204. The Political Education of Harry Truman - Trinity Episcopal Church

The Trinity Episcopal Church was built back in 1881 and that’s where Harry and Bess got married in 1919. This building is about trying to be the kind of person that you know you ought to be. Here’s the situation: Harry Truman was a decent man who wanted to stay that way, but who decided to get involved with politics, along with all its moral challenges and temptations. To really understand Truman’s commitment to do the right thing, it’s really important to know how much he wanted to look good to Bess. The best evidence for this are in the letters he wrote to her over the years. These are some of the things he wrote to her : I’m horribly anxious for you to suffer from an excessively good opinion of me! 04/08/12 Since I can’t rescue you from any monster or carry you from a burning building or save you from a sinking ship – simply because I’d be afraid of the monsters, couldn’t carry you, and can’t swim – I’ll have to go to work and make money enough to pay my debts and then get you to take me for what I am; just a common everyday man whose instincts are to be ornery, who’s anxious to be right. 11/19/13 I’ve wanted so badly to make good…so you and my sweet baby [Margaret] wouldn’t be ashamed of me. 05/01/42 I’ve never cared for social position or rank for myself except to see that those dear to me were not made to suffer for my shortcomings. 06/29/49 Harry Truman spent his life trying to be the type of man he thought his wife deserved. Independence was a small town and everyone knew each other. And also, everybody knew what was going on over in Kansas City; people knew who Pendergast was and people knew the type of people who associated with Pendergast. So what Truman learned here was, if he was to retain his good reputation and not embarrass his family, and yet succeed in a career as a politician, he would have to walk a fine line. And the place where that political career began is only a couple of blocks from here. Walk on to the next stop, number 205.