A President Who Made a Difference

September 16, 2008
Gregory J. Kelly, Editor-in-Chief

Physician's Money Digest, July15 2004, Volume 11, Issue 13

My dad tells me that HarryTruman should be myfavorite US President. "If hedidn't drop the atomicbomb, I wouldn't be alive now, and obviously,neither would you," he explained.

That's very strong stuff coming fromsomeone who dedicated his life to healingpeople, but I get the picture. As a youngmedical officer on a US Navy ship in1945, Dad would have been part of amassive force that military strategiststhought necessary to conquer mainlandJapan. Many US servicemen would havedied in combat, but President Truman'smonumental decision changed all that.

Personal Growth Years


While I have done some readingabout Mr. Truman (I recommend David McCullough's Pulitzer Prize–winning biography of the 33rd president),I really came of age as an adult duringthe years of President Ronald Reagan.My first mature experiences with politics,government, and communicationscame in the early 1980s, when Mr.Reagan held the world's stage. In theintervening 20+ years, I believe, no personhas filled the role of national leadershipas well as he did.

From the time he asked, "I hope youare all Republicans," of doctors who wereabout to treat him after a 1981 assassinationattempt, I liked him. Although Iunderstand that not everyone—includingmany doctors—liked the late presidentwho died in June at age 93, my own feelingsare that he helped me to become amore positive and engaged person.

Reagan's Lessons

• Words have meaning.—Even as ayoung reporter and editor, I knew thatcompelling words (written or spoken)could sway people. Even his detractorsadmit that Mr. Reagan had a rare talentto communicate with all walks ofAmericans. As a person who appreciatesthe power of language, I was inspired byhis ability to connect and persuade.

• Fight fair.—Maturity taught methat people of good will can agree to disagree.Mr. Reagan gave as good as hegot, and while he never compromised oncore principles, he would bend enoughto achieve real progress. Sure, I rememberpolitical battles during his era, butsadly, it's nothing compared with today'spoisoned political environment.

• Entrepreneurs help all.—PresidentReagan convinced me that hardwork and vision have both personal andsocietal rewards. His strong advocacy ofeconomic opportunity through lowertaxes and fewer regulations inspiredAmericans to start or expand their effortsat commerce—thereby bettering theirown lives and that of their community.