Tuesday, November 6, 2007

A Witness to History

Last night, the Plaza branch of the Kansas City Public Library hosted a reading by Frank Kelly, who was a speechwriter for Harry S Truman. I was late to the event, the MAX bus that I went to the stop to catch was delayed. Undeterred, I forged on, determined not to miss this event, even if I was destined for lateness. Opportunities to meet contemporaries of Missouri’s favorite son are far apart, few between, and dwindling fast.

After reading several moving passages from his new book, Harry Truman and the human family, Mr. Kelly graciously answered questions from the audience, which I would guess numbered about 50 – I sat in the back (near the free wine bar, of course) and took notes.

He spoke about President Truman’s “global consciousness” and his recognition of humanities greatness – but that outlook didn’t extend to his speechwriters…“He revised everything.”

Mr. Kelly talked at length about the 1948 Democratic Party platform, which he helped to draft. He thinks, and I agree, that the 1948 platform would be a good one to dust off for 2008. At its very heart, it was based on four freedoms:

  • Freedom of Speech
  • Freedom of Worship
  • Freedom from Want
  • Freedom from Fear

What’s not to be absolutely head-over-heels in love with about that platform? I would do handsprings across the Paseo Bridge if the Democrats would offer a platform like that! Restore the Constitution, take care of our citizens, and stop with the fear-peddling.

Frankly, how they managed to sell the specter of forced conversion to Islam, decapitations in the public square and Sharia law to 300 million of the most ornery, obstreperous and heavily armed people on the planet I will never understand!

Mr. Kelly is 93 years old, but he is still to this day a fire-breathin’ give-‘em-hell Democrat of the first order with every fiber of his being. He took a couple of shots at the current incumbent that drew standing ovations from the DFH library supporters in attendance. When asked about his perception of the current nuclear threat, he stated flatly that he was more concerned than he has ever been, because “Bush doesn’t understand the implications of the decisions he makes.”

After the question and answer session, Mr. Kelly remained to sign copies of his book and to speak one-on-one with those in attendance who desired a moment of his time. He was most gracious and he and I had a wonderful chat. I had a list of questions, but I was too busy being captivated by this charming, erudite man to remember to ask most of them, and when I shook his hand he never let go. As a result, I don’t know what Democrat he is supporting for the nomination, or what he thinks of the 110th congress, but I know he has a low opinion of political generals, and that Harry Truman considered the creation of the CIA the biggest mistake of his entire life.

When I introduced myself to him, I told him I was a blogger, and he said the internet is an exciting tool of Democracy, and that bloggers were making an impact. I smiled and told him I was not only aware of that fact, I had actually participated in a small way. When I told him that I was one of the two bloggers who filed the brief for the release of the Libby letters of support, he lit up and squeezed my hand, told me he was aware of that action, thanked me for taking that stand, and said some very nice things about citizen participation in Democracy, citizens taking back their government, and that Harry would be proud. He probably threw that bit in just to make my day – and it worked like a spell.

A person does not get that many chances to be a witness to history like I was last night. When such a chance comes your way, don’t pass it up.

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