Roosevelt was the premier politician of his age. His death just before the end of World War II in April of 1945 shocked the country. People wept in the streets. “Dear Mrs. Roosevelt,” sang Woody Guthrie, the iconic folksinger, “Don’t hang your head and cry. His mortal clay is laid away, but his good work fills the sky.” The New York Times declared: “Men will thank God on their knees 100 years from now, that Franklin D. Roosevelt was in the White House.”Most people did not know Harry Truman. The vice president who took FDR’s place had little experience as a national leader, and his elevation exemplified the problematic nature of the vice presidency, first on display when Andrew Johnson took over at Lincoln’s death. Truman himself always spoke diffidently about his talents and displayed his insecurities. “I’m not big enough for this job,” he told a friend. “You know,” he would tell his staff during the early years, “I’m not an elected President.” At the end of 1947 he blurted out about the crippled Roosevelt, “I’m not a superman like my predecessor.” His narrow victory in 1948 did make him more confident, but toward the end of this elected term he said that “a great many people,” “maybe a million,” could perform presidential duties better, and he regularly expressed reservations about the job.
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