Truman and the Winning Ticket

March 29th, 2013 5:35 pm

Every 4 years Americans are privileged to elect a President. And every 4 years candidates of both parties “run like Truman,” who is praised as one of the great, or at least near-great Presidents. Most Americans were not yet born when Truman won a signal upset victory in his campaign to be elected in his own right, after having succeeded Franklin Roosevelt, who died in office. And few are aware that it was Truman, against the wishes of his advisers and senior military officials, who ordered the desegration of the armed forces on this day (Feb. 2) in 1948.

The irony in Truman’s lionization is that in his lifetime he was despised by Republicans, and that, given his policy and personal outlook, he would not be welcome in today’s Democratic party. 2 anecdotes help explain why he is held in such high regard today. They both have to do with character, and the ethical values that ETHOS seeks to promote.

After he left the Presidency, the Truman family moved back to the house they had lived in before he went to Washington, a house owned by his mother-in-law. Truman was a man of very modest means, living on a modest federal pension, and needed to work. He turned down lucrative offer to sit on corporate boards, because “they wanted Harry Truman the former President, not Harry Truman,” and he refused to cash in that way. In his later years at a reunion with his fellow Missourian, General of the Army Omar Bradley, a man Truman greatly admired, Bradley told him that he had accepted just such a position, although he had no relevant experience, because he needed the money. Truman’s response: “No one ever needs money that badly.”

There is also a story, perhaps apocryphal, that Truman was asked to select the winning raffle ticket at a charitable fund-raiser. He spun the wheel, withdrew a ticket, looked at it, crumpled it and put it in his pocket, selecting another winner.

When asked about this later, he revealed that he recognized the first winning ticket as one that his daughter had bought, and while they could have used the car, he did not want to cause any questions about the integrity of the charity, even though it really was a coincidence.

ETHOS is a non-partisan organization and believes that integrity is a value that embraces more than adherence to rules and regulations.