TRUMAN, Harry S. Typed letter signed ("Harry S. Truman"), as former President, to Clara Shirpser, Democratic National Committee, Kansas City, Mo., 4 May 1956. 1 page, 4to, on personal stationery.
"PEOPLE WOULD BE SURE TO THINK I WAS RUNNING FOR THE NOMINATION--AND I AM NOT"
TRUMAN DECLINES TO GIVE THE KEYNOTE ADDRESS AT THE 1956 DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL CONVENTION. "I appreciate your thoughtfulness," Truman begins, "in sending me a copy of your letter of May 1st to Paul Butler," who was head of the Democratic National Committee. "But I couldn't very well act as the keynote speaker. If I did, people would be sure to think I was running for the nomination--and I am not." Truman was having far too good a time as the party's elder statesman to even think about returning to the White House. He prized his freedom of action as an independent citizen, unbound by political niceties. He always gave his opinion on current events and leading politicians--whether Democratic or Republican--in his characteristic blunt and sometimes salty style. Reporters flocked to his side whenever he appeared in public, sure to come away with a colorful quote for tomorrow's paper.
By the time the Democrats convened in Chicago in the summer of 1956, Truman had a bombshell ready. He would not support the front-runner Adlai Stevenson, but instead endorsed his former advisor W. Averell Harriman. The country needed a President who wanted the job, Truman cracked. He found Stevenson's philosophical musings a turn-off. He "lacks the kind of fighting spirit we need to win," he told a crowd of reporters. One of that tribe, Russell Baker in the New York Times, wrote that "Harry S. Truman had the Democratic party chewing its fingernails down to the cuticle today and he loved every second of it." The former President was like "a small boy given free run in the circus" (quoted in McCullough, Truman, 959-960). The delegates would not take his advice, however, and Stevenson went down to defeat for a second time against Eisenhower.