Sunday, November 21, 2004

U.S. Senate Historical Minutes: Harry Truman Visits the Senate

U.S. Senate Historical Minutes: Harry Truman Visits the Senate - Tells about the historic visit the former president paid to the U.S. Senate on his 80th birthday.

From the site:

May 8 marks the birth anniversary of an American president who never tired of saying that the "happiest ten years" of his life were those he spent in the United States Senate. Born on May 8, 1884, Missouri's Harry S. Truman came to the Senate at the age of fifty in January 1935.

Truman quickly became popular among his Senate colleagues who appreciated his folksy personality, his modesty, and his diligence. In 1940, Truman nearly lost a chance for a second term, barely winning his primary and general election. In 1941, he returned to the Senate to take the assignment that made his political career. Convinced that waste and corruption were strangling the nation's efforts to mobilize for the war in Europe, Truman chaired the Senate Special Committee to Investigate the National Defense Program. During the three years of his chairmanship, the "Truman Committee" held hundreds of hearings in Washington and around the country. This role erased his earlier image as a Kansas City political hack and gave him working experience with business, labor, agriculture, and executive agencies that would serve him well in later years. In 1944, when party leaders sought a replacement for controversial Vice President Henry Wallace, Truman's national stature made him an ideal compromise choice.

On May 8, 1964, Harry Truman celebrated his eightieth birthday with a visit to the Senate chamber. In 1935, Senator Truman had proposed that former presidents be allowed the privilege of speaking on the Senate floor and in committees to discuss pending legislation. Ten years later, House Republican Leader Joseph Martin, sharing Truman's admiration for former President Herbert Hoover, offered a constitutional amendment allowing former chief executives to serve as non-voting senators-at-large. That proposal resurfaced in 1961 with the added provision that each senator at large have a vote. Truman told its sponsor that he believed the voting privilege to be unfair to the states and politically unrealistic. In 1963, the Senate modified its rules to allow former presidents to address the Senate "upon proper written notice." Although no former president has used that privilege, Harry Truman chose his eightieth birthday to informally thank the Senate for honoring him. "If I have many more happy birthdays," he concluded, "I shall never have another one like this."

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