Couples from across the United States renewed their marriage vows on the steps of the Truman Library in Independence in celebration of the wedding anniversary of Harry and Bess Truman. The weather was a sweltering compliment to the hot June day when the presidential couple was married 100 years ago at Trinity Episcopal Church, less than a mile away from where the library stands.
Marriages spanning as many as 72 years were renewed following a brief statement by Library Director Kurt Graham.
“We are here celebrating one of the great love affairs in presidential history,” he told the crowd. “They were only married for 53 years … but it was a lifelong love affair.” That commitment was reflected in the couples gathered for the ceremony.
Pastor Nancy Kerr officiated the ceremony. While most marriage ceremonies feature a few words of advice to the couple, Kerr said no one present needed any.
“It’s pretty apparent there’s a lot of love here today on these steps,” she said.
Kerr asked each couple to stare at each other and to repeat words of love and encouragement, looking toward further years of happiness.
Bishop Martin Field, who oversees the diocese of which Trinity Episcopal Church is a part, added his own words for the champagne toast.
“Love has clout,” he said. “And not just the romantic love we’re celebrating today.”
Field spoke of all forms of love, and the pursuit of it, quoting Martin Luther King Jr.
“We must discover the redemptive power of love. When we discover that we’ll be able to make of this old world, a new world,” he quoted.
Field said the strength of Bess and Harry’s relationship, which he encouraged those present to reflect on, was not in feelings of passion, but in acts.
“I believe Harry and Bess made each other better and stronger and more able than they would have ever been alone, because they decided to be in love and acted in committed to each other and to the world around them. They acted, and that’s how they showed love. And look what they became,” he said.
Harry and Bess were celebrated elsewhere in the city as well, with her wedding dress and shoes brought out for display at the library and the letters written between her and Harry displayed as well. Free tours were given at the Truman Home where couples could recreate a historic Harry and Bess photo. Trinity Episcopal Church gave tours and held a special service as well.