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Address Before a Joint Session of the Congress in Observance of the 50th Anniversary of Cuban Independence

April 19, 1948

Mr. Speaker, Mr. President, Mr. Ambassador, Mr. Chairman, and distinguished guests:

It is eminently fitting that we should assemble here today to pay solemn tribute to the heroic champions of human freedom who brought about the liberation of Cuba. The commemoration of half a century of Cuban independence recalls the valor of the Cuban patriots and American soldiers and sailors who gave liberally of their strength and their blood that Cuba might be free. From that chapter in man's age-old struggle for freedom, we can draw inspiration for the hard tasks that confront us in our time.

The struggle for Cuban independence, like every other effort of its kind, was fraught with hardship and disappointment. But the unconquerable determination of the Cuban people to win freedom overcame all obstacles. From the first, the fight for liberation by Cuban patriots evoked the sympathy of the people of the United States. Those in quest of independence have always had the support of the people of this Nation.

Americans watched with admiration the beginning of the final struggle for independence led by Jose Marti and his valiant compatriots, Gomez, Maceo, and Garcia. Our people made increasingly plain their desire to assist the Cuban patriots. The sinking of the United States battleship Maine in Havana harbor on February 15, 1898, crystallized the growing sentiment in this country for joining forces with the Cuban people in their fight for self-government.

The Congress passed a Joint Resolution expressing in clear terms the conviction of the men and women of the United States that the people of the Island of Cuba should be free and independent. It also expressed our determination that once the Cuban people were liberated, they, and they alone, should govern the Island of Cuba. It is the passage of this Joint Resolution, 50 years ago today, which we are commemorating in this ceremony.

This Joint Resolution, the foundation upon which our relations with the Cuban Republic are based, brought the military and naval forces of the United States into the conflict at the side of the Cuban patriots. The names of Shafter, Roosevelt, Hobson, and many others were joined with those of Gomez, Maceo, and Garcia.

For 4 months, as Americans fought side by side with their Cuban allies, the opposing forces were driven back. On August Spain signed the Protocol of Peace and agreed to give up Cuba and withdraw her forces. The dream of Jose Marti became at last a glorious reality.

The sympathetic interest of the United States in the welfare of the Cuban people did not end with the victory. We assisted the Cubans in repairing the ravages of war and overcoming problems of health and sanitation. The comradeship of war was succeeded by the notable peacetime collaboration of General Wood, General Gorgas, Doctor Walter Reed, Doctor Agramonte, and other men of science and public life.

From these sound beginnings, relations between the Republic of Cuba and the United States have continued through the years on a mutually satisfactory basis. I believe that few nations of differing languages and cultures have drawn so closely together during the last 50 years, freely and without duress, as have Cuba and the United States.

Many other factors have contributed to the understanding and affection between our two Nations. Travel between the two countries is extensive and our peoples have come to know each other, and each other's customs and cultures, at firsthand. Trade between the two Nations has increased steadily in volume and in importance. The experience of Cuba and the United States refutes the false assumption that neighboring peoples of different races and cultures are naturally antagonistic. On the contrary, the history of Cuban-American relations demonstrates that when people of different countries enjoy opportunities for frequent personal contacts and a free exchange of information and knowledge, their ties of friendship grow stronger through the years.

Although our two countries are separated by only 90 miles of water, and vary greatly in size and strength, they collaborate harmoniously on a basis of equal sovereignty and independence of action. This relationship provides living proof of the ability of nations great and small to live in peace and to enjoy the full benefits of commercial and cultural exchange. The same harmonious relationship can prevail among all nations, provided they possess a genuine desire for peace and a firm resolve to respect the freedom and the rights of others! This is a truth the whole world should take to heart, particularly at this time.

Note: The President spoke at 12:17 p.m. In his opening words he referred to Representative Joseph W. Martin, Jr., Speaker of the House of Representatives; Senator Arthur H. Vandenberg, President pro tempore of the Senate; Guillermo Belt, Cuban Ambassador to the United States; and Senator Edward Martin of Pennsylvania, Chairman of the Joint Committee on Arrangements. The address was carried on a nationwide radio broadcast.

The prepared text, released in both English and Spanish, concluded with the following paragraphs which the President omitted in delivery:

"The basic requirement for peace and understanding is the will that peace and understanding shall prevail. The will to avoid war and to seek an understanding that precludes all violence and aggression is one of the most profound and universal concepts held by the peoples of this earth. I am convinced that the plain people of the world, of whatever race or nationality, desire nothing more passionately than freedom for themselves and for others--freedom to be left in peace to earn their daily bread after their own fashion--freedom to leave their neighbors in peace to do likewise.

"This is the great issue of our day: Whether the universal longing of mankind for peace and freedom shall prevail, or whether it is to be flouted and betrayed. The challenge of our time, like the one met so successfully by those we honor today, tests the mettle of men and their institutions of government. Our own moment of history also calls for calmness, for courage, for strength, and above all for the steadfast resolution that, come what may, we shall stand for the right.

"We honor today the memory of a noble few among the countless heroes who have fought to advance the cause of human freedom through the ages.

"Let us avail ourselves of this occasion to refresh our faith in freedom and to rededicate this Nation and ourselves to the principles of liberty, justice, and peace."

Harry S. Truman, Address Before a Joint Session of the Congress in Observance of the 50th Anniversary of Cuban Independence Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/229311

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