We miss you, Harry Truman

Paul Schwietering
A story by Associated Press reporter Frank Eltman has gained national attention.

In Brentwood, Long Island (near New York City), “Samantha Garvey and her family had been living in a homeless shelter for several days when they got word the 17-year-old aspiring marine biologist” was one of only 300 students nationwide who had made it to the semi-finals of a prestigious national science competition.

“The Brentwood High School senior, who has applied to Yale and Brown Universities, was evicted along with her family from their home on New Year’s Eve. Her mother, Olga, a nurse’s assistant, was out of work for eight months following an automobile accident in February, and her father, Leo, could not keep up with the bills alone on his salary as a cab driver.”

“Now, with donations coming in and the county finding them rent-subsidized housing, she will again be able to do her homework in a home.”

“‘This is just the most amazing thing anyone could ask for,’ the diminutive Garvey said at a news conference Friday, surrounded by her parents, brother, sister, and a cadre of politicians and school officials.”

“‘We’re all in tears here,’ she said after Suffolk County executive Steve Bellone announced that the Department of Social Services had located a nearby house where the family could live. ‘This is what we’ve always wanted.’”

Frank Eltman’s story about Samantha Garvey’s tearful gratitude was heartwarming.

Samantha’s accomplishment in making it as one of only 300 semifinalists nationwide is something to enthuse about, and the publicity about this achievement while she and her family were living in a shelter has paid immediate dividends.

Suffolk County executive Steve Bellone collected his dividend when he called a press conference where, surrounded “by a cadre of politicians and school officials” he broke his arm patting himself on the back because he and the “cadre” of other politicians got the Department of Social Services to get up off of their fat, bureaucratic backsides and do their jobs in this one case after Samantha’s story was picked up by the media. Evidently no one at the press conference asked Bellone what he was doing on New Year’s Eve, when Samantha and her family were evicted from their home. This whole episode begs the question: “What about the students in Samantha’s situation whose story doesn’t make it into the newspaper?”

A long, long time ago, there was a President named Harry Truman. Now, I have to admit, Harry Truman wasn’t perfect. He had flaws, and some of them were big ones.

But Harry Truman also had positive qualities which dwarfed his shortcomings.

Harry Truman didn’t even get into politics until he was in his 30’s, and he didn’t become a U.S. Senator until he was past 50. As a result, some of Truman’s beliefs were considered “old fashioned” even in his own time (which, as I’ve said, was long, long ago).

When Truman was President, he would often marvel at the reasons that people would bring up for or against a given action or set of actions. When told that some policy or other would bring good publicity or bad publicity, he would frequently say, “Doesn’t anybody do anything anymore simply because it is right?” My God, how this nation needs another Harry Truman.

Paul Schwietering is a former Democratic state central committeeman. He lives in Union Township.