the ability to rise to the occasion and do an excellent job. Throughout his life, he was a determined fighter in what he believed in.
Harry S Truman decided to challenge himself to become a leader of men during World War I. Truman could have easily avoided military service. Truman was a farmer, the sole support of his mother, and two years above draft age. Finally, he had very weak eye-sight. He did not claim any of these four exemptions. Instead, Harry memorized the eye-chart to enter military service
When the United States entered World War I, Harry S Truman was too old to be drafted into the military. Nevertheless, he volunteered to serve his country. He even memorized the eye chart to pass the examination because his vision was so poor. Truman was made a corporal in charge of a company known to be tough. Four officers before Truman had left. They acted up.
The next day Corporal Truman "busted" the men. "I didn't come here to get along with you," he bluntly told the men. "You've got to get along with me. If there any of you who can't, speak up right now and I'll bust your back right now." After that, the soldiers found that they could indeed take orders from their new commander. Truman was tough on the men. But they knew he would stand up for them. He bravely led his troops into battle and was idolized by his men. After the war, they remained his friends.
Over and over, Harry S Truman demonstrated that he was not afraid to do the right thing, even if it made him unpopular. He desegregated the armed forces through executive order. When friends and advisers warned him that he was certain to lose the election in 1948 if he persisted with his civil rights program, he said if he lost for that, it would be a good cause. Principle mattered more than his own political hide. His courage was the courage of his convictions.
Harry S Truman carried his bravado into politics. In 1940, he fought hard to win reelection to the Senate. "There were too many people around who didn't want me to run. I knew it was going to be a hell of a fight, but I've never backed away from a fight." There were times he was so low in cash that he slept in his car to save money. The Pendergast machine had been smashed and President Franklin D. Roosevelt had supported his opponent. When he returned to the Senate after his reelection, many of the other senators applauded him warmly.
When Tom Pendergast died, his former political mentor died after serving time in prison, estranged from his wife and daughter, Truman was advised to ignore this event. Without hesitation he asked for an army bomber and flew out; equally, without hesitation, he gave the reason -- 'He was always my friend and I have always been his.
Woodrow Wilson failed to get Henry Cabot Lodge, a Republican leader of the Senate, an old championed international cooperation to support the League of Nations. Truman did not make the mistakes. He elicited the cooperation of Senator Arthur Vandenberg, the top Republican on the Foreign Affairs Committee, in planning the creation of the United Nations. The Republican Congress easily approved the measure in 1946.
Truman's eloquence and deep sincerity appealed to people. David McCullough, a biographer, wrote, "In I948, at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, the first to be televised, when Truman walked on the stage at almost two in the morning to accept the nomination. For all the speeches there had been, nobody had said a word about winning. Truman, in a white linen suit, walked out into the floodlights and gave them hell. He told them, in effect, to soldier up and that they were going to win. It was astounding. He brought the whole hall to its feet. He brought them up cheering. Old hand reporters, even the most diehard liberals who had so little hope for him, agreed it was one of the greatest moments they had ever witnessed in American politics."
Truman was an activist president -- he loved to make decisions. Truman's predecessor, Franklin Roosevelt, often delayed making decisions until he was sure that public opinion was on his side. Truman saw the president as the man in charge of the government. Another sign quoted Mark Twain: "Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest."
Lesson No. 9: Resilience Through Willingness to Learn From Education
Leaders are self-learners because they are willing to grow through learning. "By the time I was thirteen or fourteen years old, I had read all the books in the Independence Public Library and our big family Bible three times through." He enjoyed reading books about history. "The only thing in the world is the history you don't know," he said. When Truman made a decision, he would read every book and every document, not just a staff summary.
When Truman left office, few people thought he had been a great or even a very good president. Before he left the White House, Truman said to his daughter, Margaret, "Your dad will never be reckoned among the great. But you can be sure he did his level best and gave all he had to his country." Eventually, Truman was eventually seen as independent, decisive, and courageous. President Gerald R. Ford had a portrait of Truman in the cabinet room and placed a bust of Truman near his desk. Carter put Truman's motto, "The buck stops here," on his desk.