KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Former President Bill Clinton praised Harry S. Truman's ability to help people understand their common humanity in accepting an award Wednesday given to people for their service to the United States in the spirit of the late president.
Speaking on the 129th birthday of President Truman, Clinton recalled Truman's ability to bring people together behind a common purpose. Clinton, the 2013 recipient of the Harry S. Truman Good Neighbor Award, told the audience of dignitaries and relatives of the late president he wished he had the chance to know Truman.
"I feel that the simple virtues that he grew up with and lived with were coupled with an incredibly fine mind and a steel spine so that he could talk in plain language about highly sophisticated things," said Clinton, who was president from 1993 to 2001.
He noted Truman's role in selling the nation on the need for the post-World War II European reconstruction effort known as the Marshall Plan
"They couldn't understand why having thrown our weight behind the allies in World War II, we now had to pony up a lot of money to help not only our allies but our former adversaries," Clinton said. "Truman could explain it in plain language that he could make us understand that we had to win the Cold War for freedom if our children were going to live in a peaceful world. And he did it in a way that everybody could access."
Clinton noted that the human genome was sequenced during his presidency, with the effort revealing that humans are 99.5 percent genetically the same.
"We spend 99 percent of our lives thinking about the half percent that is different," Clinton said. "We have to spend some more time thinking about the implications of the 99.5 percent, thinking that no matter how smart we all are, we're not going to be right all the time, thinking that the Good Neighbor policy that led Harry Truman to the Marshall Plan must now lead us to a world of creative cooperation to give us a chance to give our children and grandchildren the future they deserve, whether we are dealing with challenges in America or halfway around the world."
He said Truman knew long before the human genome was sequenced that humans are mostly the same.
"Truman was right," Clinton said. "Being a good neighbor more than ever before is the best policy."
Other recipients of the Good Neighbor Award have included former President Gerald Ford, television journalist Walter Cronkite and Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.