Sunday, April 5, 2009

Harry Truman's Excellent Adventure

My colleague Matthew Algeo has an OpEd in this morning's New York Times on the vacation Harry and Bess Truman took the summer after he left the White House, which is also the topic of his newly-released book, Harry Truman’s Excellent Adventure: The True Story of a Great American Road Trip.

It's a fascinating story because the Trumans' lives were so ordinary. In 1953 ex-presidents didn't have Secret Service protection or even pensions. And because Truman refused to sully the office by accepting lucrative speaking gigs or business offers -- imagine that today! -- he and Bess lived by very humble means. They stayed with friends or roadside motels, ate at local diners and tried to simply return to lives as ordinary citizens. It didn't entirely work.

Public Radio listeners in the U.S. may remember hearing Matthew on-air when he was a reporter for Marketplace; Mainers know him as the longtime host of Maine Public Radio's Maine Things Considered. (He now lives in Rome.)

My wife snapped up Harry Truman's Excellent Adventure as soon as it arrived in the mail and reports it is a joy to read. From the passages she's read aloud to me -- and her frequent outbursts of laughter -- I'm very much looking forward to my turn.

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