Optimism and Opportunities


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“A pessimist is one who makes difficulties of his opportunities and an optimist is one who makes opportunities of his difficulties.” – Harry Truman

I’ve always enjoyed reading about Harry S. Truman. I’ll ‘fess up – I’m a History Head, so I can get lost for hours reading about men and women of yesteryear. There’s something different about Truman, though. He seems, somehow, more touchable than a lot of the people from the past. I think one of the reasons is the fact that he was so darned human. He was known to have a stubborn streak the length of the Mississippi, could be narrow-minded and had quite a temper. His mouth also got him into trouble on more than one occasion. Seems some of his jokes were insensitive and insulting. (Apparently no race, sex, individual, or religion escaped his amusement.) However, his mouth and temper would often betray what really dwelt in his heart.

He possessed strong convictions and didn’t wander away from them, or allow himself to be pulled away from their side. He also had a mental toughness and sharp wit that you can’t help but admire.

Truman initiated the first civil rights message (ever) and is the one who ordered the armed services desegregated. When his advisers and friends warned him that, due to the times, if he persisted with his civil rights program, he was certain to lose the election in 1948, he said if he lost for that, it would be a good cause. His convictions mattered more to him than his own reputation or political future. He didn’t lose the election OR his principles.

He was one of the rarist of US presidents in that his education wasn’t from college – it was just from life.

He was raised on a farm, and apparently had been overprotected by his mother. She always forbade him to get into fights, and produced what Truman himself later referred to as a “bookworm” and a “sissy”. He never knew the amount of courage he actually possessed until he came face to face with it in the war, at the horrific Battle of the Argonne. He found out what fear was, but more importantly he discovered what he was made of. (Nearly blind without his glasses, Truman memorized the eye chart to even get into the Army!)

No one expected Truman to win the election of 1948 – except for Truman, that is. The media was calling for a Dewey landslide. But he campaigned with the same tenacity and courage he fought in the war with, and he won. (Funny how the media changes partners, but still dances the same dance – and not well!)

Truman was an optimist who didn’t allow pessimists to get in his way. He worked hard and believed in himself, what he stood for, and what he wanted to accomplish. While he was no stranger to adversity, he used his obstacles to climb on for a better view, rather than cowering behind them!

The rest, as they say, is history.

Make each moment count double,

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