Harry S. Truman photo

Address at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, New York City

October 29, 1948

Thank you--thank you very, very much. I have had the most cordial and warmest welcome that any man could wish for, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart. All of Greater New York has given me a wonderful reception, and Brooklyn makes it unanimous.

I have good news for you. We have the Republicans on the run.

All we have to do now is to see that everybody gets to the polls on election day. I want everybody who is listening to me tonight just to make me one promise. I want you to promise that you will vote and that you will make sure that your neighbor votes, too.

Help your neighbor. Help get him to the polls.

This is a crusade for the people, and the way to win, is to win it with votes.

Before I say anything else, I would like to pay tribute to a man who is not here tonight. He's not here, because he's out fighting for you, fighting shoulder to shoulder with me in this great crusade. And I'd like to pay tribute to my good friend and running-mate, Senator Alben Barkley.

Senator Barkley has been working hard, making a terrific fight to help tell the people of this country the facts of life.

He's doing a splendid job and I want all of you to know that he's your friend, and he's working for you.

What's more, he's been fighting for you, and he and I together will go on fighting for you.

We said we would tell the people of this country the truth in this campaign, and we have done it. The American people know that we believe in them. They know that we trust them. And they have responded. All they wanted was to have somebody talk to them about the issues.

The Republican candidate wouldn't tell them. He didn't dare.

When Senator Barkley and I started out, there wasn't a newspaper in the country that would have given a plugged nickel for our chance to win this election for the people. But we are going to win it!

Now they're beginning to sing another tune. That's because we are going to win. The Democratic Party is going to win, because you are going to vote.

This night marks the end of my campaign in the East. And the East is with us. A few weeks ago the papers said Massachusetts was in the bag for the Republicans. That just isn't so. Massachusetts is going Democratic by 100,000 votes. Rhode Island is Democratic.

Connecticut is going Democratic by 40,000, and as for New York--well, you tell me.

Is New York going Democratic? Of course it is!

New York State is going to turn in a good old-fashioned Democratic majority, just as it did four times in a row for Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Tonight I'm going to talk about how this election affects your chance for peace.

In the interest of peace, your Democratic Party has created strong bipartisan support for the kind of foreign policy that would not change over the years.

In this task, from the very outset, we have had the cooperation of some wise and patriotic Republicans.

The Democratic Party stands pledged to conduct our foreign policy in the interests of the American people as a whole, without regard to party.

Your President and your Democratic administration have scrupulously honored that pledge of bipartisan cooperation in foreign policy.

And we are going to keep that pledge, no matter what provocation is offered by the Republican candidate for President.

I had hoped that we would get through this political campaign without the Republican candidate dragging American foreign policy into party politics.

But he has seen fit to attack the Democratic Party's record on foreign policy. He has attacked my conduct of foreign affairs in unmeasured terms. He has torn off his mask of bipartisanship and revealed the ugly partisan passion underneath.

I feel, therefore, that I would be failing in my duty to bring the issues to the people, if I did not discuss the Republican record in the field of foreign affairs.

Let me say at the outset, in a few words, what our American foreign policy is.

The heart and soul of American foreign policy is peace.

We are supporting a world organization to keep the peace, and a world economic policy to create prosperity for all mankind.

The first and most important feature of our foreign policy is to strengthen the United Nations, which seeks to bring about a peaceful adjustment of differences between nations.

Our guiding principle is international cooperation. The very basis of our foreign policy is cooperative action with other nations.

Unfortunately, our hopes for worldwide cooperation have been hampered by the Soviet Union whose policies and objectives seem to be at odds with what the United States and other democratic nations are striving for. This fact--this disharmony-makes it even more urgent that we act in concert with those nations which are devoted to the same objectives that we are.

We have not deserted--we will never desert-the brave men and women who have rallied to the cause of peace and freedom throughout the world.

We will not sacrifice them to totalitarian aggression.

In these matters, a very great responsibility lies upon the President of the United States. While he looks ahead, working for a happy outcome, he must also take thought of possible disasters.

The President's responsibility goes far beyond the formalities of diplomacy. It extends to ultimate reality--the final consequence of war and peace.

