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Presidency of Harry S. Truman: Part I

In partnership with:
With support from: Lowell Institute
Date and time
Sunday, April 28, 2002

Alan Brinkley, professor of history at Columbia University; Melvyn Leffler, professor of history at the University of Virginia; and Clifton Truman Daniel, grandson of Harry S. Truman, discuss the Truman presidency. This is the first in a two-part series. The death of Franklin Roosevelt catapulted Harry S. Truman, former farm boy, World War I soldier, failed haberdasher, and district judge turned US senator, into the 33rd president of the United States. With a candor that was to be his trademark, he shared with the world his own misgivings at the turn of events that made him president. "I pray to God," he quipped, "that I can measure up to the task." As the historian, Alan Nevins, wrote, "This mixture of modesty and confidence was part of Truman's great appeal." While he made his share of mistakes, "To err is Truman," carped one critic, he also faced a myriad of difficult issues in a distinctly clear-sighted and confident manner. The very fact that someone so seemingly like us could come to power in such extraordinary times helps explain in part the position President Truman continues to hold in our nation's memory.

Alan Brinkley is the 20th Provost and the Allan Nevins Professor of History at Columbia University in New York City. An eminent scholar of twentieth-century United States history, he has chaired the Department of History since 2000. Brinkley has been a prolific writer and published numerous works including, *Voices of Protest: Huey Long*, *Father Coughlin and the Great Depression*, which won the 1983 National Book Award, *The Unfinished Nation: A Concise History of the American People*, *The End of Reform; New Deal Liberalism in Recession and War*, and *Liberalism and its Discontents*. His latest book is The *Publisher: Henry Luce and His American Century*. In addition, Brinkley is a frequent commentator on current events, government policy, and economic and social trends. Before joining Columbia, Brinkley taught at M.I.T., Harvard and the City University of New York Graduate School. He has received fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Woodrow Wilson Center, the National Humanities Center, the Media Studies Center, Russell Sage Foundation and others. Brinkley is chairman of the board of trustees of the Century Foundation (formerly the Twentieth Century Fund), a member of the editorial board of The American Prospect, a member of the board of directors of the New York Council for the Humanities and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 1998 and 1999, he was the Harmsworth Professor of American History at Oxford University. He received his A.B. from Princeton and his Ph.D from Harvard.
Melvyn P. Leffler, faculty associate in the Governing America in a Global Era Program, is Edward R. Stettinius professor in the Department of History at the University of Virginia. He served as the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at University of Virginia from 1997-2001. In 1993 he won the Bancroft Prize for *A Preponderance of Power: National Security, the Truman Administration and the Cold War* (1992) and, in 2008, won the George Louis Beer Prize for his book, *For the Soul of Mankind: the United States, the Soviet Union, and the Cold War* (Hill & Wang, 2007). Leffler served in the Office of the Secretary of Defense during the Carter administration, where he worked on arms control and contingency planning as a fellow of the Council on Foreign Relations. He was president of the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations in 1993, and is the author of several articles and essays seeking to put contemporary developments after 9/11 in historical perspective.
Clifton Truman Daniel is the oldest grandson of former US President Harry S. Truman and son of the late E. Clifton Daniel Jr., former managing editor of *the New York Times*, and best-selling mystery writer Margaret Truman. He is currently director of public relations for Harry S. Truman College, one of the seven City Colleges of Chicago. Prior to that, he worked as a feature writer and editor for *the Morning Star *and* Sunday Star-News* in Wilmington, North Carolina. Mr. Daniel is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Harry S. Truman Library Institute in Independence, Missouri, a frequent speaker and fundraiser, and the author of the 1995 book, *Growing Up With My Grandfather: Memories of Harry S. Truman.*