Some presidents are destined to greatness, and some are thrown into it. Some qualify in both categories. President Harry S Truman was born in Lamar, Missouri, on May 8, 1884. He was the oldest child of John Anderson Truman and Martha Ellen Young Truman. As is often tradition in families, he was named for his maternal uncle, Harrison “Harry” Young. His middle initial, “S” was to honor his grandfathers, Anderson Shipp Truman and Solomon Young. Truman’s brother, John Vivian, was born soon after he was, followed by sister Mary Jane.
President Truman was the 33rd President of the United States, becoming president after the death of President Franklin D Roosevelt. He was a lifetime Democrat, although he might not recognize the party today, and as we have seen, there are good and bad politicians in both parties. Following the death of Roosevelt, who was rather anti-Israel, Truman implemented the Marshall Plan to rebuild the economy of Western Europe and established both the Truman Doctrine and NATO to contain the expansion of communism. He went on to propose numerous liberal domestic reforms, but few were enacted by the Conservative Coalition that dominated the Congress at that time. While some of his policies, were not good for America or the world, he was known for his support of Israel. On May 14, 1948, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion read the proclamation of nationhood. Striking the speaker’s table for emphasis, he announced, “The name of our state shall be Israel.” It was a noble effort, but the new state would need to be recognized to carry much weight.
Shortly before making his speech, President Truman made some last-minute changes, which are still visible on the speech. The American statement recognized the new State of Israel. Israel’s American recognition came shortly after midnight in Palestine, just a few minutes after the new nation was proclaimed. There were a number of nations who did not want Israel to be a nation again, but President Truman took matters into his own hands, and it became a reality. For his help, President Truman was gifted a Torah from Dr Chaim Weizmann, who was the first president of the new state of Israel, during Weizmann’s visit to the White House on May 25th, 1948. I suppose some people might disagree, but for me, this was the crowning moment of Truman’s presidency.
After his wartime service, Truman returned to Independence, where he married Bess Wallace on June 28, 1919. The couple had one child, Mary Margaret Truman. On December 5, 1972, Truman was admitted to Kansas City’s Research Hospital and Medical Center with pneumonia. He developed multiple organ failure, fell into a coma, and died at 7:50am on December 26, 1972, in Independence, Missouri at the age of 88. Bess Truman opted for a simple private service at the library rather than a state funeral in Washington. A week after the funeral, foreign dignitaries and Washington officials attended a memorial service at Washington National Cathedral. Bess died in 1982 and is buried next to Harry at the Harry S Truman Library and Museum in Independence, Missouri.
I think most of us know that a conscientious objector is a person who feels strongly about not killing…even in a war. However, there are actually entire countries who believe that way…or almost. The most well known country to claim neutrality is Switzerland. Other countries to claim non-interventionist stances include Ireland, Austria, and Costa Rica, but Switzerland is remains the oldest and most respected of them all. In fact, Switzerland has been in a state of perpetual neutrality for centuries. This state of neutrality does not mean they do not have an army, because they do. The country maintains an army for defense purposes and requires part-time military service from all males between the ages of 18 and 34. So how did this state of perpetual neutrality come about, and what does it mean exactly?
The earliest attempt by Switzerland, at neutrality came in 1515 when the Swiss Confederacy suffered a devastating loss to the French at the Battle of Marignano. After that, the country abandoned any thought of expanding it’s borders in an attempt to avoid future conflict. All this was done in the interest of self-preservation. The Napoleonic Wars, however, truly sealed Switzerland’s place as a neutral nation. Switzerland was invaded by France in 1798 and was later made a satellite of Napoleon Bonaparte’s empire, forcing it to compromise its neutrality. Napoleon was defeated, and the major European powers decided that a neutral Switzerland would provide a much needed buffer zone between France and Austria. It was assumed that their neutrality would bring stability to the region. Then during the 1815 Congress of Vienna, a declaration was signed affirming Switzerland’s state of “perpetual neutrality” within the international community. In 1920, the newly formed League of Nations officially recognized Swiss neutrality and established its headquarters in Geneva.
Switzerland’s state of perpetual neutrality has not been without it’s challenges. In World War I, it mobilized its army and accepted refugees but also refused to take sides militarily. An even bigger challenge to Switzerland’s neutrality came in World War II, when the country was surrounded by Axis powers. Switzerland continued in its neutral stance, saying that they would retaliate in the event of an invasion, but would not enter the war. Nevertheless, they continued to trade with Nazi Germany, a decision that caused controversy after the war ended.
After World War II, Switzerland has been active in international affairs by siding with humanitarian initiatives, while maintaining its neutrality when it came to military issues. Switzerland refuses to join NATO or the European Union, and only joined the United Nations in 2002. In my opinion it might as well have stayed out of the United Nations entirely. I understand the desire to stay neutral and out of wars, but to me it seems a little bit like walking the fence. They want the good that’s offered without having to hold the evil nations accountable for their actions. I realize the Switzerland has done things for the rest of the world, but it still seems like a bit of a cop out when their trade is not affected because they refuse to argue the evil that some nations do.