A President must approach this task humbly and sincerely. He must be sure in his heart that no error, no pride, no arrogance on his part offers an obstacle to the achievement of peace.

The President is the servant of the American people. He must leave no stone unturned in expressing their will for peace.

Throughout the world today the people yearn for peace. If all peoples were free to express themselves as we are, there would be absolutely no danger of war. But, unfortunately, we are confronted by a dangerous and difficult circumstance.

The people of the Soviet Union are surrounded by a curtain of censorship through which very little of the truth about the other people of the world can penetrate.

The leaders of the Soviet Union are victims of their own iron curtain.

There is a vast amount of misinformation and misunderstanding in the minds of those who control the destinies of the Russian people.

One of the problems which I face, and one of the problems which my great predecessor faced, is to pierce that iron curtain and to get the truth across to the leaders in the Soviet Union.

We must try to get them to understand that our people are united in what we think is right, that we have no evil intentions, that we stand firmly behind the United Nations.

Our experience has shown that formal diplomatic channels do not always succeed in doing this. It is the duty of the President, therefore, to consider and study every possible approach to the heart and understanding of the Soviet leaders.

I have given this problem prayerful consideration. I shall continue to do so.

There are some misguided persons who believe that further peaceful discussions are useless.

But that is not the position of the United States Government.

So long as I am President of the United States, the door will not be closed to peace.

I will always explore every possible means, no matter how difficult or how unconventional, for reaching agreement.

I welcome the abuse that is showered upon me by those who have made up their minds that war is inevitable.

In my search for peace, I do not care what epithets may be hurled at me by those who think that we must hurry on to an inevitable .catastrophe. I don't care about that. I don't care what they say. There is nothing new they can say about me. It has all been said. And I am here to tell you that the American people don't believe it.

But when the Republican leaders deliberately misinterpret my private consultations with the Secretary of State, and try to tell the people of America that my constant concern about peace is wrong, then I have to protest about it.

I do not believe that war is inevitable, and I shall make use of every honorable means to prevent it.

The way in which our foreign policy has been attacked raises doubts as to the good faith with which the Republican leaders in this campaign are approaching this whole question.

Do they regard it as nothing more than a campaign issue? Do they understand that the stakes in this matter are war or peace, life or death, not only for ourselves and our children, but for our civilization?

These doubts are made more serious by the record which the Republican Party has made in foreign policy over the years.

Let me say right now that I welcome the real contributions made to our foreign policy by certain Republicans in recent years. They have been helpful, and I will always give them full and friendly credit.

But these contributions, however real, must not blind us to the fact that the Republican Party, as a party, is a late convert to the cause of international good will and cooperation.

After the First World War, the United States had its first great opportunity to lead the world to peace. I have always believed that it was the will of Almighty God at that time that we should enter into and lead the League of Nations. How much misery and suffering the world would have been spared if we had only followed Woodrow Wilson!

We are not now making the same mistake that was made in 1920. God willing, we will never make that mistake again. God willing, we will never make that mistake again.

In the fateful election of 1920, the Democratic Party urged the people to take the lead in international affairs. The people recognized that this was their duty. But they were betrayed--betrayed by another Republican candidate who campaigned on both sides of the issue, and a Republican Party which sabotaged the ideal of international cooperation as soon as it had won the election.

Why did this happen? It happened because powerful interests in the Republican Party were so selfish and so shortsighted, that they blocked our participation in the world effort for peace. And those same interests are still powerful in the Republican Party. Don't let anybody tell you anything different.

Let me give you an example of their influence today. Remember that in the 1920's the Republican Party moved into Washington and enacted the highest tariffs in our history--tariffs that helped bring on World War II.

Then in the 1930's the terrible errors of the Republican high tariff were corrected by the Democratic Party, under the leadership of President Roosevelt and that great Secretary of State, Cordell Hull.

Using the powerful instrument of reciprocal trade agreements, we have demonstrated the possibility of an expanding world economy. We have provided a new foundation for a prosperous and a .peaceful world. But now this foundation is threatened by Republican reaction.

The leader of the Republican high tariff lobby in the 1920's was a gentleman from Pennsylvania by the name of Joe Grundy. That same Mr. Grundy showed up at the Republican Convention in Philadelphia this year, and masterminded the choice of the Republican candidate. And his personal protégé is now the Republican Chairman of the National Committee. Do you want to return to Grundyism? The Republican Party has served notice that that is what you can expect from them.

