NORMAN — Pulitzer Prize winning author and historian David McCullough said much can be learned from President Harry Truman’s character, courage, common sense and the ability to not let an ego get in the way of governing.
“He had the courage and the conviction to stand up for what he thought was right, no matter what,” McCullough told a dinner audience Monday night inside the Oklahoma Memorial Union.
Truman, he said, was judged mostly on the surface. No college degree. No political pedigree. It was his high school teachers in English and history that instilled in Truman his commitment to learning.
McCullough’s talk was the capstone on the University of Oklahoma’s second Teach-In. This year’s day-long event featured seven lectures and panel discussions on the Great Depression and World War II.
OU President David L. Boren said the evening dinner speech was the largest audience at a dinner in the university’s history. The 2014 theme will be the Civil War, Boren announced.
McCullough, a two-time Pulitzer Prize recipient for his books “Truman” and “John Adams,” said Truman’s preserved letters and speeches were great material for the book.
“There was no ambiguity and he never tried to be like anyone else,” he said.
McCullough said he studied Truman’s early business and political troubles.
“Take a look at how they handled failure in their life, because if you’re going to be president, you’re going to have failure.”
He expressed concern that young people today are not learning about Truman or that period in the nation’s history.
“Don’t assume that these wonderful young Americans know history,” he said.
At lunch, Pulitzer prize winner David Kennedy delivered a noon address analyzing the key elements of American WWII strategy in an address titled “A Tale of Three Cities: How the U.S. Won World War II.”