Simanaitis Says

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THE MORE I learn about Harry S Truman, 33rd President of the United States, the more I admire him. He was an omnifarious reader. He made difficult decisions after considerable thought. He could be outspoken to an extreme. And he had a warm sense of humor.

Harry S Truman, 1884–1972, American statesman, judge, senator, vice president, and 33rd President of the United States, serving from April 12, 1945, upon the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt, until January 20, 1953.

Here are several of my favorite Truman truisms.

On Reading. “Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders must read.”

Harry Truman with two fellow Baker Street Irregulars. Image appearing at “Harry S Truman—Sherlockian,” from Sherlock Holmes by Gas-Lamp.

“In reading the lives of great men, I found that the first victory they won was over themselves… self-discipline with all of them came first.”

On Ego. “When you get to be President, there are all those things, the honors, the twenty-one gun salutes, all those things. You have to remember it isn’t for you. It’s for the Presidency.”

“It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.”

On Truth. “You can never get all the facts from just one newspaper, and unless you have all the facts, you cannot make proper judgements about what is going on.”

Truman celebrates his upset victory over Thomas E. Dewey, made all the sweeter by the Chicago Daily Tribune and its erroneous November 3, 1948, headline. Photo by Byron Rollins from Wikipedia.

“I never did give anybody hell. I just told the truth and they thought it was hell.”

“It is plain hokum. If you can’t convince ’em, confuse ’em. It’s an old political trick. But this time it won’t work.”

“Richard Nixon is a no-good lying bastard. He can lie out of both sides of his mouth at the same time, and if he ever caught himself telling the truth, he’d lie just to keep his hand in.”

On Politics of the Presidency. “A President needs political understanding to run the government, but he may be elected without it.”

Captain Harry Truman, Battery D, 129th Field Artillery, U.S. Army, served in France in World War I. Image from

“A politician is a man who understands government. A statesman is a politician who’s been dead for 15 years.”

On a Sense of Humor. “Any man who has had the job I’ve had and didn’t have a sense of humor wouldn’t still be here.”

“I had flat eyeballs as a boy, and couldn’t see well enough to play ball with the other kids. So they made me the umpire.”

On Matters Familial. “The best way to give advice to your children is to find out what they want and then advise them to do it.”

Truman’s daughter Margaret was a classically trained soprano, actress, author, and radio and television personality. (Her radio work is heard occasionally on SiriusXM “Radio Classics.”)

Truman and his daughter Margaret. AP photo from

In a review of Margaret’s Constitution Hall concert, music critic Paul Hume wrote in The Washington Post, December 6, 1950, “Miss Truman is a unique American phenomenon with a pleasant voice of little size and fair quality. She cannot sing very well… is flat a good deal of the time… more last night than in any time we have heard her in past years….”

Truman responded, later the same day, on White House stationary, “Mr. Hume: I’ve just read your lousy review of Margaret’s concert.… Some day I hope to meet you. When that happens you’ll need a new nose, a lot of beefsteak for black eyes, and perhaps a supporter below! [Columnist Westbrook] Pegler, a gutter snipe, is a gentleman alongside you. I hope you’ll accept that statement as a worse insult than a reflection on your ancestry.”

As a father of daughters, I applaud with delight these concluding two Truman citations. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2018


  1. Bruce Troxell
    November 10, 2018

    Thank you, Dennis, it’s refreshing to read about a president who was not rude and ignorant.

    • simanaitissays
      November 10, 2018

      Thanks for your kind words, Bruce. I agree, particularly because HST was feisty in his own way, but with erudition and humor.

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