Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

Wilson, Woodrow, 1856-1924; Napoleon I, Emperor of the French, 1769-1821; Washington, George, 1732-1799; Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865
Kings and rulers; Ex-presidents; Presidents; Walking

Longhand Note of Former President Harry S. Truman, July 8, 1953. President's Secretary's Files - Longhand Notes.

July 8, 1953

When you contemplate a career think only of the service you can render to your fellowmen.

Study the lives of great men-the truly great men. Men who have made sacrifices for the betterment of the world and their individual countries and 'communities.

There are all sorts of men and women who have made history. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, the Great Prophets of Israel. Hammurabi the great Sumerian law-giver, Solon, Lycurgus, Aristides, Cyrus the Great, Darius the Great, Alexander, Hannibal, Caesar, Jenghis Khan, Tamerlane, the Great Mogul, Saladin, Suleiman the Magnificent, Charles Martel, Charlemagne, Napoleon to name a few.

Then there were Buddha, Jesus, Cincinnatus, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson.

Some men of great name were destroyers of mankind, some were law-givers, some were just plain patriots, some were philosophers, some left the world worse off than they found it, some left it better off.

The moralists and philosophers left the world a much greater heritage than did most of the rulers and conquerors.

Marcus Aurelius, Antoninus Pius and Justinian were rulers and also law-givers and moralists. Their successors were no good. I wonder why?

In that connection I often think of Plato and his report of the teachings of Socrates, one of the really great teachers and philosophers of all time. Then I think of Alcibiades and Aristides. One is a first class demagogue and rounder and the other a great ruler of Athens. But the Athenians didn't appreciate the honorable Aristides. They banished him for one reason, because they were tired hearing him called the just. They loved Alcibiades because he was no good!

I've always been a very great admirer of three great men in government, Cincinnatus and the old Roman Dictator, Cato the Younger who was the Republican Romans' greatest and most honorable administrator. And then George Washington our own first President.

Cincinnatus knew when and how to lay down his great powers. After he had saved the Republic he went back to his plow and became the good private citizen of his country. Cato, in an age of grafters and demagogues, ran the great Roman Republic for the people. He audited and handled the finances of the Roman Provinces and of Rome itself honestly-something unheard of in that day of declining Republic.

Washington knew when and how to quit public office and lay down the immense power he wielded with the people, as did Cincinnatus. After he'd won the war to create this United States, presided over the Constitutional Convention, and set the country on the right road to greatness, he returned to his farm and became a model citizen of his country. He could have been king, president for life if he'd been ambitious for power.

I've given you an outline of a course of study. Take the men I've named. Find out what they did and how they did it and why they did it. What effect did their acts have on their countries and on the world.

July 8, 1953

I went walking this morning as I usually do when the weather permits and my mail reading is not overwhelming.

It was a beautiful sunny morning. I left the backporch where I was reading piles of mail and walked out the gate behind the old barn-which is now a two car garage. It was a four car garage but these new wide cars have halved its capacity.

As I walked out of the alley into Delaware Street a young man jumped [out] of his car on the west side of the street and said that he and his wife had been waiting for a chance to see me. He was from Strateor (look it up), Ill., said he'd seen me from the station there on my campaign tour. He was a nice looking man and his wife was a pretty young woman. Both looked sleepy. They'd evidently arisen early so as to be sure they had a chance to see me and shake hands.

I always try to be as pleasant as I can to the numerous people who want to see and talk to me. They, of course, don't know that I walk early to get a chance to think over things and get ready for work of the day. But they come from every State in the Union and I must consider that they've made a special effort to see me-so I treat them accordingly even [if] it does sometimes spoil a train of thought.

Well I went to Maple Ave., turned left "toward town" and spoke to several people, turned south on Pleasant Street. After I'd passed the light at Lexington I met a young man, Frank A. Reynolds, who introduced himself as John Strother's son-in-law. We talked a few minutes and I thought of the Strother family-one of the best old families in the County.

John was Democratic committeeman from Blue Township (Independence) from the time I was road overseer in Washington Township until I went to Washington as U.S. senator from Missouri. He was a grand man-but wouldn't tell his age! He was in my father's generation and he always wanted to be young with the young men. He was a good lawyer and an honest one too.

Just as I started to leave Mr. Strother's son-in-law-and there were other great Strothers: Sam, who was a pillar of the Democratic Party in Kansas City; a second generation Judge, Duvall, and many others-as I say, just [as] I started to walk again a car stopped across the street and a man jump[ed] out and came over to shake hands and said "I'm sure you can't remember me-it's been so long since you've seen me." I did though. I told him whose son he is and who his grandfather was! Some feat for a man who has met millions of people.

He belonged to the Pugh family. His grandfather, Noah E. Pugh, was one fine man. He came out to Missouri in 1894 or 1895 and settled on my mother's part of her father's estate, 160 acres south east of the present home farm about three miles. Mr. Pugh had several sons and daughters older and younger than I. Conley Pugh was a few years older than I and was married to a nice Grandview girl when they were very young. It was a happy marriage and the man who stopped me is Conley's oldest boy. He told me that he had four children. It is remarkable indeed how time flies and makes you an old man whether you want to be or not.

I finished my walk and went back to work on the mail and my memoirs. I suppose I'll always be busy as the proverbial bee from morn to night.


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