120th Annual Spring Outing Clifton Truman Daniel Q&A
Are your brothers involved in representing the Truman family legacy or did it fall to you, being the oldest? When you choose to step away some day, is there a family member ready to take over?
It fell to me. Almost 30 years ago, a board member called and said, “We’re organizing a fundraising trip, and your mother says it’s your turn.” All three of my kids have taken part in events, the most visible being my middle son, Wesley Truman Daniel. After he stood in for me at the annual fundraiser a few years ago, the director and several board members called to tell me I was out of a job.
What was the coolest Christmas present your grandparents got you? Did they give cool presents?
I think I mentioned that my grandmother gave cool presents generally, but the best I ever received came from Grandpa. During the Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York in 1962, I fell in love with one of the band uniforms and asked for one for Christmas. Dad had no idea where to find one that fit a five-year-old, so he called Grandpa. We were going to spend the holiday in Independence. Grandpa had no idea where to find a pint-sized band uniform, either, but he went one better — a Marine master sergeant’s dress uniform. Got a bugle, too.
How involved are you in the Truman Library? Do you have a say in the exhibits or other activities?
I am a former board member and current honorary board chairman. I travel to Independence for the twice-yearly board meetings and any other programs and events that require my presence. The staff and board are kind enough to ask for my — and the family’s — input on exhibits and programs. We had an equal say in the design of the Truman statue that will stand in the Capitol Rotunda starting next year and the new atomic bombing exhibit will include an original paper crane folded by Sadako Sasaki (Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes), as well as video testimony from survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that Wesley and I recorded in Japan in 2013. I should add that I don’t try to pull rank — or feel the need to. National Archives staff and board members take excellent care of Grandpa’s legacy.
I hope to visit the Truman library in the future. What should I make sure I don’t miss?
The library has undergone a fabulous, yearlong, $30 million restoration so I can’t imagine how I’d pick one thing. Still, I lean toward an old exhibit, a letter from the heartbroken father of a soldier killed in Korea. Grandpa always said that Korea was the hardest set of decisions he ever had to make. He kept that letter close at hand in his office to remind him of the cost of war, no matter how noble or right the cause.
If you could ask your grandfather one question, what would it be?
Grandpa, you’ve read the Presidential Book of Secrets. Where’s the Ark of the Covenant? Seriously, I can’t think of one question. If I could, I’d just sit with him and listen.
Where did the park service find the roof key that your grandmother hid in the house in Independence?
Tucked into the very back of a drawer in a half-hidden filing cabinet. Before they found it, the Park Service called my mother to ask if she knew where it was. “Hell, no,” Mom said. “She was hiding it from me.”