Saturday, May 8, 2010

Stories From The Frontlines...Clifton Truman Daniel

Stories From the Frontlines is a partnership project between the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network and participating bloggers, offering open letters to President Barack Obama from active duty servicemembers, urging him to repeal DADT through relating their personal stories. The most recent entry struck me deeply because of resonance with history so I thought I'd share it with all of you. Clifton Truman Daniel is the Grandson of President Harry S.Truman and has a unique perspective on the courage it takes to use the presidential pen for the good of others...even when its wildly unpopular. Read his letter after the jump..

May 7, 2010

President Barack H. Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

Tomorrow, my family and I will mark the 126th anniversary of my grandfather President Harry Truman’s birthday. There are many reasons we celebrate his life and contributions to our nation, but in particular we are proud of his decision to desegregate the U.S. Armed Forces in July 1948, which paved the way for future civil rights advancements.

It was not easy. He faced fierce opposition from inside and outside the military. Many, including Army Chief of Staff Gen. Omar Bradley, argued that mixing black and white soldiers would destroy the Army.

My grandfather, however, was appalled that African-American service members had been beaten and lynched upon their return home from fighting in World War II. They had risked their lives to defend our nation, but were denied the full rights and responsibilities of American citizenship. Implementation of his order to desegregate wasn’t easy, but it made our military stronger and our nation a brighter beacon of democracy.

There are strong parallels between the desegregation of the military and the debate over “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the law that mandates the firing of a service member based solely on his or her sexual orientation. Opponents argue that allowing openly gay and lesbian service members to serve alongside their heterosexual comrades will endanger discipline and morale.

While I have no idea where my grandfather would stand on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” I do know that he admired service and sacrifice. An estimated 66,000 gay and lesbian Marines, Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Coastguardsmen are willingly risking their lives to defend our nation, despite being treated as second class citizens.

I would hope that my grandfather would want his openly gay great-granddaughter and others like her to have the opportunity to serve the country they love with dignity and integrity.

Mr. President, as you have said many times, including in your State of the Union Address earlier this year, ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is the right thing to do. This year is the right time to do it.

I commend you for your commitment and hope the example of my grandfather, Harry Truman, will help you lead with the same courage and conviction to ensure the "equality of treatment and opportunity for all who serve our nation’s defense.”


Clifton Truman Daniel

A powerfull read from a man who saw history happen from the inside. I hope our President sees this and takes it to heart.

Until next time dear readers...


  1. What a nice letter. Thanks for posting!

  2. thank you for posting this really nice letter. I hope you will be able to be openly gay and be in the army soon. "Don´t ask don´t tell" does not make any sense to me..

  3. Right on Mr. Truman!!
    It is simply amazing to know that we have great people on our side. =]

    Again, Thanks Bryan for posting this. Made my day hehe.

    DADT should be a thing of the past, changes are coming, I just know it!

  4. Dear Mr. Daniel
    I am currently reading David McCulloch's biography of your grandfather. What an amazing man Mr. Truman was. He was ahead of his time on civil rights so it is fair to think that he is likely to have opposed DADT.

    Your letter to President Obama is excellent.

  5. I have a suggestion for Clifton Truman Daniel -
    your grandfather was among America's most productive and beloved. Your father Clifton Daniel jr. was a distinguished newsman - overseas correspondent and managing editor of New York Times. His career needs more documentation, including publishing of much of his writing where it will be accessible.Respectfully, with best wishes to all your family
    John B. Barrett (harvard 1957 currently in Forks Washington

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. Cliff, go for it!
    Geoff from 79th Street.
    From 1981.

  8. I am glad you are engaged with the process.
    Your Mom and Dad were trying.
    All the Best!
    Geoffrey Stevens at