Friday, July 06, 2007

Bill Clinton and Truman– what a pair

Yesterday (5 July), I spent a memorable afternoon sitting about 30 feet from Bill Clinton as he addressed 5000 people. It was a hot day in Independence, MO, and we had gathered to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Truman Library and Museum.

After broiling in the afternoon sun, we were finally admitted into the cool air of the physical center of the Reformed Latter Day Saints, the Community of Christ auditorium. Harry Truman’s grandson, Clifton Truman Daniel, and the governor of Kansas, Kathleen Sebelius were sitting near us, as were other political luminaries.

My point in this entry is not to burden you with a “what I did on my summer vacation” sort of diary, but to remind you, as I was reminded yesterday, that our greatest presidents have been visionaries and men of good will.

Unlike the current inhabitant of the Oval Office, these men actually meant what they said. Bill Clinton reminded us that Harry Truman sought out our nation’s enemies so he could talk with them and reach political solutions. Truman devised the perfect, non-military alternative to counter Russian imperialism: the Marshall Plan.

He respected minorities, was concerned about the welfare of the entire nation, acknowledged his mistakes, and led this country brilliantly through some of the most dangerous periods of our history: the reconstruction following WWII and the beginning of the Cold War. In short, he was the complete antithesis of our current president who has engaged in double-speak for so long that he has lost his moorings politically, ethically, and morally. He is adrift on a sea of deception, with he himself, perhaps, being the most deceived.

Clinton, who is perhaps one of the most thwarted presidents we’ve ever had, talked about how Truman was thwarted by powerful political forces who would not abide racial integration, universal health care, or a myriad of other programs that could have bettered our society. Like Truman, Clinton could have done so much more had he been able to focus on the job rather than fighting off his enemies who would do anything, including shutting down the federal government, to make his life miserable. Parenthetically, does this sound like what a certain Michigan governor is going through?

Yesterday, all of us who heard Clinton speak were reminded that once we had great presidents who cared about all of us. I look forward to the possibility that this will someday once again be true.

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