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Clifton Truman Daniel portrays his grandfather President Harry S. Truman in ‘Give ’Em Hell, Harry!’ Oct. 10 in Cape May | by Cape May MAC
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Clifton Truman Daniel portrays his grandfather President Harry S. Truman in ‘Give ’Em Hell, Harry!’ Oct. 10 in Cape May

Rescheduled from 2020, part of Cape May MAC’s annual Lessons of History Distinguished Lecture Series, the play is a faithful and humorous depiction of President Harry S. Truman’s life and presidency


CAPE MAY – There are fewer than dozens of living descendants of U.S. presidents, and just one who steps into the role of his presidential ancestor on stage. Actor Clifton Truman Daniel brings to life his grandfather, President Harry S. Truman, in this fall’s production “Give ’Em Hell, Harry!” at Cape May Convention Hall, 714 Beach Ave. on Sunday, Oct. 10 at 5 p.m. The performance is a faithful and often humorous portrayal of President Truman’s life and presidency that has garnered awards and accolades since its premiere in 1975. Since October, 2017, Daniel has performed the role, marking the first time a U.S. president has been portrayed onstage by a direct descendant. This performance originally scheduled in 2020 is rescheduled to 2021.


Cape May MAC (Museums+Arts+Culture)’s Lessons of History Distinguished Lecture Series presents a national speaker every year in October in an engaging and in-depth talk on an important topic of history. This is the ninth event in the series and the first time a performance, rather than a lecture, will be featured. The play spans Truman’s childhood, his “political apprenticeship” as a judge in Jackson County, Mo., his years in the U.S. Senate and his momentous two terms as president. Set in a recreation of the Oval Office, the play is a historically accurate portrayal of the 33rd president of the United States, teeming with delightful humor. The title comes from an incident that took place during the 1948 presidential election campaign. In Bremerton, Wash., Truman delivered a speech attacking the Republicans. During the speech, a supporter yelled out, “Give ‘em Hell, Harry!” Truman replied, “I don’t give them Hell. I just tell the truth about them, and they think it’s Hell.” Subsequently, “Give ‘em Hell, Harry!” became a lifetime slogan for Truman supporters.


The one-man show about the life and presidency of Harry S. Truman, who took office after the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1945 and served until 1953, is remarkable for several reasons. First, it's pretty cool that we ... have the opportunity to see a U.S. president portrayed by his grandson on stage ... It's also comforting to be reminded that we once had a president of the United States who was not only as tough as nails but also fair-minded, decent and well-read. ...

John Staton

Wilmington Star News (North Carolina)


At one point, we are treated to a flashback of Truman delivering a speech on the Senate floor on wealth inequality and the corruption of big business, which doesn’t feel too far out of place with the sort of thing you might hear from someone like Bernie Sanders in 2018. At points when we hear Truman discuss controversial decisions such as the bombing of Hiroshima, or his disdain for pre-Trump extremists such as Joseph McCarthy, it’s easy to draw parallels between more modern presidents, such as President Obama, and the thinking that often went behind their decision-making processes as president ...

Anthony J. Piccione


Daniel is the oldest grandson of President Harry S. Truman and first lady, Bess Truman. He is the son of author Margaret Truman and former New York Times Managing Editor E. Clifton Daniel, Jr. Daniel is honorary chairman of the board of the Truman Library Institute, Kansas City, Mo., and board secretary of the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation. He is author of “Growing Up with My Grandfather: Memories of Harry S. Truman” and “Dear Harry, Love Bess: Bess Truman’s Letters to Harry Truman, 1919-1943.” In addition to portraying his famous grandfather on stage, Daniel is a sought-after lecturer on various aspects of the Truman presidency, as well as United States and White House history.


As an actor, Daniel has appeared in more than a dozen productions with Wilmington, N.C.’s Opera House Theatre Company, including Ensign Pulver in “Mr. Roberts,” Nathan Detroit in “Guys and Dolls,” Mortimer Brewster in “Arsenic and Old Lace,” Randle P. McMurphy in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and Antonio Salieri in “Amadeus.” He has also had supporting roles in two episodes of “Matlock” and played Roma Downey’s husband in the never-aired pilot for “Touched by an Angel.” Daniel most recently portrayed the role of President Harry S. Truman, his grandfather, in the award-winning independent film, “Second Samuel,” from Director/Executive Producer/Co-writer J. Wayne Patterson, Jr.


