Harry S. Truman photo

Address in Connection With the Lighting of the National Community Christmas Tree on the White House Grounds

December 24, 1951

[Broadcast nationally from Independence, Mo., at 5 p.m.]

Christmas is the great home festival. It is the day in all the year which turns our thoughts toward home.

And so I am spending Christmas in my old home in Independence with my family and friends. As the Christmas tree is lighted on the White House grounds in Washington, I am glad to send this greeting to all of my countrymen.

Tonight we think of the birth of a Little Child in the City of David nineteen and a half centuries ago. In that humble birth God gave his message of love to the world. At this Christmas time the world is distracted by doubt and despair, torn by anger, envy and ill will. But our lesson should still be that same message of love, symbolized by the birth of the Redeemer of the World in a manger "because there was no room for them in the inn."

Our hearts are saddened on this Christmas Eve by the suffering and the sacrifice of our brave men and women in Korea. We miss our boys and girls who are out there. They are protecting us, and all free men, from aggression. They are trying to prevent another world war. We honor them for the great job they are doing. We pray to the Prince of Peace for their success and safety.

As we think about Korea, we should also think of another Christmas, 10 years ago, in 1941. That was just after Pearl Harbor, and the whole world was at war. Then almost every country, almost every home, was overshadowed by fear and sorrow.

The world is still in danger tonight, but a great change has come about. A new spirit has been born, and has grown up in the world, although perhaps we do not fully realize it. The struggle we are making today has a new and hopeful meaning.

Ten years ago total war was no longer a threat but a tragic reality. In those grim days, our Nation was straining all its efforts in a war of survival. It was not peace--not the prevention of war--but the stark reality of total war itself that filled our minds and overwhelmed our hearts and souls at Christmas, 1941.

Tonight we have a different goal, and a higher hope. Despite difficulties, the free nations of the world have drawn together solidly for a great purpose: not solely to defend themselves; not merely to win a bloody war if it should come; but for the purpose of creating a real peace--a peace that shall be a positive reality and not an empty hope; a just and lasting peace.

When we look toward the battlefields of Korea, we see a conflict like no other in history. There the forces of the United Nations are fighting--not for territory, not for plunder, not to rule the lives of captive people. In Korea the free nations are proving, by deeds, that man is free and must remain free, that aggression must end, that nations must obey the law.

We still have a long struggle ahead of us before we can reach our goal of peace. In the words of the Bible, the day is not yet here when the bow shall be broken, and the lance cut off, and the chariot burned. But we have faith that that day will come.

We will be strong so long as we keep that faith--the faith that can move mountains, the faith which, as St. Paul says, is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Let us ask God to bless our efforts and redeem our faults. Let us resolve to follow his commandments--to carry the gospel to the poor; heal the brokenhearted; preach deliverance to the captive; give freedom to the slave. Let us try to do all things in that spirit of brotherly love that was revealed to mankind at Bethlehem on the first Christmas day.

The victory we seek is the victory of peace. That victory is promised to us. It was promised to us long ago, in the words of the angel choir that sang over Bethlehem: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men."
To all my countrymen: Merry Christmas.

Harry S Truman, Address in Connection With the Lighting of the National Community Christmas Tree on the White House Grounds Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/231346

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