This week on Q&A, our guest is Aida Donald, author of “Citizen Soldier: A Life of Harry S. Truman.” The book traces Harry Truman’s early life and entry into politics to the end of his presidency. Donald discusses how the 33rd President’s early career was characterized by his efforts to remain honest despite the corruption present in local Missouri politics. She cites his writings known as the Pickwick Papers, named for the hotel Truman frequented in Kansas City. She also talks about Harry’s courtship of Bess Wallace, whom he would later marry, and the lifelong impact she felt as a result of her own father’s suicide. Mrs. Donald recounts Truman’s election to the United States Senate and his nomination to be Franklin Roosevelt’s running mate in the 1944 presidential election. Truman became President after only 82 days in office, and Donald discusses his decision in the following months to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki to end World War II. She also shares insights about Truman’s meeting with Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin, America’s performance in the Korean War and the firing of General Douglas MacArthur. Donald reflects on the career of her late husband, two time Pulitzer Prize winning historian David Herbert Donald, and the influence they had on each other’s writings.
Aida Donald graduated from Barnard College in 1952, received her Master’s degree from Columbia in 1953, and earned her Doctorate in American History at the University of Rochester in 1961. She served as the editor in chief of Harvard University Press for 27 years. Her late husband, David Herbert Donald, was a noted American historian and author. In 2007 she published her first book about Theodore Roosevelt, titled “Lion in the White House.” She lives in Lincoln, Massachusetts.