This year I sent a message to the Congress asking that the power to conduct the reciprocal trade program be extended another 3 years.

Those Republicans simply crippled the act, and extended it for 1 year instead of the customary 3, thinking that next year, if they are successful in this election, they will be able to finish the job.

Let me give you another example. When the European recovery program was before the Senate, the isolationist forces in the Republican Party rose behind Senator Taft in an attempt to slash that program and change it from one of world reconstruction to one of handout relief.

It is preposterous for the Republican candidate to say that "Republican statesmanship"--if there is such a thing--changed our original idea of the European recovery program into a practical measure. If it had not been for the experience and wisdom of the Democratic Party in international affairs, the European recovery program would have been mutilated before it was launched.

These are some of the reasons which lead me to believe that our foreign policy is safer in Democratic hands than in Republican hands. These are some of the reasons why the American people would make a mistake, if they should entrust the future of our country to a Republican President and a Republican Congress for the next 4 years.

The Communists would like to see that happen. That is the main reason the Communists are trying so desperately to defeat me.

That is why the Communists are supporting a third party.

They know that the candidate of the third party will not win a single State, yet the Communists are using him in an effort to defeat me and elect a Republican President.

The Communists know the Republican record, even if the Republicans hope that the rest of us have forgotten it.

The Communists regard the Republican Party as the party of inaction, confusion, and rejection--the party that insures a depression that would both weaken our influence abroad, and spread misery at home.

Better still from the Communist point of view, the Republican Party's record shows that it is not free from the forces of isolationism. On the basis of the record, the Communists believe that these forces would control the Republican Party and lead to an American policy of hit-and-run diplomacy.

The Communists want us to get out of Europe and Asia. They want us to stop helping European countries and China. They want us to withdraw and leave the field entirely to them. They know they can never get what they want so long as the Democratic Party remains in control of this Government.

But the Communists have real reason to hope that Republican isolationism will exert its pressure within the Republican Party, and, in a period of time, they can take over nation after nation.

My friends, that must not happen!

We must never withdraw to the Republican isolationism of the 1920'S. If you do that, communism will become so powerful that the security of this Nation will be gravely endangered.

As the Communists make their crafty plans, they find that on issue after issue they can expect no help from the Democratic Party. But, to the Republican Party, however, they see a basic philosophy, a course of action, an attitude toward the future, that fills them with fervent hope.

Make no mistake about it. The fate of mankind depends on the foreign policy of the United States. Grave decisions lie before us.

The next Congress will have to decide whether we shall continue our reciprocal trade policy or abolish it.

The next Congress will have to decide whether the European recovery program shall be continued.

If the forces of reaction and isolation gain control of our Government in this election, these fateful issues will be decided the wrong way.

And if they are decided the wrong way, our present great contribution to world peace will end. With it will end the hope for which this generation of mankind has sacrificed so much. The Democratic Party rejects that tragic course.

Now, our foreign policy is a people's foreign policy. Its purpose is to win a people's peace. It demands a people's government in Washington, not a special interest government. It demands that we maintain here in America a firm democratic base for world democracy.

It demands that we maintain here in America a secure economic base for world recovery. These are the issues that we Democrats have brought before the American people in this crusade. And the American people understand those issues. They have responded to the challenge of our time.

Now, I have only one request to make of you.

Exercise your right to control this government of yours by doing your duty on election day, getting up there early and voting the straight Democratic ticket, and the country will be safe.

[At this point the President introduced his family. He then resumed speaking.]

I want to say to you most hospitable people in Brooklyn that I have never enjoyed a meeting more in my life, and I never was more serious with anything in my life than what I told you this evening.

I am highly honored to be on this platform with so many distinguished Democrats.

Note: The President spoke at 9:30 p.m. in the Brooklyn Academy of Music. During his address he referred to Secretary of State George C. Marshall, former Secretary of State Cordell Hull, former Senator from Pennsylvania Joseph R. Grundy, and Senator Robert A. Taft of Ohio.

Harry S Truman, Address at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, New York City Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/234009

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