Each year The Harry S. Truman Good Neighbor Award Foundation
honors the late Harry S. Truman, 33rd President of the United States, with
a birthday luncheon attended by several hundred invited guests, including
one of this country's prominent citizens selected by the organization to receive
its annual "Good Neighbor Award" for exemplary service both to their
community and to the nation.
The Birthday Luncheons had their genesis in 1953 when 21 of
President Truman's friends, mostly businessmen of the area, held a birthday
luncheon for him at Max Bretton's Restaurant in Kansas City. The luncheons
became an annual event and at President Truman's passing in 1972, the core
group, by then called the Eddie Jacobson Foundation in honor of one of its
deceased founders, adopted the present name and incorporated as a not-for-profit
educational foundation to conduct activities honoring the late president.
These included continuation of the annual luncheons.
Much of the credit for the funding and success of these birthday
events goes to the late Henry J. Talge, Kansas City businessman and philanthropist
who operated the foundation until his death in 1990. By vote of the Foundation's
membership, the annual luncheons continue in the format established by its
major benefactor and reflect the interests of President Truman.
Scholarships in the field of international studies are presented
at the luncheon. Individual $2,500 scholarships go to students attending the
University of Missouri-Kansas City, The University of Kansas, Georgetown University
and Northwestern University. These scholarships carry the names of Eddie Jacobson,
Edwin J. Beinecke, Jr., Sherman & Irene Dreiseszun, and Benedict &
Donna Zobrist who are past and present supporters of our organization.
Among guests at the luncheon, in addition to the scholarship
recipients, are upwards of 50 international students studying at area colleges
and universities. They start the day with a reception hosted by the Foundation
for the purpose of having each visiting student shake hands one on one with
the Honoree while having a photograph taken. Resulting photographs are distributed
to students, families, and their hometown news media.
Each student receives a copy of Mr. Truman's book "Mr.
Citizen" and a portrait of Mr. Truman. A portrait is also sent to
the parents along with the photograph and a letter of greeting from the Foundation.
Perhaps the impact of the Foundation's gift to the parents can best be exemplified
by a quotation from a letter written by parents of a student from Madras,
"We have received your letter, portrait of ex-President Truman as well as the photograph of our daughter shaking hands with Mr. Arthur Schlesinger. We are indeed happy to receive this gift from you and very much appreciate the spirit of inviting students from all over the world to celebrate the Birth Day of President Truman. He has been one of the great personalities of the century and we would like to compliment you in keeping the memories and history alive. Once again, thank you very much for the gesture."
The Foundation has also since 1973 invited a number of area
veterans as special guests and each year honors a veteran with the Philip
Pistilli Silver Veteran's Medal. This feature was inaugurated in 1973 to give
recognition to Vietnam Veterans and was later broadened to include veterans
of all wars. The Commanding General from Fort Leavenworth is invited to make
the medal presentation on behalf of the Foundation.
Activities and purposes of the Truman Foundation are best
summed up by the following quote from its Articles of Incorporation:
(The Foundation) "shall cultivate, promote, foster, sponsor, develop and preserve among persons of the United States and elsewhere throughout the world an understanding and devotion to the principles espoused by Harry S. Truman; shall create and promote a better understanding and more friendly relationship between races, nations and classes of people; shall select persons in public life whose observance of the 'Good Neighbor' principles of Harry S. Truman have improved their community and nation, and shall award such persons the Harry S. Truman Good Neighbor Award; and shall perpetuate the memory and spirit of Harry S. Truman and commemorate his birthday by an appropriate celebration."