Saturday, June 14, 2008

Harry Truman - Mis-quoted

Harry Truman wins the presidential electionAs some of you may know I have a website dedicated to US History Lesson plans, time lines, quotes, facts, etc... anything that would help a teacher research or share information.

A while back I decided it would be a good idea to add pages with quotes from Presidents. I added the obvious ones; Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, JFK and FDR, and Thomas Jefferson. I eventually added more Presidents, but the list is not complete.

This led me to add some pages for quotations from famous Americans (people that might be studied in a high school classroom), like MLK, Thomas Paine, Alexander Hamilton, Ben Franklin, John Muir, Abigail Adams and Susan B. Anthony, to name a few.

For some of these quotations pages, I've added video, so you can listen to the quotes as you read them. I guess my website is finally getting into Web 2.0.

To find these quotes, I mostly use other Internet sources. I do occasionally ad quotes that I read in books or magazines, but for the most part I trust the Internet to be my accurate source.

Not too long ago I received an inquiry from a site visitor that read:

Do you know the correctness and creation date of this Truman quote: "Always be sincere, even if you don't mean it."?

I was taken aback... how could this trusted Internet site from where I pulled the quote be wrong? Like the Chicago Tribune paper he's holding... he's been misquoted.

I quickly used my research skills to get to the bottom of it... and within a few minutes had found the answer... I quickly replied:

Hi Jim,

I hadn't thought about checking the validity of any of the quotes on my site, but perhaps I should change that. I have put too much trust in the public domain.

I did some research and it appears like Truman was accidentally or incorrectly credited with saying this.

Here is the information I found from WikiQuote (

Attributed without citation in The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations (1992) by Angela Partington, disputed in The Quote Verifier : Who Said What, Where, and When (2006) by Ralph Keyes, p. 224, as something Truman is not known to have said, nor was likely to have said.

And i did find some other information which credits Mortimer Snerd with saying something similar - "Always be sincere, whether you mean it or not." Though this quote is also credited to Flanders and Swann, a British comedy duo.

Thanks for bringing this to my attention. I love the research. I will remove this from my site this evening.


Kevin Katz

And that was that... Harry Truman has mistakenly been given credit to something he never said. Jim wrote back to me with a great resource....

Thank you. I'm nearly 50 years old and I had always heard "If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen so I was surprised the actual quote was, “Harry, if you can't stand the heat you better get out of the kitchen” [Truman, Wright
Memorial Dinner of the Aero Club of Washington, address 12/1952] the folks
at the Truman Library showed me how to access his public papers on-line <, click on "Archival Research," and then on Public Papers>

Another Truman quote taken out of context and credited to him...

Thanks Jim for bringing this to our attention.. and thanks for being a true scholar, and a true historian... always question... always doubt... and always seek the truth... Here's Jim's blog:

Let's trust Jim.. and the folks at the Truman Library...

And finally, here is the link to the updated and hopefully accurate Harry Truman quotes page:


Thursday, June 12, 2008

Survey Results: As time passes, how do you think history will rate Bill Clinton as president?

bill clinton's foreign policyNo matter what you think of Bill Clinton, he will leave a legacy... most (if not all) presidents do. But love him or hate him, Clinton will leave a legacy which will outlast many of his counterparts.

It is clear that under Clinton's watchful eye the economy flourished. Some of this can be attributed to his prowess in foreign policy, most notably the ratification of NAFTA and GATT, which both helped to bolster our trade and in turn our economy.

Yes, a personal scandal did hurt Clinton's true ability to be judged unbiasedly. And unfortunately many will never put that mistake aside. These are the same people that voted him "One of the worst" Presidents in history, which is absolutely ridiculous. A surprising 19% of my readers put Clinton in this category. This is clearly a case of disregarding the facts and simply voting on his sometimes questionable morals. I digress.

Back to the facts... Clinton's foreign policy, though not great, was considered a positive. Along with the aforementioned NAFTA and GATT accomplishments, Clinton also helped to denuclearize several Soviet Republics, like the Ukraine. Though he can't be given all the credit, as many of his predecessors set the table for this to occur.

How about the Chemical Weapons Convention. Signed in 1993 under Clinton's administration, it was basically an extension of the Geneva Convention urging countries not to stockpile chemical weapons. The pact put into effect many verification measures including on-site inspections and compliance guidelines. That's not too bad... but again, not really Clinton's idea, but good for him for signing it. But since 184 of the 195 recognized states or countries signed it (though not all will remain compliant) we can't really give much of hoorah a to Mr. Bill.

1996 brought about a United States led effort to save the Mexican peso and subside any chance for a full fledged Mexican depression. NAFTA would help in the long run, but Mexico needed help now. Clinton's compassion for our southern neighbor staved off what would have been a huge calamity in Mexico, which could have led to an influx of Mexican's flocking to the US for jobs... heck that happens now, but imagine what it could have been.

Through deterrence, diplomacy and some Clinton charm, he reduced the threat of North Korea going postal, by negotiating the Framework Agreement to freeze and dismantle North Korea’s nuclear weapons fuel production and long range missile testing. (Little good it did, consider where North Korea is now).

This also helped to open a dialogue with South Korea, where Clinton played the "good neighbor" by trying to get two quarrelling neighbors to kiss and make up... a la Jimmy Carter. In doing this, Clinton helped to coordinate the Four Party Talks, which included both Koreas, the US and Japan.

