If it weren’t for President Harry S. Truman’s Marshall Plan—also known as the European Recovery Program—there’s a good chance Ursula Terrasi’s family never would have immigrated from Italy to the United States.
“My family’s immigration from Italy to the U.S. was a result of one of President Truman’s decisions of embracing European countries that were devastated after World War II,” Terrasi says. “My family was in Italy during the war, and after WWII many were able to immigrate to the U.S. because of the welcoming agenda that came about because of the Marshall Plan.”
Fast forward 75 years, and Terrasi and her husband, Jim Miller, are helping keep Truman’s legacy alive as honorary co-chairs of the Truman Library Institute’s Wild About Harry 2023 on April 20, the 24th annual event benefiting the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum.
“The Library and its programs provide on-site and community outreach programs, including education in history, civics, and government, where young people, especially, can prepare to lead lives of purpose and service,” she says. “As per a Truman-famous saying: ‘The only thing new in the world is the history you don’t know.’ An understanding of civics, history, fundamentals of democracy, how government works, collaboration, and bipartisanship are more critical now than ever.”
The Year of Great Decisions
The Marshall Plan that had a direct impact on Terrasi’s family is a highlight of Wild About Harry 2023, as the evening centers around the 75th anniversary of Truman’s Year of Great Decisions.
In addition to signing the Marshall Plan, which aided Western Europe, in 1948 Truman also desegregated the armed forces and federal workforce, implemented the Berlin Airlift, and made the U.S. the first country to recognize Israel.
“Those Truman accomplishments of 1948 paved the road for lasting constitutional democracies worldwide and new freedoms here at home, which we here in the U.S. and around the world have benefitted from for the past 75 years,” Terrasi says. “It’s relevant to the world we live in today because at this time in our country, the critical need for understanding the fundamental principles of public service (primarily, the non-partisan part of it and collaboration), governing, mechanics of government, and history can’t be overstated.”
Supporting Truman’s Classroom for Democracy
When Truman established his library, he hoped for it to act as a “Classroom of Democracy.” During the last two decades, the Wild About Harry event has raised over $9 million to support that goal through funding the library’s education and outreach efforts.
“It’s up to all of us to carry the mantle—and raise awareness and money to pay for on-site, outreach community programs and education to help sustain and expand the goals of providing uninterrupted additional learning and knowledge across many communities, age groups, demographics, and economic levels, while also improving their quality of life,” Terrasi says.
From Hands-On History, where students and individuals step into the role of President Truman in The White House Decision Center, to teacher conferences to The Bus Stops Here Field Trip Grant Program, which makes the library accessible to students of all demographics, Wild About Harry supports a variety of programs for students and the community.
An Evening That Will Leave You Inspired
Terrasi says there are two key components at this year’s gala she’s especially looking forward to: Keynote speaker Doris Kearns Goodwin and Admiral Michelle Howard, the winner of this year’s Harry S. Truman Legacy of Leadership Award.
“I think that Doris—as one of the leading and most renowned scholars, historians, and best-selling authors regarding the history of our country—is uniquely qualified to put Truman’s Year of Great Decisions into the broader historical context of the presidency, the United States, and its role in the world,” she says. “And because she is highly active and working today—I see her on TV news shows all the time!—she is the perfect keynote speaker to expand on Truman’s 1948 vision into the context of what our country is facing here in 2023.”
Later in the evening, you’ll meet Howard, the first woman to achieve the rank of four-star admiral and to be appointed as vice chief of naval operations (the second highest rank in the Navy). Howard was also the first African-American woman to reach the rank of three star and four stars in any branch of the U.S. Armed Forces and to command a ship in the Navy.
“Admiral Howard’s role in this event celebrating President Truman’s 1948 accomplishments is especially appropriate and relevant—as 1948 was the year he ordered desegregation of the U.S. military (and federal workforce) for the first time,” Terrasi adds.
Wild About Harry 2023 is on April 20 at the Marriot Muehlebach Hotel. Register to attend the event in person or online here.