I heard someone on the TV casually say, ‘the buck stops here’.  I do not remember who it was as I was not paying attention.  I have the TV on most of the time as white noise, which a lot of it is actually!!!  The comment had me thinking about the statement and what it meant.

It was President Harry Truman that brought this saying to a famous status.  We have seen the sign in person at his library.  When we lived in the St. Louis, MO we made a point to see as much of the state as we could.  That is our ‘m.o.’ – pardon the pun – wherever we live to make the most of our logistics!  So away we went to Independence, MO.  We spent a lot of time in the library and the area.  There was only one ticket left so we did not get into see President Truman’s home.  Below is the info about the sign.

                                                     “The Buck Stops Here” Desk Sign

The sign “The Buck Stops Here” that was on President Truman’s desk in his White House office was made in the Federal Reformatory at El Reno, Oklahoma. Fred M. Canfil, then United States Marshal for the Western District of Missouri and a friend of Mr. Truman, saw a similar sign while visiting the Reformatory and asked the Warden if a sign like it could be made for President Truman. The sign was made and mailed to the President on October 2, 1945.

Approximately 2-1/2″ x 13″ in size and mounted on walnut base, the painted glass sign has the words “I’m From Missouri” on the reverse side. It appeared at different times on his desk until late in his administration.

The saying “the buck stops here” derives from the slang expression “pass the buck” which means passing the responsibility on to someone else. The latter expression is said to have originated with the game of poker, in which a marker or counter, frequently in frontier days a knife with a buckhorn handle, was used to indicate the person whose turn it was to deal. If the player did not wish to deal he could pass the responsibility by passing the “buck,” as the counter came to be called, to the next player.*

On more than one occasion President Truman referred to the desk sign in public statements. For example, in an address at the NationalWarCollege on December 19, 1952 Mr. Truman said, “You know, it’s easy for the Monday morning quarterback to say what the coach should have done, after the game is over. But when the decision is up before you — and on my desk I have a motto which says The Buck Stops Here’ — the decision has to be made.” In his farewell address to the American people given in January 1953, President Truman referred to this concept very specifically in asserting that, “The President–whoever he is–has to decide. He can’t pass the buck to anybody. No one else can do the deciding for him. That’s his job.

The sign has been displayed at the Library since 1957.

Mitford M. Mathews, ed., A Dictionary of Americanisms on Historical Principles (Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1951), I, pages 198-199.

It was my intention when I began this post to compare some of the news items where people have placed blame instead of accepted responsibility.  When I got into the Truman Library site I found that President Truman had actually said it all as far as the highest office on the land is concerned.

How many moms are there that have uttered the words ‘do not blame someone else’!  Or ‘did you do that’?  OR even better – ‘I do not care what the others are doing’?  One of the hardest jobs a parent has is to teach their children responsibility.

Teaching children is the major job of a parent.  A question was asked on a TV show recently about building character in children.  The response was that ‘do what you say you are going to do’ should be imprinted in every child.

I think about that in my own life.  I will not break a promise to our children or grandchildren.  I am very careful what I say I am going to do as I need to set the example.  I was raised that if you say you are going to do something then you are going to do it.  That is being responsible.  That is being accountable for your actions.  That is not easy many times so we must be careful what we say.  Parents set the example.  Perhaps that is part of our problem in our country today that parents are not setting the examples?

Doing what we say we are going to do might be a good thing for politicians to review.  Those words have been dubbed the #1 principle of leadership.  It is a way to succeed in business and impress clients.  It is keeping your word.  Our ‘word’ we were taught was all we had.  If we broke our ‘word’ then we lost credibility. 

Responsibility?  Accountablility?  Our word?  Do what you say you will do or DWYSYWD?  The buck stops here.




  1. When you say out loud that you are going to do something it generally means that it was directed at someone who was within earshot or, nowadays, electronically hooked up to you with your knowledge. If so, then you have created a contract with that person, and yes, you should follow through. When you say it to yourself, I believe you have the right to reassess and follow a different course of action. New facts may arise. New conditions may apply. If you change your mind after submitting the idea to another, you should at least give them the courtesy of a follow-up and information on your new views. If the person you shared it with spreads it around, you don’t owe the world, just the person who was part of the original contract.

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