Clinton also negotiated the exit of Russian troops from the Baltics, brought NATO missions into the Balkans and helped Russia to end to the Kosovo war. He then invited Russia to join the G-8, ATEC and into talks with NATO. He convinced Russia to dismantle thousands nuclear warheads, lessening the threat of nuclear danger, and finally helped to build Russia's economy by offering more than 250,000 Russian entrepreneurs training, consulting services and US backed loans to welcome them into the world of Free enterprise/market economy... It's about time, right?

He strengthened our relationship with China, helping to bring them into the World Trade Organization (which most likely helped to plant the seed of what China's economy is today... which is rather large and getting larger...)

With Bono's help (yep.. that Bono from U2) he helped broker the Good Friday Peace Accord, which ended decades of bloodshed, and finally allowed the people of Northern Ireland to live in relative peace and decide their own destiny.

He's done similar revitalizations with countries in Africa and Vietnam... and all of it was in the best interest of our country... a lot of win/win situations.

I could go on and on... and this is just foreign policy... this is not our Economy... I'll save that for another entry...

So here are the results of the poll... (with 52 votes)

As time passes, how do you think history will rate Bill Clinton as president?

Better than most - 36% (19 votes)
Not as good as most - 26% (14 votes)
One of the worst - 19% (10 votes)
One of the Best - 13% (7 votes)
Worse than Most - 3% (2 votes)

Would anyone care to vote again? Can he really be considered one of the worst?

I'd like to hear your thoughts on Clinton's legacy... and how he can be considered one of the worst.


Thursday, June 05, 2008

RFK, Sirhan Sirhan and the Woman in the Polka Dot Dress; 40 Years Later

It seems as if my blog has been Kennedy-centric of late. But for good reason.

Today, June 5 marks the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Robert Kennedy. Coincidentally, it comes one day after Barrack Obama wins the Democratic nomination for President, a position RFK would most likely have gained, and won.

It comes several weeks after some bizarre comments made by Hillary Clinton referencing the tragedy. When asked why she hadn't conceded a race that, for all intents and purposes, has been decided for months she replied:

My husband did not wrap up the nomination in 1992 until he won the California primary somewhere in the middle of June, right? We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California. I don't understand it.

What's even stranger is that this is not the first time she referenced RFK's death in association with her stretching the primary through June. Here are her comments from a March 6 interview with Time:
TIME: Can you envision a point at which--if the race stays this close--Democratic Party elders would step in and say, "This is now hurting the party and whoever will be the nominee in the fall"?

really can't. I think people have short memories. Primary contests used to last
a lot longer. We all remember the great tragedy of Bobby Kennedy being assassinated in June in L.A. My husband didn't wrap up the nomination in
1992 until June. Having a primary contest go through June is nothing
particularly unusual.
Are you kidding me? You're right Hillary. Primaries lasting through June is not particularly unusual... but your comments are. I'm sure she was apologetic the first time she said it, and I know she doesn't mean any harm to Senator Obama, but I thought she would have learned from her mistakes. She's always appeared to be a very intelligent and calculating woman but I'm not exactly sure how these comments in particular passed through her filter.

I'm happy they did because it makes this blog post come full circle back into the present.
The Assassination

The movie Bobby is a great portrayal of the entire event. Even though you know what happens the movie sets up the suspense very well.

The Woman in the Polka Dot Dress
So who exactly is the woman in the polka-dot-dress? Several witnesses to the shooting told police they saw Sirhan Sirhan talking to a man and a woman in a polka-dot dress before the incident. This combined with an LAPD sergeant's report that he overheard a woman wearing a polka-dot dress say "We shot Kennedy." This mystery woman, disappeared in the chaos as the crowd dispersed before the police officer could react. Many believe this woman may have hypnotized Sirhan Sirhan brainwashing him and convincing him to kill Kennedy. This theory was quickly dismissed by police. So where is this woman now? Where was she then? Nobody knows who she is, or if she ever even existed.

Despite this confusion, we are certain of one thing. Both Robert Kennedy and John Kennedy were killed by two very unstable men. Though what is not certain is whether these deaths are related or are they part of a larger conspiracy. Did Sirhan have accomplices? Did Oswald have accomplices? Are they mob related? Were there more than one shooter in both assassinations? Will we ever know the truth of either of the Kennedy assassinations?

Some information:

The Freedom of Information Act at least gives us the ability to see the results of the investigations, though we can't possibly judge the validity of them. Here is a link to the FBI report on the assassination of RFK:

For more information on the RFK assassination and other California assassinations, read the book California Justice by David Kulczyk. It has short histories of nearly 35 California lynchings and shootings.

I can't say this is the best read in the world, and it's definitely not for everyone, but it does work if you're into old style lynchings and posses and bar room brawls turned into shootouts.

Where's Sirhan now?
He's still in prison. He's been eligible for parole 13 times (as of June, 2008) and has been denied each time.

Here's the eulogy of Bobby Kennedy, presented by his brother Teddy.

Fun Facts:

It is rumored that in true Kennedy fashion, as RFK lay dying on the kitchen floor at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, he uttered his last words: "Is everyone alright?"

The lead investigator for Robert Kennedy's assassination was Assistant Police Chief Daryl Gates, who later would become Chief of Police of the LAPD during the Rodney King incident and the riots that ensued after the verdict.