Daily Archives: October 18, 2007

TWWP Puzzler: Name The U.S. Presidents Known To Have Made Use of The Library of Congress

I just noted an article in the New York Times by Doreen Carvajal, Library of Congress Advances 2 Digital Projects Abroad, that brings good news. It says in part:

PARIS, Oct. 17 — The Library of Congress announced an ambitious plan on Wednesday to digitize a collection of the world’s rare cultural materials — artifacts ranging from a photo collection of a 19th-century Brazilian empress to a crackly recording of the 101-year-old grandson of a slave.

The library also signed an agreement with Unesco in Paris to move ahead with the World Digital Library project, which is in the testing phase and will not be available for public use until next year.

Other national libraries appear poised to cooperate in the venture, which is modeled after the Library of Congress’s vast American Memory project that has posted millions of original items on the Web, including Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.

The aim is that the material will ultimately be available on personal computers, hand-held devices and some of the basic, inexpensive laptops that are being developed for use in emerging economies.

The web address, or URL, of the Library of Congress is http://www.loc.gov/index.html. “Loc” is an acronym for Library Of Congress. which can also be interpreted as an abbreviation for “location.” For example, many of the assembly languages that are used to program computers at the hardware level have a “LOC” instruction.

The Library of Congress is, in its own words:

The Library of Congress is the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution and serves as the research arm of Congress. It is also the largest library in the world, with millions of books, recordings, photographs, maps and manuscripts in its collections.

The Library’s mission is to make its resources available and useful to the Congress and the American people and to sustain and preserve a universal collection of knowledge and creativity for future generations. The Office of the Librarian is tasked to set policy and to direct and support programs and activities to accomplish the Library’s mission.

The current Librarian of Congress is James H. Billington. What a wonderful job title! I am certain he is one of our nation’s greatest librarians, and thus also one of our nations greatest educators.

The Library was created to serve the members of Congress, and so Mr. Billington is their librarian.

I know that many members of Congress have made use of their library, though I expect fewer do so today than in the past, and that if you plotted the fraction of these members over time, you would find a steady decrease since the library was founded, over two hundred years.

Many members of Congress have gone on to become President, so I find it interesting to ask the question that is today’s Puzzler: [1]

Name The U.S. Presidents Known To Have Made Use of The Library of Congress

I can’t name them all, but I can name at least one: Harry S. Truman.

I have read two wonderful books about President Truman.

Plain Speaking: An Oral Biography of Harry S. Truman is a series of interviews by Merle Miller that contains many wonderful examples of Mr. Truman’s words and speech.

Truman is the best biography of Truman since its author, David McCullough, is our greatest living historian.

Though Truman is not ranked among our greatest Presidents — I think he is put in the group just below them — this biography makes it clear that no President has had a greater character or more integrity.

Truman was also an avid reader throughout his life. His wife, Bess Truman, did not like Washington, so she stayed at home while Truman served in Congress in the 1930’s.

One of the wonderful stories in the book is that while President Truman was attending a conference, most likely Yalta, someone asked about Turkey, and an expert in that area was astounded by the depth of knowledge that Truman displayed in his comments.

When that expert, who I believe worked for the State Department, returned to Washington, he checked with Library of Congress to see who had checked out books about Turkey, and learned that a comprehensive history of Turkey had been checked out several years earlier by Harry S. Truman of Missouri!

Another story speaks profoundly to his integrity. Truman rose through the political ranks as a member of the notorious political “machine” in Kansas City, Missouri, that was led by “Boss” Tom Prendergast. McCullough had access to Truman’s diaries and found in them many entries in which Truman described the anguish and difficulty of trying to be an honest politican while working as a member of the “machine” that was riddled with corruption.

By the way, I had planned to relate his anguish in my recent post, David Brooks: A Still, Small Voice.

Truman made his reputation by an investigation into corruption and acquisition policies in the early days of WWII, and it was his success in that effort that led to his being selected as the Vice Presidential candidate when Pres. Roosevelt ran for re-election in 1944.

There is much evidence of his character, and his loyalty, to be found in the book. He most respected General of the Army George S. Marshall and Secretary of State Dean Acheson. What we know as the “Marshall Plan” would have been the “Truman Plan” except that Pres. Truman, in a notable act of friendship and respect, insisted that the plan be named after Marshall. Truman also stood behind Acheson when he was savagely attacked.

The story that best speaks to his loyalty is that of a funeral for a Kansas City Politician. It was held on a cold day in February. There were only a few people present, including a reporter for a local reporter who was McCullough’s source.

As the funeral service was about to begin, the reporter saw a long limousine drive up, and when the door was opened, he saw that President Truman was in attendance.

After the ceremony, the reporter asked Mr. President why had bothered to attend the funeral of such a minor political figure. Truman’s reply says all you need to know about his character and loyalty.

President Harry S. Truman: “I never forget a friend.”

I was about to add a note about our current president and his lack of curiosity, only to soon learn that I have previously written about President Truman and made mention of Pres. Bush. See Thomas L. Friedman – Tolerable or Awful: The Roads Left in Iraq, written almost a year ago.

By the way, the recent attempts by the Congress to address the “massacre” of Armenians by the Turks almost a century ago displays a notable lack of strategic thinking. While that matter may be worth review, this is not the time to do it. Turkey is an important ally of our country, perhaps the strongest of those countries with a large Muslim majority. The best hope for unifying Iraq is to enlist the support of the Kurds. They live in both Iraq and Turkey, so we would do well to let Turkey and the Kurds sort things out on their own without witless members of Congress needlessly stirring the pot, as it may boil over.

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