- Several years ago, I read the biography, Truman, by David McCullough. I knew very little about President Truman before that, so the book was an eye-opening experience. After all, that time period is the back story to my life, the era of my parents’ childhoods. To be honest, there was a lot going on in the world during that time, and Truman ended up involved in most of it in one way or another.
The fact that a farmer from Missouri could end up in the White House, almost by accident, was incredible. Yet, he did. And he took responsibility and made tough decisions. Then, when he was done, he went home and walked to “work” at his Presidential library every day. The first presidential library.
So after reading the book, I realized that nearly every time we drove to South Dakota from North Carolina, we went right past Independence, Missouri, and the signs that point the way to his home and his presidential library. It became my goal, my dream, to visit his library. I’d never been to a presidential library, and this seemed like a perfect place to start.
But, it wasn’t that simple. Our trips back and forth were often made with as much speed as we could manage. After all, when it takes 27 hours to make the trip, you don’t really have time for sight-seeing. But every time we passed the signs I would say, “One day!”
About the time we got serious about visiting, they closed for renovations. Then the pandemic happened. But this past Thanksgiving week, “someday” became “this day” and we stopped in Independence and spent several wonderful hours exploring the museum/library. There was so much history there, a lot of it sobering, as it dealt with several wars.
I came away, thankful once again for the man that was Harry Truman and the gifts God gave him. Someday, I would love to go back. But, there are other presidential libraries!
A couple of weeks ago I finished reading Mornings on Horseback, also by David McCullough. It’s not a biography, but rather the chronicling of a family, the Roosevelt family. It starts with President Theodore Roosevelt’s grandparents and parents, and then settles into a close-up-and-personal look at the family in which Teddy Roosevelt grew up. It follows them through to the point where Teddy is about to marry his second wife, then quickly ties up the loose ends, letting you know how each of his siblings’ lives went after that.
It was an incredibly detailed look at the life of a privileged family in the last half of the 19th century and into the 20th.
The thing that most caught my attention, though, was a note from the author explaining how he decided to write the book. When he was researching for his books on the Brooklyn Bridge and the Panama Canal, (both on my must-read list) he discovered this massive collection of letters from the Roosevelt family, housed at Harvard. Every Roosevelt was a prolific letter writer. The author recognized in them a treasure trove of first person accounts of this time period in history. How could he not write the story? And wow, I’m super glad he did!
Only now I want to go to Harvard to see those letters.
Please comment below if you have visited any of the presidential libraries or have ever been inspired to visit a historic site because you read about it in a book.
If you are interested in visiting a Presidential Library, you can find a list of them at this site: https://www.archives.gov/presidential-libraries
Here is a link to information about the Theodore Roosevelt Collection: https://library.harvard.edu/collections/theodore-roosevelt-collection