Truman himself is largely remembered for just two things. The first is the election victory he miraculously pulled out in 1948 over his Republican opponent, Thomas E. Dewey. Who among us has not seen the famed picture of Truman’s smiling face as he waves the Chicago Tribune’s headline erroneously declaring “Dewey Defeats Truman”?
The second thing for which Truman is most remembered, of course, is the decision to drop the atomic bombs on Japan in order to hasten the end of World War Two. Historians are divided over this action. Some see it as unnecessary given the inevitable defeat of Japan.
Others point to the immense carnage anticipated (with estimates as high as 1.5 to 2 million deaths) if the allies would have had to invade the Japanese home islands with the same conventional methods they had applied while taking back the numerous Pacific islands Japan had conquered at the beginning of the war.
Whether one agrees with Truman’s actions or not, this much is certain: Truman himself accepted the responsibility for his own actions as president. He kept a sign on his desk that read: “The Buck Stops Here!”
The meaning of this sign is found in the old adage: “passing the buck”. Truman wanted people to understand that he would not pass the proverbial buck. If something was his job as president, then he would accept that responsibility, do his job, and accept the consequences, whatever they may prove to be.
And yet, it seems that Truman was not always this way. He apparently had to grow into the position where he embraced and accepted the responsibilities of leadership. A good example of this can be seen in the much cited April 27, 1992 article from Moody’s Today in the Word magazine:
Franklin Roosevelt had to work hard to persuade Harry Truman to be his running mate in the 1944 presidential election.
Truman wanted to go to the Senate, but incumbent vice-president Henry Wallace was unpopular with many Democratic leaders. So Truman was approached, and accepted the job with extreme reluctance.
On April 12, 1945 he was summoned to the White House. There he was shown into Eleanor Roosevelt's sitting room, where she told him that President Roosevelt was dead.
After a moment of stunned silence Truman asked her, "Is there anything I can do for you?"
She shook her head. "Is there anything we can do for you?" she said. "For you're the one in trouble now."
Perhaps this is the seminal moment when Truman decided to accept the awesome responsibility of the Presidency. If not, it was certainly the beginning of such a process. Either way, the point is that Truman quickly had to embrace his destiny. And to his credit, he did so.
The Bible gives us numerous examples of people who were suddenly thrust into positions of leadership. Some of them embraced that role and acted decisively; while others waivered and acted indecisively. In both situations, there were tremendous consequences.
Take, for instance, the differences on display between Israel’s first King, Saul, and her second king, David.
From the start, Saul seems reticent to accept the responsibilities of kingship. He hem haws around, never quite embracing the leadership role he was assigned. The result is a nation that was both divided and beleaguered. By comparison, young David eagerly accepted the mantle of leadership, stepping out in faith, confronting the enemy, uniting the people of God, and inspiring them to victory and its resultant reward.
Not many of us are called to be Presidents, and even fewer of us to be kings. Nonetheless, we are all called upon to exert influential leadership from time to time. This is true whoever you are and whatever role God has assigned to you. So, whenever your positon calls upon you to make decisions, to act decisively, and to influence others in the process, make the most of it. You never know how God might intend to use your leadership!
SOURCE: Today in the Word, April 27, 1992. In attempting to track this original resource down, I came to this site: https://www.todayintheword.org/archives/?searchPhrase=April+27%2C+1992&type=&date. Apparently the print edition itself is not archived on the Today in the Word website.
Nonetheless, numerous websites cite the above referenced article. See, for instance: http://www.jeremyhouck.com/looking-for-a-leader.html as well as
SEE ALSO: Several good biographies of President Truman are available. The one I had to read in college, Plain Speaking by Merle Miller, is among the best. Others include David McCullough’s Truman and the appropriately titled Where the Buck Stops: The Personal and Private Writings of Harry S. Truman by President Truman’s own daughter, Margaret Truman.