Harry S. Truman, the 33rd President of the United States took office in 1945 following the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt. He is perhaps best known as the man who ordered the dropping of the only two atomic weapons ever used in warfare; “Little Boy” on Hiroshima August 6, 1945 and “fat man” on Nagisaki three days later. The use of these two bombs, the only ones in existence at the time, brought an end to World War II. But what I prefer to remember Truman for is the sign on his desk, which stated unequivocally “The Buck Stops Here.”
In the turbulent years immediately following the greatest conflict in the history of mankind, America needed strong leadership and they had it in Truman. One can certainly argue that his post-war Truman Doctrine of “containment” with respect to communism, along with the Marshall Plan, which rebuilt Europe, were in large part responsible for the nuclear arms race, the “Cold War” and ultimately the Korean conflict. However, no one can disagree that he consistently acted with conviction and determination. He had a plan, laid it out clearly and then took responsibility for whatever the results. Where is that leadership style today?
I’m reminded of the theme song of the 1970’s sit-com “All in the Family” titled “Those were the days.” The lyrics told of a simpler time with more traditional values:
Boy the way Glen Miller played,
Songs that made the hit parade.
Guys like us we had it made,
Those were the days.
And you knew who you were then,
Girls were girls and men were men,
Mister we could use a man
Like Herbert Hoover again.
Didn’t need no welfare state,
Everybody pulled his weight.
Gee our old LaSalle ran great.
Those were the days.
Leadership is an art form that includes possessing a vision based on unwavering principles, an ability to inspire and support others along with the instinct to know when to step forward, seize the reigns and provide specific direction. One could argue that Barack Obama actually possesses these qualities and he used them to get elected President of the United States. However, his campaign was long on inspiration but short on direction. All he promised was to “fundamentally change America.” Many people were anxious for a new direction and got caught-up in the “Hope and Change” without understanding the implications of the word “fundamentally.” Now we recognize that Mr. Obama’s unwavering principles are clearly different than those of most Americans and his direction for the country is not where most of us want to go.
Perhaps the most accurate statement that this President has made been since being inaugurated was “elections have consequences.” With those three arrogant words he polarized his opponents and helped launch a grassroots campaign that promises to set our nation on a different course following the next election. But who will step forward with a new vision? What will his or her principles be and how will we know if they are indeed unwavering? What will be the new direction for the American Ship of State? These questions must be asked of every candidate and the American electorate deserve and must demand straight-forward answers.
One thing is certain; the opportunity for true leadership has never been more obvious, at least not in my lifetime. Over the next few months someone will surely seize this unprecedented opportunity and we can only pray that person will once again place a sign in the Oval Office stating simply “The Buck Stops Here.”
The opinions expressed herein are my own and do not necessarily reflect or represent the policies or opinions of any medical organization or group.
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