chapter  5
Harry Truman: A Hero as President
Pages 24

Democratic heroes work within democratic institutions in such a way as to produce successful results. They personify the character of American democracy anticipated by Tocqueville. Peter Rodino and Arthur Watkins were reluctantly drafted to chair the impeachment and censure inquiries, Harry Truman was a hesitant candidate for vice president, doubting his ability to succeed FDR as president, and Frances Kelsey took on the thalidomide review as a routine introduction to her new job at the FDA. A fundamental lesson of the Holocaust is that individual goodness is insufficient to maintain a just society. But political heroism is different from personal righteousness. Political heroism requires more than individual goodness, since it is not self-evident how individual virtues should be applied to politics. American institutions provide the framework for political heroism, but they do not guarantee that heroes always be present when needed. Democratic heroes are like the Dutch boy, if dikes as a metaphor for the institutions of American politics.