Historians generally consider Truman, Eisenhower and Reagan to be the best presidents since World War 2. There are some interesting similarities in their stories.
Truman grew up in Missouri and is closely associated with Independence. His father made some bad investments that prevented Truman from attending college. He had a number of clerical jobs before working on his grandparents’ farm. He tried a number of schemes to make money but they failed. He memorized the eye chart to pass the vision test and fight in World War 1. After the war he opened a clothing store that failed. He was elected as a county commissioner. He achieved such acclaim that he became a U.S. Senator. This led to the vice presidency and succeeding Franklin Roosevelt.
Eisenhower grew up in Abilene, Kansas. Like Truman, there was no money for college. He was accepted at West Point. He was a football star until a knee injury but his academic and disciplinary record was mediocre at best. He was unable to get into World War 1. His record was good but not spectacular. In the 1920’s he served under a general named Fox Connor. Connor mentored Eisenhower and helped to propel him on the path that led to future greatness.
Reagan grew up in a number of small towns in Illinois. It was a tough childhood with poverty and an alcoholic father. He attended tiny Eureka College. He found work as an announcer for several radio stations before heading to Hollywood. He was a successful actor but never a major star. Eventually his career dried up but he found work on television. He gained national attention in 1964 for his speeches on behalf of Barry Goldwater. This led to his political career.
Like Lincoln, these men knew failure and disappointment. They had to struggle to get ahead. They had a good feeling for what the common man was like because that is where they came from. Even if someone has a patrician background, they can still have these same qualities. Kennedy had to cope with major health problems (he was given last rites several time) and the loss of a brother and sister. His experiences in World War 2 put him in touch with people he otherwise would have never known.
Unfortunately, these experiences are lacking in both presidential candidates. Each one has lived for decades inside a protective bubble. Rather than representing us, they want to do what think is best for us.