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Best Political Introduction 

Jean Carnahan

On June 2, Sen. John Kerry stopped at the Truman Library to give what had been billed as a major speech on defense policy. The Democratic presidential candidate had rallied hundreds of people at the downtown airport the night before, but this event was confined to a 240-seat auditorium filled with Missouri Democratic Party operatives, Kerry's own entourage and the press, whose campaign-issued credentials called it "The Buck Stops Here Tour." How predictable was that? Like so many politicians before him, Kerry was trying to co-opt Truman's legend, and we expected to hear the famous phrase repeated ad nauseam when Jean Carnahan took the stage to introduce the man who would introduce Kerry. But then she started talking. "In 1948, without paying attention to public-opinion polls, Harry S. Truman did an extraordinary thing," she said. "Though 85 percent of the population said it was the wrong thing to do, he signed an executive order integrating the military." Carnahan proceeded with Johnny Wilson's bio -- son of a steelworker, raised in the projects, saw combat in Vietnam, now a four-star general, one of only four African-Americans to hold that position in the U.S. Army. "General Johnny Wilson comes to introduce the next commander in chief," Carnahan said. Then her warm Missouri drawl grew soft with significance. "Of all people, Harry Truman would be most pleased by this moment." A lot of politicians claim to know what Harry would have thought, but Carnahan's delivery erased any doubt.

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