Mike Ashley

Truman

Truman is an epic biography of Harry S. Truman, the 33rd President of the United States. He was president from 1945-1953, succeeding Franklin Roosevelt who died in office a few months after inauguration in 1945.

This book is long, weighing in at over 1100 pages. Fortunately it’s an easy read. It spans the Truman family from Harry’s grandparents coming to Missouri to Harry’s death in 1972. The focus is how Truman’s early life shaped him and enabled him to handle the challenges of being President at the end of World War II and the opening of the Cold War. The book focuses on the man, not the politics and policy around him.

Truman’s presidency inspires me. He had the courage to make tough decisions in a world that was changing rapidly. Two examples: the decision to use the atomic bomb and his handling of the Korean War to support the United Nations and avoid further use of atomic weapons. Many of his decisions were unpopular. He had to confront new situations that had no precedent, so his constituency couldn’t judge his decisions fairly. Time and again, Truman had to choose between multiple bad options with incomplete data, but he made decisions and made them work.

I like that Truman wasn’t overly political. He had a moral compass. He had ethics. He was an incredibly hard worker. This foundation kept him centered while the world changed around him and gave him the ability to act without being held hostage by Congress.

Truman’s life puts my own in perspective. There have been a lot of changes in my life recently. I have to accept them, lead others through them, and make decisions myself on how to respond to them. It all seems like small potatos compared to what Truman faced. I can use Truman’s life as an example of how to live mine.

Back to my reading list.