Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

Harry Truman on making decisions

Cabell Phillips of the New York Times wrote of Truman, "His greatest resource...undoubtedly has been his capacity to reach a decision and then to live with it in peace of mind."

Truman said, "All my life, whenever it comes to me to make a decision, I make it and forget about it. As President of the United States, you never have time to stop. You've got to keep going because there's always a decision ahead of you that you've got to make, and you don't want to look back. If you make a mistake in one of those decisions, correct it by another decision and go ahead. That's all you can do."

Clark Clifford, one of Truman's closest aides, said, "There is, you know, such a thing as being too intellectual in your approach to a problem. The man who insists on seeing all sides of it often can't make up his mind where to take hold. Without any disparagement, that was never a problem for Mr. Truman...He believed that even a wrong decision was better than no decision at all. And when he made up his mind, that was it. He never wrestled with a decision after he made it."


by Cabell Phillips
New York Times Magazine, May 3, 1959