Jim Thompson
Jim Thompson
By Jim Thompson
HCP columnist


When I was born, Harry Truman was president. I don’t remember this, but I remember my mother telling how she disliked him, simply because he had a (D) behind his name.

Over the years, I have learned to appreciate old Harry. He did tough things. Right out of the gate, he made the decision to drop the atomic bombs on Japan, calculating that as horrific as that was, it saved more lives in the long run than any other choice facing him.

In the early 1950s, he fired an extremely popular five-star general because that man, Gen. Douglas MacArthur, forgot he reported to the president of the United States. He was insubordinate and he had to go.

President Truman did something else, not because it was popular with his party (it definitely was not) but it was the right thing to do. He issued Executive Order 9981 on July 26, 1948, desegregating the U.S. military. Terrifying to his party, which was worried about how this would play out in coming elections, Harry did the tough thing because it was the right thing.

Fifty years ago, last spring, I started my professional career. My boss was a battle-hardened World War II colonel. He took no prisoners. I was terrified of him. A foul-mouthed, chain-smoking, three-martini lunch guy, he was intimidating. I worked for him for four years.

It was a small company in Sharonville, profitable, but not wallowing in big corporation money. We had to stretch the company’s dollars as far as we could. It was a solid eight hours of work every day.

From there, I went to that big soap company in Cincinnati. More socially aware, more touchy-feely, that company was worried about its public image and had the money to send us to seminars and do other things to deal with our prejudices and pre-conceived notions. It was a good learning experience, but its implementation was not on steroids.

Later, I worked for a ramrod straight Annapolis graduate who had been a swift boat captain in Vietnam. Reminiscent of my first boss, he was. Accountability, no excuses, I learned a lot from him about myself.

About 25 years ago, after I had started my current business, I got to thinking about some of my bosses in the past. For some reason, I dwelled on this subject off and on for several weeks. I came to the conclusion that I professionally grew the most when working for the tough, take-no-prisoner types.

It was about 1995. I decided to call up that first boss and thank him for what he had taught me and done for me. It was easy enough to find his phone number and call his home. His wife answered and told me, sadly, that he had died about three years before. I had waited too long.

Fortunately, my swift boat captain is still alive. He just had his 80th birthday a couple of weeks ago. I make sure I keep in touch with him.

Right now, we have a president who is as tough as old Harry, as verbally intimidating as my World War II colonel and as resilient as my swift boat captain. Like the other three, many don’t like him, but he has been consistent through the storms of nearly four years and been delivering the medicine we need.

We are going to decide, as a nation, in just a couple of weeks, whether we are tough enough to take four more years of the strong medicine we deserve and need or whether we are going to cave in to the touchy-feely crowd.

I doubt that I will be around in another 25 years, some would say I have already overstayed my welcome on this old earth, but I think there are some today who will be living then and will have changed their tune, deciding our current president was indeed the medicine we needed at the time.

Personally, I think we need to be tough enough and aware of our surroundings enough to give him four more years to finish what he has so successfully started.

Jim Thompson, formerly of Marshall, is a graduate of Hillsboro High School and the University of Cincinnati. He resides in Duluth, Ga. and is a columnist for The Highland County Press. He may be reached at jthompson@taii.com.