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Harry S. Truman: Remarks at the National Conference on Family Life.
Harry S. Truman
92 - Remarks at the National Conference on Family Life.
May 6, 1948
Public Papers of the Presidents
Harry S. Truman<br>1948
Harry S. Truman

District of Columbia
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THANK YOU very much, Mr. Johnston, for that cordial introduction. I appreciate it. I also appreciate the privilege of being with you today to discuss with you some of your problems as I see them--express my own point of view on a subject which is dose to the heart of every person in the world: family life.

This National Conference on Family Life in this country, I am told, is also of vital interest to a large number of visitors which we have here; and I am informed that we have enough representatives of foreign nations to have a meeting of the United Nations here, if we wanted to do it! And that is helpful and encouraging to us.

We are interested in the security and the welfare of the family, because that is the fundamental unity on which all governments are formed. Governments are formed for the purpose of being of service to the family as a unit, in our conception of what government ought to be. For that reason, the welfare and the security of the family is vital to every government in the world.

I am very much interested in the history of government from its very beginning, and I am more than interested in the Government of the United States and how it originated, and the why of its origin. You see, people came to these shores and they came in family units. North of us the French fur traders went to Canada for a purpose, for the enrichment of themselves, and to take things out of the country. Families came to the United States to build homes and to create settlements, and to live in peace.

Therefore, today, when you look back on the settlement of North America, you wonder how it was ever done. I have been to Plymouth Rock, and I have been to Rhode Island. I have been to the Jamestown River's mouth at Jamestown, and I have been to South Carolina, and I have been to the coast of North Carolina, and I have been to Georgia. And I look at some of the things that those ancestors of ours had to contend with, and I wonder how in the world they ever did it.

I will tell you how they did it. They did it because there was an incentive. They brought with them ideals. They brought with them an idea of God. They brought with them an idea of liberty. And as a result we have, I think, the greatest republic on which the sun has ever shone.

I am interested, also, in the opening of that part of the country west of the Appalachian Mountains. My ancestors had some interest in that, and made some contribution to it. And some of the things they had to go through with! And then we think we have troubles!

Well, we do--we do. We are having them right now in our modern family setup. We are short of housing. We are studying health programs. We are working on the expansion of social security. All those things have their bearing upon the family and upon the Government of the United States--upon your Government. It is absolutely essential that we solve these problems, just as our ancestors solved them.

Our housing shortage is almost a fatal one. For 4 years I have been attempting to get a housing program. I was in the Senate of the United States when the Wagner-Ellender-Taft bill was first introduced, and the Senate passed that bill. It died in the House. Just recently, the Senate has passed the Taft-Ellender-Wagner bill, in wonderful form. I am wholeheartedly for that bill as it passed the Senate, and I sincerely hope that the House of Representatives will study that legislation and give us an opportunity to help meet some of the shortages with which we are now faced.

That problem is vital. We have millions of veterans who have returned from fighting for the liberty of this country and of the world, who are not able to find homes for themselves and their wives and their children.

Just recently, on this free parking lot in the great city of Washington, it was necessary to have people move on who had been living there indefinitely.

And I remember one case in particular, where a young man and his wife and their baby and the dog, had to be ejected from the parking lot down here because they couldn't let them stay there any longer. And they had no place to go. They couldn't find a place in this great city of Washington who would let a baby and a dog come and live.

How are you going to raise a family under that condition?

Children and dogs are as necessary to the welfare of this country as Wall Street and the railroads--or any other part of the country !

We have got to find a solution to that. And that is what you are here for, to see if you can't help us meet those problems.

I am only a servant of the people of the United States. I can only do what the law authorizes me to do as President of the United States. I am the enforcement part of the Government of the United States for the laws that are passed by the Congress. That is my duty. That is what I am sworn to do.

And people talk about the powers of a President, and what a powerful Executive he is, and what he can do. Let me tell you something--from experience!

The President may have a great many powers given to him in the Constitution, and may have powers under certain laws which are given to him by the Congress of the United States; but the principal power that the President has is to bring people in and try to persuade them to do what they ought to do without persuasion. That's what I spend most of my time doing. That's what the powers of the President amount to.

And you can help the President with those powers, if you tell these gentlemen on this housing bill--about which I was talking-what they ought to do. They will probably listen to you better than they will to me-at least some of them will. Some of them I can talk to with satisfaction and get something out of. Some of them are running for reelection next fall.

One of the worst things we are faced with this year is the fact that we have a presidential campaign, and all the Members of the House of Representatives have to be reelected. That is a part of our system, and it's all right. But with some of the problems with which we are faced now, it is too bad that that has to come along at this time.

I hope that nothing in the world will interfere with our bipartisan foreign policy. That policy--if we expect to get peace in the world, that policy must be carried to its logical conclusion. We are interested, as you know, only in peace in this world, and in the welfare of the family units of the world as a whole, as well as our own. That is all I have been trying to get since August the 14th, 1945, when Japan folded up.

Everybody is interested in peace, and unless we have peace we can have nothing else about which I have been talking. That we must attain. That we are going to attain. We are on the road, even if it looks rough and rugged and rocky. But we will overcome that situation as we have overcome a great many in our past history.

And we can't let this one stump us. We are going to make the United Nations work for peace! That's all we want!

Now you ladies and gentlemen can make a very great contribution to that by helping us solve our own home family problems, which have a bearing on the very thing I am talking about.

If this country is happy and prosperous, and everybody is at work, and everybody can be happy in his situation, that will contribute to our help which we are trying to give for the recovery of Europe and Asia. And that means peace and prosperity for the whole world.

And, there is room enough for everybody in this world, and room enough for everybody to have peace, and to have enough to eat, and a place to sleep.

If you will just make a survey of the continents, and see the blank spaces where pioneering can still be done, it can be conclusively proved that if we solve the international problems with which we are faced, and if we keep working at the solution of our domestic problems, all of them can be solved.

I can't tell you how much I appreciate your taking the time out, and the trouble, to come here and work on your own time for something that is of vital interest to the United States and to the world as a whole.

I hope you will furnish us with some solutions to some of the problems with which we are faced. You can do it, if you will set your mind to do it. And you can help solve them. That is the principal thing. The President can't solve problems by himself. The Congress can't solve problems, but the President and the Congress and the country can solve any problem that comes before us.

Now let's get this one done!

Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 12:30 p.m. in the Departmental Auditorium in Washington. His remarks were carried on a nationwide radio broadcast.

In his opening words the President referred to Eric Johnston, chairman of the National Conference on Family Life in which 125 major national voluntary organizations participated. The conference was attended by more than 900 delegates from the United States and 30 foreign nations.

Citation: Harry S. Truman: "Remarks at the National Conference on Family Life.," May 6, 1948. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=13174.
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