Monday, September 15th, 2014
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1947 / Washington, DC

New Hires


I have appointed a Secretary of Semantics—a most important post. He is to furnish me forty- to fifty-dollar words. Tell me how to say yes and no in the same sentence without a contradiction. He is to tell me the combination of words that will put me against inflation in San Francisco and for it in New York. He is to show me how to keep silent—and say everything. You can very well see how he can save me an immense amount of worry.

Then I have appointed a Secretary of Reaction. I want him to abolish flying machines and tell me how to restore ox carts, oar boats, and sailing ships. What a load he can take off my mind if he will put the atom back together so it cannot be broken up. What a worry that will abolish for both me and Vyshinsky. I have appointed a Secretary for Columnists.

His duties are to listen to all radio commentators, read all columnists in the newspapers from ivory tower to lowest gossip, coordinate them, and give me the result so I can run the United States and the world as it should be. I have several able men in reserve besides the present holder of the job, because I think in a week or two, the present Secretary for Columnists will need the services of a psychiatrist and will in all probability end up in St. Elizabeth’s.

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About the Author

Harry S. Truman, three notes. Truman assumed the presidency upon Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s death in April 1945. In roughly the span of his first year in office—in which time he dropped atomic bombs on Japan and subsequently helped to conclude World War II Truman’s approval rating dropped from 87 to 32 percent. He defeated Thomas Dewey in the election of 1948. On Truman’s desk he had two signs—one was a quote from Mark Twain, ALWAYS DO RIGHT. THIS WILL GRATIFY SOME PEOPLE AND ASTONISH THE REST and the other was THE BUCK STOPS HERE.

Jests and scoffs do lessen majesty and greatness and should be far from great personages and men of wisdom.
Henry Peacham, 1622
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LQ Podcast:
Robert Weide
Robert B. Weide talks about his decades-long production of a documentary on Kurt Vonnegut due to be released in 2015.
Lewis H. Lapham is Editor of Lapham's Quarterly. He also serves as editor emeritus and national correspondent for Harper's magazine.
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