Harry S Truman outside the “Old Courthouse” (h/t hose902)

Yesterday was the 125th birthday of Harry Truman. Truman doesn’t have a national holiday like Washington or Lincoln. He doesn’t have a grand memorial on the Mall in DC like Jefferson. There’s no think tank named after him like Hoover — but there is Truman Lake and Truman State University. (I’ll take the lake and TSU over the Hoover Institution any day.)

Truman echoes in my head today, as I realize that he confronted many of the same issues we face now: oversight and prosecution of corrupt military contractors, war crimes investigations, changing relationships among the nations of the world, and changing social relationships among people at home.

As a member of the Senate during World War II, Truman investigated war profiteering. As President at the end of the war, he led the US as it entered into new ways of postwar life. The Nuremberg trials were conducted for those accused of war crimes, to demonstrate to the world that there are crimes that transcend national boundaries. These trials, combined with the Marshall Plan that helped to rebuild Europe, including the defeated Germany, proved that justice — not vengeance — is the way to move the world forward. With Truman’s leadership, the US entered and helped to shape the United Nations. After seeing the treatment of African-American WWII veterans when they returned home, he ordered an end to the racially segregated military

Truman respected the role of checks and balances in our government. He championed civilian control of the military, removing a popular general who worked to sabotage his policies. When his own policies toward resolving a strike were challenged and ruled unconstitutional, he bowed to the judgment of the Supreme Court in Youngstown v Sawyer. Most of all, he took responsibility for his own actions, whether as a captain leading an artillery battery in WWI or as president leading a nation after WWII. 

Happy Birthday, Mr. President.

The sign on the desk says it all: