Former Sen. Alan Simpson praised President Harry Truman as a man of courage and as having an “uncommon degree of common sense” as he accepted the Harry S. Truman Good Neighbor Award on Tuesday in Kansas City.
Simpson, a Wyoming Republican who served in the U.S. Senate from 1979 to 1997, said he felt like “a jackass at the Kentucky Derby” when he looked over the previous recipients of the honor, who include former Presidents Bill Clinton and Gerald Ford, Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin and Jonas Salk, the physician who developed the polio vaccine.
“I knew I couldn’t win, but the association would be helpful,” Simpson, 85, joked.
The award has been handed out annually by the Truman Foundation since 1973 during the week of Truman’s birthday to someone who embodies good citizenship, patriotism and courage.
Simpson called the Democratic president his idol and asked, “Where the hell are the Eisenhowers and the Trumans when we really need them?”
Simpson told the crowd of civic leaders and students gathered at the Kansas City Marriott Downtown that “if you’re in politics, you’re entitled to be called fool” and a string of other insults, but that you should “never let anyone distort who you are.” He recounted being labeled a “soot-covered slob” during negotiations on the Clean Air Act in 1990 and joked that the AARP curses his name over past disputes.
Simpson said that a lesson he learned from his father, who served as governor and senator of Wyoming, is that “if you’re damned if you don’t and damned if you do, then do.”
The foundation also honored Henry W. Bloch, a Kansas City native and co-founder of H&R Block, with the Philip Pistilli Silver Veteran’s Medal for his service during World War II. Bloch flew 32 combat missions as a navigator on a B-17 bomber in Germany.