Roosevelt and a time for greatness

April 12, 1995

Fifty years ago, The Evening Sun assessed the history of Franklin D. Roosevelt and the prospects of Harry S. Truman. In an editorial headlined "Roosevelt," the paper's editorial page editors said:

"Mr. Roosevelt's tragic death ended a Presidential tenure longer and more varied in its changing conditions than any of his predecessors had. . . Neither Washington nor Jefferson nor Lincoln nor Wilson served amid such kaleidoscopic changes.

"The fact that Mr. Roosevelt managed to keep a firm hold on the management of our affairs during these rapid changes shows the adaptability and resilence of the man. That he retained his hold on the minds and hearts of the American people under such trying conditions shows his essential greatness. As the Manchester Guardian says in discussing his career today, he will rank with the greatest of his predecessors."

Our predecessor editors and the Guardian's exercised excellent instant analysis. President Roosevelt has been regarded as a great president in every subsequent scholarly assessment. Historians, politicians and journalists have been polled on several occasions and consistently rated FDR third behind Lincoln and Washington and, in one case, a poll of 953 specialists in American political history conducted in 1981, second behind Lincoln.

It is interesting that not only Democrats and liberals hold FDR in high esteem 50 years after his death, but also those leaders in the effort to reduce the FDR-created big federal government, Ronald Reagan and Newt Gingrich.

Of Harry Truman, The Evening Sun was more tentative in April, 1945. In an editorial headlined "A Time For Greatness," it said: "Mr. Truman is a more or less unknown quality, but he did effective work as a Senator and he has shown qualities of mind and character which encourage the hope that he will not fail his country at this trying time. . . Now is a time for greatness. The best way to make sure that Mr. Truman rises to the tremendous responsibilities of his office is for us as citizens to rise to ours."

The American people did, and Mr. Truman did. President in TC difficult era, he did his best. A generation later, he was judged "near great" by the experts' consensus, and his reputation was even higher and rising among the American people.

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