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Louis Roney

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John Kennedy said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” People bought that idea and loved Kennedy for it while they were loving the good old USA even more.

Today many people seem to think of our government in a “gimmie” mode, where “I wanna” is constantly brewing in the back of their minds.

Even worse, many people, such as George Soros, identify themselves as hating the U.S. because of our free enterprise system, or for other, even more arcanely ominous, reasons.

JFK was the anomalous son of irascible Joe Kennedy, who owned a movie studio and kept a famous beautiful movie star as his mistress. Joe also had time to be ambassador to the Court of St. James in London until the Brits demanded his recall because his sentiments seemed to lean toward the German Third Reich. Joe’s personal life interfered with his noble service to his country.

After the death of FDR, I got to know Margaret Truman in New York during my vocal days. I told her that I thought her father was the best president of my lifetime, which had included Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover and Franklin Roosevelt.

“Did you think that at first?” she asked.

“Well, I certainly never expected it from a rather obscure Missouri senator. When FDR died in April 1945, I was in the Navy, teaching gunnery in Anacostia, D.C. A guy walked in and told our room of some 40 officers, ‘Roosevelt died!’ There was a pause — then the whole class as one man said, ‘my God, Truman!’

“Margaret, after 12 years, no one could imagine anyone but Roosevelt as president, especially during the war. ”

“My dad knew that very well,” Margaret said.

“But,” I said, “he surprised the country by his simple moral strength, his great common sense and his overwhelming patriotism.”

It would be unreasonable to ask that a U.S. president come from an apolitical background. Truman inherited a situation of which the American public was mostly ignorant — for a long time, FDR had been a very ill man, and the presidency had become too much for him, although only a few people close to him knew that fact.

Truman, who had been an artillery captain in France in WWI, was conditioned to the kind of discipline of a military life.

We in the various services liked and respected Harry Truman.

Years later in New York, Columbia Artists Management, my management, got the idea that Margaret and I might sing a tour in joint recital, as her solo singing was not quite doing the job by itself. We met in Sidney Dietch’s vocal studio and talked it over, but Margaret could never decide on the two or three opera duets that would be obligatory, and that was that. Margaret did not have a professional’s voice, but who could fault her for touring the U.S. with every local Democrat obligated to buy her concert tickets?

In 1956, long out of the White House, Margaret Truman married Clifton Daniel, a brilliant man who became managing editor of The New York Times. Margaret and Clifton had four sons while she slipped quietly out of a national limelight she had never really enjoyed.

Who is Roney? Harvard’42—Distinguished Prof, Em.—UCF 2004 Fla. Alliance for the Arts award (Assisted by beautiful wife Joy Roney)