Harry S. Truman: The Man from Independence

By William F. Levantrosser | Go to book overview
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action. I doubt, for example, that three months before the leadership began to talk about what came to be the Marshall Plan, any public opinion expert would have said that the country would have accepted such proposals. 27

Democratic government can only function successfully if there is a reciprocal faith between leaders and followers. The historian Ernest R. May believes that the chief reason for the influence of public opinion on foreign policy is our knowledge that "American statesmen have traditionally thought themselves responsible to, and supported or constrained by, some sort of general will." 28

President Harry S. Truman fit this mold and, particularly with respect to foreign policy, demonstrated his faith in democracy by taking the people into his confidence.

Theodore C. Sorensen, Decision-Making in the White House ( New York, 1963), p. 10.
Harry S. Truman, Mr. Citizen ( New York, 1953), p. 261.
Ibid., p. 262.
Ibid., p. 263.
S. J. Woolf, "President Truman: A Portrait and Interview," The New Times Magazine, October 14, 1945, p. 47. Through the years the consistency of the President's statements on the relationship between leadership and public opinion is striking. The President's views must have been well-formulated at the time he took his oath of office, for the views expressed in the interview published on October 14, 1945, are identical to views expressed in an interview that he granted this writer sixteen years later in Independence, Missouri.
Clinton L. Rossiter, "The American President," Yale Review 37 ( June, 1948), p. 628.
Truman, Mr. Citizen, p. 264.
Seymour H. Fersh, The View from the White House ( Washington, 1961). p. 111.
Ibid., p. 112.
Address of the President delivered at the Imperial Council Session of the Shrine of North America, at Soldier Field, Chicago, July 19, 1949. Truman Library.
Address delivered at the commencement exercises at the University of Missouri, Columbia, Missouri, June 9, 1950, OR 1, Truman Library.
We have noted the close similarity of views between Presidents Truman and Wilson on this subject. Wilson also wrote that the President is the "spokesman for the real sentiment and purpose of the country, by giving direction to opinion, by giving the country at once the information and the statements of policy which will enable it to form its own judgments alike of parties and of men. Moreover, the President's is "the only national voice in affairs. Let him once win the admiration and confidence of the country, and no other single force can withstand him, no combination of forces will easily overpower him. His position takes the imagination of the country. He is representative


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Harry S. Truman: The Man from Independence
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