“Give ’Em Hell, Harry! The life and presidency of Harry S. Truman as portrayed by his grandson Clifton Truman Daniel” is Sunday, Oct. 10, at 5 p.m. at Cape May Convention Hall, 714 Beach Ave., or alternately, on the outdoor stage on the grounds of the Emlen Physick Estate, 1048 Washington St. Scheduling may change to comply with updated protocols and will depend upon whatever requirements are mandated. Tickets are $40 adults, $15 students and teachers. Tickets are limited. To purchase tickets call 609-884-5404 or visit This event is co-sponsored by Cape May MAC and Martel & Associates (Myles & Leslie Martel).


Cape May MAC (Museums+Arts+Culture) is a multifaceted not-for-profit organization committed to promoting the preservation, interpretation, and cultural enrichment of the Cape May region for its residents and visitors. Cape May MAC membership is open to all. For information about Cape May MAC’s year-round schedule of tours, festivals, and special events, call 609-884-5404 or 800-275-4278, or visit Cape May MAC’s website at For information about restaurants, accommodations and shopping, call the Chamber of Commerce of Greater Cape May at 609-884-5508 or visit For information about historic accommodations, contact Cape May Historic Accommodations at




Additional Resources:


Editors: Interviews with Clifton Truman Daniel are available upon request.


Cape May Lessons of History Distinguished Lecture Series 2012-present


The series began in 2012 with an inaugural lecture by Dr. Myles Martel, entitled, "Ronald Reagan's Legacy: Lessons for Today's Citizen Leaders." Martel launched the Lessons of History series with his unique perspective on what made Ronald Reagan one of the most transformative presidents of the 20th century - insights he gained first-hand as he personally coached Reagan for his outstanding performance during the 1980 presidential debates.


In 2013, speaker Harold Holzer presented "Lessons from Lincoln: The Poetry and Prose of Freedom," which explored how, more than a century and a half ago, Abraham Lincoln made history twice, both in deed and word, first by ushering in freedom from slavery with his Emancipation Proclamation and second by celebrating its "new birth" with his Gettysburg Address.


In 2014, David O. Stewart, author of the book by the same name, presented "The Summer of 1787: The Men Who Invented the Constitution," which explored the conflicts and hard bargaining that invented a government to meet the crises of the not-quite-united states - huge debts, hostile neighbors, armed rebellion, and the very real prospect of dissolving into three nations or more.


In 2015, Col. Cole Kingseed, Ph.D. presented "D-Day: Why it still matters: How America's European war established the United States as a global power," which explored the ramifications of the Allied victory on June 6, 1944, not only on the course of World War II, but also as the pivotal step in the United States' rise to global dominance.


In 2016, The Honorable Joan Dempsey presented "Our Nation's Security: How Intelligence History Affects the Future," in which she drew on more than 45 years of intelligence and policy experience, combined with her rare position as a senior political appointee in both Republican and Democratic presidential administrations, to share the ultimate insider's perspective on the history of modern U.S. intelligence.


In 2017, U.S.C.G. Admiral Thad Allen presented "Always Ready: Stories of Leadership and Unity During Crisis," in which he explored the aspects and qualities of leadership during crises, sharing stories of leadership during such disasters as Hurricane Katrina and the BP Oil Spill.


In 2018, Professor Natalia Mehlman Petrzela presented “Women and Children First?: #MeToo, #NeverAgain and the New Faces of American Activism,” which explored American activism’s powerful new voices and faces that are overwhelmingly young and female.


In 2019, Lee Pollock presented “Roosevelt and Churchill: The Friendship That Saved the World,” which delved into this grand alliance which saved democracy and freedom during the world’s darkest hour, carried their nations to victory and laid the geopolitical foundation that defines much of the world we know today.



Background and References:


Truman Library Institute:


Salt Magazine:

Being Harry Truman


Chicago Tribune

Truman grandson stars in “Give 'Em Hell, Harry!”


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Taken on June 13, 2017