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Saturday, June 1, 2013

Book Review: Where the Buck Stops by Harry S. Truman

Harry Truman was the 33rd President of the United States between the years of 1945-1953. Within his lifetime, he grew from a small town farm boy to county official, senator, and President of the United States. He successfully ended WWII, began the United Nations, implemented the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe, and attempted to contain communism with the Truman Plan. His autobiography entitled Where the Buck Stops is an excellent book that moves one into the way Truman thought about people he met and the nature of our nation.

Harry Truman is very blunt in his book and talks about some presidents as do nothing and others as successful. He also discusses what it really takes to be a great president and the skills that are needed. His suggestions in this area are making up your mind and sticking with your belief system. He further states that one must both listen and then persuade in order to create influence. It is indicated that presidents should accept the past and have enough time to understand their rolls.

The last part of the book focuses on concepts such as Washington’s abilities, the concept of Isolationism, how the U.S. became a world power, the poor treatment of Native Americans, and Woodrow Wilson as being too smart to be president. He believed that Woodrow Wilson was ahead of his time. The book is a culmination of his experiences, beliefs and perspectives. To read the inner thoughts of a public man gives one a greater perspective of why they made certain choices.

In his lifetime, he developed the Marshall Plan, which was an international public relationships policy that was designed to contain communism. The policy helped nations like Greece and Turkey to create the Iron Curtain to contain its influence. Some of the issues he faced are Soviet strength in the region and their inability to withdraw from countries like Iran. Much of American economic aid was focused on containing the influences of Communism.

The book is as relevant today as it was during his presidency. The same mechanics that existed during the Cold War also exist today but in new ways. We can see the same influences in Syria, Iran, the Middle East and other places still vying for influence. Along ideological lines, many of the places are still split today because of their past cultural economic footprints. Whether we believe his policies were beneficial or not in the long-run, we can understand why he made these decisions at the time.  New times bring new opportunities and choices.

Truman, H. (1989). Where the Buck Stops. NY: Warner Books. ISBN 0-446-39175-1
Pages: 376



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