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Citizen Soldier: A Life of Harry S. Trumanby Aida Donald
Synopses & Reviews
When Harry S. Truman left the White House in 1953, his reputation was in ruins. Tarred by corruption scandals and his controversial decision to drop nuclear bombs on Japan, he ended his second term with an abysmal approval rating, his presidency widely considered a failure. But this dim view of Truman ignores his crucial role in the 20th century and his enduring legacy, as celebrated historian Aida D. Donald explains in this incisive biography of the 33rd president.
In Citizen Soldier, Donald shows that, for all his failings, Truman deserves recognition as the principal architect of the American postwar world. The son of poor Missouri farmers, Truman overcame professional disaster and personal disillusionment to become something of a hero in the Missouri National Guard during World War I. His early years in politics were tainted by the corruption of his fellow Missouri Democrats, but Trumans hard work and scrupulous honesty eventually landed him a U.S. Senate seat and then the Vice-Presidency. When Franklin Roosevelt passed away in April 1945, Truman unexpectedly found himself at the helm of the American war effort—and in command of the atomic bomb, the most lethal weapon humanity had ever seen. Trumans decisive leadership during the remainder of World War II and the period that followed reshaped American politics, economics, and foreign relations; in the process, says Donald, Truman delineated the complex international order that would dominate global politics for the next four decades. Yet his accomplishments, such as the liberal reforms of the Fair Deal, have long been overshadowed by a second term marred by scandal.
Until we reevaluate Truman and his presidency, Donald argues, we cannot fully understand the world he helped create. A psychologically penetrating portrait, Citizen Soldier candidly weighs Trumans moments of astonishing greatness against his profound shortcomings, offering a balanced treatment of one of Americas most consequential—and misunderstood—presidents.
"Boosting a revamped political profile of President Harry S. Truman, Donald suggests thatÂ this son of Missouri farmers, at the peak of his powers during post-WWII America, was one of the most effective chief executives in the modern era. Taking a psychological approach, Donald stresses Truman's experiences as an officer in WWI in shaping the self-described 'sissy' into a man ready for any challenge, who though tarnished by an early affiliation with the corrupt Pendergast machine in Kansas City, rose through the political ranks to the presidency. Donald moves capably beneath Truman's public persona to uncover the plainspeaking, resolute inner man as he picks up the pieces of the stalled New Deal, ends WWII with two A-bombs, faces down Stalin at Potsdam, and fires the great Gen. Douglas MacArthur in a much publicized dustup. But Truman's administration limped to its conclusion. The president was fighting a war on two fronts: in Korea, and at home: several corruption scandals dropped his approval rating from 82% in 1945 to a low of 23% during the Korean conflict. With her research and historical expertise, Donald, former editor-in-chief of Harvard University Press, hasÂ succeeded in making Truman much more than a silent commander of a failed watch, into a fully formed man of sizable defects and masterful achievements. Agent: Sandra Dijkstra, Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Aida Donald is the author of Lion in the White House: A Life of Theodore Roosevelt. She has had a long and distinguished career in the field of American history; she served as editor-in-chief of Harvard University Press for many years, and also worked at Hill and Wang, the Massachusetts Historical Society, and the Johns Hopkins University Press. Also a former Fulbright Fellow at Oxford University, Donald holds a Ph.D. in American history and has taught at Columbia University.
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