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Fuller Lodge was filled to capacity Friday morning as residents and people from all over the country came to see the Los Alamos History Museum’s grand reopening.
The event included special guest speaker Clifton Truman Daniel, the grandson President Harry S. Truman. Truman was the first and only U.S. president to deploy nuclear weapons in war.
The other surprise wasn’t in the program, but was just as welcomed. Near the end of the event, local accountant James Dinkel came forward with a $100,000 check. He presented the check on behalf of the estate of Dr. Zenas “Slim” Boone and his wife Irene to Dennis Erickson. Erickson is co-chair of the “History is Here” campaign. The campaign raises money to preserve and protect the buildings that make up Los Alamos’ historic legacy, including the museum.
Daniel shared anecdotes with the audience, including a story about the time Truman’s 4-year-old son Daniel and his 2-year-old brother turned off the TV so Truman could read Thucydides’ “History of the Peloponnesian War” to them. He also talked about coming to terms with his grandfather being president of the United States.
“I actually did not know that my grandfather was president of the United States, because no one in my family told me,” Daniel said. “I found out in school. I went to school one morning and the teacher asked me ‘wasn’t your grandfather president?’ I said I don’t know, I’ll go home and ask.”
Daniel said his grandfather would have loved what the museum has become and his place in it.
“He would love Los Alamos today. He would have loved what you all would have done here. When he built his presidential library, he did not want a monument to himself...he wanted people to learn about his presidency, learn about U.S. history, learn about real history and not have statues all over the place of Harry Truman,” Daniel said. “He would have loved what you’ve done here, the commitment, that you’ve raised the money that you’ve raised, that you all care so much about this place, that you’ve involved families, that you keep it going through the generations.”
Daniel said Truman would have also appreciated that the museum went to great lengths to tell both sides of the story of Los Alamos, and didn’t just make it about the creation of nuclear weapons and the Manhattan Project.
“You tell the story with pride, but also with empathy for the other side,” Daniel said. “You tell the story with pride, empathy and open minds, and that’s invaluable.”
Los Alamos Historical Society Executive Director Heather McClenehan was the first to speak at the event, where she introduced Daniel and other special guest speakers.
“For the Los Alamos Historical Society, that history is all about people. Seeing so many here today validates what we are doing. It is about the community that has been created here since the ancestral pueblo times to today,” McClenahan said. “It is about the trials and tribulations of the homesteaders, about the strength and determination of the boys and the staff at the Los Alamos Ranch School, the brilliance and the resolve of the scientists engineers and other workers on the Manhattan Project that extended into the Cold War where a community, a real town was created out of a muddy Army base.”
After the ceremony, the crowd was directed outside and next door to the museum where they had an official ribbon cutting and officially opened the museum to visitors.