THE TURNING POINT: The One Decision That Made All the Difference


The presidents of the United States have served as role models and heroes in our culture for the past two hundred years. We can learn many lessons from their lives. Only about forty people have become presidents of the United States. Sometimes a single decision can make all the difference in becoming president. We all have turning points in our lives -- that determine success or failure. We all have made make-it or a break it decisions -- that determine the course of our destinies. We will look at two presidents who made decisions that changed their futures. Harry S. Truman left a farm to enter military service; Jimmy Carter left military service to become a farmer. Truman and Carter pushed themselves beyond their comfort zones to improve the quality of their lives. Both left secure positions to pursue their dreams.


Truman Decided to Serve His country Harry S. Truman's turning point came at the age of thirty-three when he volunteered to serve in World War One. He wanted to do something more with his life. He had been a Missouri farmer for ten years. Truman decided to challenge himself to become a leader of men. Harry 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 eyesight. He did not claim any of these four exemptions. Instead, Harry memorized the eye-chart to enter military service. Truman made an even greater sacrifice. The love of his life was Bess Wallace. He had zealously pursued her over her objections. ONLY when Bess heard the news of his enlistment did she want to marry him. Truman refused. He did not want to tie her down if he came home a cripple. Truman was elected a sergeant in the National Guard. He was pleased to have won his first elective office. Then, the army promoted Harry to captain and sent him to France. He increased his self-confidence when he was assigned to train college-educated officers. He had felt inferior because he had ONLY a high school education.


On July 11, 1917, Truman's moment of truth arrived. He was put in charge of Battery D, notorious for its wild behavior. Three previous officers had resigned because they had been unable to discipline the troops. Captain Harry was nervous in his new command. He could not even speak to the men the first day. He simply blurted, "Dismissed." The men gave him a Bronx cheer. They staged a stampede of their horses. The men fought wildly among themselves. Truman had never been so terrified or bewildered in his life. The next morning, Captain Harry posted a list of noncommissioned officers busted back to the lower ranks. He had spent the night writing them up. Harry explained to the other officers: "I don't have to get along with you. You have to get along with me. "If you will soldier for me; I will soldier for you." Through firm discipline and compassion, he transformed what had been one of the worst batteries in the regiment into one of the best.


On August 4, 1918 Truman's metal was tested as he lead an attack. Harry showed calmness under fire. When the men panicked, he quickly rallied them back into a disciplined fighting force. When Truman had to perform a mission, all of the 194 men under his command volunteered for that mission. The men respected him because he had earned it. Harry had the ability to make good decisions under intense pressure. Truman demonstrated leadership ability on the battlefields of France. He wrote Bess Wallace, "This was most terrific experience of my life." Upon Harry's discharge from the military, his former buddies supported him in his endeavors to go into business and then into politics. Yes, Truman got the girl. He married Bess Wallace within a few months upon his return from Europe. If Truman had not volunteered for military service, he would never have become the president of the United States. Like Truman, Jimmy Carter wanted to do something more with his life. Just as Truman discovered his destiny by entering military service, Carter discovered his destiny by leaving military service.


Jimmy Carter Decided to Become His Own Boss Jimmy Carter's (turning point) came at age twenty-nine. The decision that changed Jimmy's future is best told by his wife Ros-lyn in her memoirs. He had served in our country's navy upon his graduation from the U. S. Naval Academy. Like Jimmy, Ros-lyn shared the same ideas of getting away from their small town. They both found life in Plains, Georgia too confining. Then Jimmy Carter received a leave to return home to Plains, Georgia in 1952 to be with his tying father. During that time, he learned that his father had been active in the community: the school board, the hospital board, the Boy Scouts and the Lions Club. His father had just been elected to the Georgian state legislature. He had done many kind deeds in secret. People told Jimmy how much his father's life meant to them. These revelations about life in a small town made his success in the navy seem incidental. After his father's funeral, Carter decided to leave the navy after ten years of service. His superiors such as Admiral Hyman Rickover had praise for his accomplishments. Jimmy told Ros-lyn of his decision. "No matter how high I rise in the navy, I will never be my own boss. I want to follow in my father's footsteps in helping people. Ros-lyn strenuously opposed this decision. It was the biggest argument of their married lives. They drove from Connecticut to Georgia in silence.


Jimmy Carter emulated his father in his love of humanity. As a farmer he extended credit to others. It was touch and go in the early years before his peanut processing business turned a profit. Before Carter knew it, he became involved in the community the same way his father had been: the school board, the hospital board, the Boy Scouts, and the Lions Club. Like his father, he became a member of the Georgia State legislature. This took him on the road to the governorship of Georgia and then the presidency of the United States. If Jimmy had not decided to become his own boss, he would never have become president of the United States.



In conclusion, Truman and Carter had turning points that helped them to lead more fulfilling lives. Harry Truman wanted became a leader of men. Jimmy Carter became his own boss to help people. Both took risks to improve the quality of their lives. By choosing not to play it safe, Harry and Jimmy showed they had the metal to become presidents of the United States. What risks are you willing to take to improve the quality of your life? (Bring it back to the audience.) How can you improve your future? What are your dreams?