The Kansas City Public Library has a fascinating series where historical figures who have played a role in the history of Kansas City are “interviewed”. Here we have Harry Truman, portrayed by Ray Starzmann, questioned by Crosby Kemper III, the director of the Kansas City Public Library.
I have always found Truman intriguing. A machine politician from the corrupt Prendergast Organization that controlled Kansas City and Jackson County from 1925-1939, Truman should have been a complete failure as President. Chosen by FDR as his Veep in one of Roosevelt’s more feckless moments in 1944, and then completely ignored by him, Truman came to the presidency more unprepared than few other presidents. At best one could have expected that Truman would have been a figurehead of a president, with Roosevelt’s advisors and cabinet officers running the administration, and Truman quietly ushered off the scene after the election in 1948. Instead, Truman was a dynamo, ending the war in the Pacific swiftly with the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, laying the foundations for eventual American victory in the Cold War, presiding over an American economy that exploded to undreamed of levels of prosperity after World War II, and re-elected in the most dramatic come from behind victories in American political history. Most presidents are overshadowed by the great office they hold, others do their worst to diminish the office through their bad decisions and poor leadership, and then there are those presidents who are inspired by the challenges of the office and rise to the occasion, and Truman was definitely in that category.