Recurring throughout our history are the ideas that repressive governments are doomed to failure; that liberty is a motivating force; that freedom comes with responsibilities and must be guided by principles; that the example of our democracy is a challenge to all forms of political repression and an inspiration to those desiring to be free. Wilson and Truman took these ideas as the starting point for their policy formulation and pronouncements. Truman both acknowledged his indebtedness to Wilson and learned from his mistakes. This study places the two presidents within the broader American tradition and explores the way they combined reverence for the past with innovative policies.
Pierce provides a cohesive argument against those who simplify and categorize American ideals in order to demean them. Her findings show that the assumption that Wilson was an idealist while Truman was a realist distorts our understanding of these men and denies the seriousness of their positions. She reveals Truman's brilliance as a foreign policy strategist and his fervency as a spokesperson for American ideals. He was never willing to dispense with geopolitics for the sake of internationalism, nor with internationalism for the sake of geopolitics, but insisted that our mission and our power were combined threads in our work for freedom. Truman's wisely construed version of Wilsonianism, which itself was an interpretation of America's mission and power, holds great promise for the United States today.