Harry S. Truman photo

Address at the Dedication of the Credit Union National Association's Filene House, Madison, Wisconsin.

May 14, 1950

Governor, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen:

It is a pleasure for me to be here in Wisconsin, one of the great progressive States of the Union. And I am glad to be in Madison, a State capital and a university center in which so much has been done for the progress of our great country.

I am happy to participate in dedicating Filene House, the international headquarters of the Credit Union National Association.

Credit unions offer people who have few resources a way of getting funds when they need them. I am told that last year, in the United States alone, credit unions had about 4 million members and made loans totaling close to $1 billion. This is a splendid record. It is a tribute to the values of thrift and self-help and mutual assistance.

This building will serve credit unions in the United States and Canada, and other areas of the Western Hemisphere. It will be a truly international headquarters--and, as such, it symbolizes the international character of cooperative activities. In whatever country they may be found, these activities speak a common language and have a common goal.

Their common language may be found in the principles of self-help, mutual assistance, and democratic control. Their common goal is to solve, by joint action, problems which cannot be solved by acting alone.

The effectiveness of cooperative action has been demonstrated in many ways. In our country, farm cooperatives and cooperative stores have been successful. The use of the cooperative principle has brought electricity to rural areas. The use of the same principle offers new ways to solve the housing problem.

In a broader sense, moreover, cooperative action is the method we are using to solve problems we share with other nations.

Today, the United States is engaged with other free nations in a great cooperative endeavor to preserve freedom and achieve peace in the world.

This is the greatest problem we face.

We cannot solve it unless we work together.

No one nation alone can bring about peace. Together, nations can build a strong defense against aggression, and combine the energy of free men everywhere in building a better future for all.

That is the way to achieve peace.

This is why it is in the interest of each of the free nations to help one another.

The United States is a part of a world made up of many nations and many peoples. This world is constantly being drawn close to us by improved communications and improved transportation. It is also being drawn close--dreadfully close--by weapons of destruction which become ever more terrible.

We could not, even if we wanted to, go our own way and let the rest of the world go its own way.

You remember the situation when our own country was formed. There were 13 separate Colonies scattered along the Atlantic coast. Each of them could have tried to get along as an independent nation. But they were wise enough to realize the folly of such a course. They decided to band themselves together in a common cause. And out of that decision has grown the greatest nation the world has ever seen.

In many respects, the whole world is now in the same position in which those colonies found themselves in 1776. Remember, you can now go from Madison to Moscow much quicker than a man could go from Philadelphia to New York in those days. We must recognize that the march of events has joined the peoples of the world together, in a common destiny, whether we like it or not.

And yet the nations of the world are not ready, as the Thirteen Colonies were ready, to join together in one single government.

Indeed, one nation today is doing everything it can, short of war, to prevent common international action among nations. For the Communist philosophy feeds upon suspicion and hate and disunity. And the Communists are doing their best to break down the strength of the free nations of the world, in an effort to bring more people under the domination of their godless creed.

The greatest bulwark we have to offset the spread of this godless creed is our belief in a moral code, expressed in the 20th Chapter of Exodus and the Sermon on the Mount. It has been because of our faith, and the faith of the people of other free nations under the law of God, that the tenets of communism have been rejected. We have seen this demonstrated in the countries of Western Europe, where despite tragic conditions existing in the aftermath of war, the Reds have been turned back even in the face of poverty, destitution, and misery.

This makes it more than ever necessary for us to work together with the other free nations, to preserve our freedom and to increase our common welfare.

If we are to achieve these ends, the free nations of the world must demonstrate that freedom leads to greater strength and a better life for the people.

One of the most important tasks that we must accomplish together is to create a sound economic system in the world. And to do that, we need to work together for more production in the free countries, and more trade among them.

Our own country has grown strong and great by increasing production in all parts of the country and by expanding our internal volume of trade. The same kind of growth can occur in the world. All countries will benefit from a growing volume of international trade.

But that trace has to be on a basis of fair competition and mutual benefit, among nations that stand on their own feet. That is what we have been working for ever since the war ended.

Our first step was to aid the recovery of nations whose economic systems were shattered by the war. We have given substantial assistance in the restoration of devastated areas and in the rehabilitation of industry and agriculture. The greatest example of this type of activity is, of course, the Marshall plan.

That program has been an extraordinary success. Three years ago, many of the Marshall plan countries were on the verge of collapse and absorption by communism. Today, with our help, every one of them is stronger and better able to resist communism than at any time since the World War.

The success of the Marshall plan demonstrates the value of international cooperation. It demonstrates that helping people to help themselves is one of the best ways to maintain and strengthen freedom.

In the rest of the world, just as in Europe, joint action to increase production is the key to trade, progress, and security. One reason why there is so much unrest and insecurity in the vast areas of the world, is their low productivity and their inability to trade profitably with other nations.

The problem in most of the rest of the world is different from that in Europe. The primary problem in Europe is to reestablish and expand a modern industrial and agricultural economy. In the underdeveloped areas of the world, the primary problem is to build such an economy in the first place. And that requires a very different kind of action on our part.

The greatest needs of the underdeveloped areas are modern scientific and technical knowledge to increase their skills, and the investment of funds to increase their productive capacity.

Today, more than half the people in the world are undernourished. Millions of farmers in Asia and Africa and Latin America still turn the ground with crude wooden plows. They know little about improved seed. Their livestock is underfed and diseased. Many of them have never even heard of soil conservation.

As these people become better educated and healthier, as they get more roads and factories and power plants, as they increase their output of agricultural and industrial products, they will slowly but surely come to play a larger part in the community of nations. In that way, they can attain progressively better living conditions and renewed faith in the promise of the democratic way of life. In that way, too, the United States and other free countries can acquire new sources of the things we need and new markets for the things we produce.

I am very glad that both Houses of the Congress have authorized the Government to increase our program for aiding the underdeveloped areas to progress toward modern standards of health, education, transportation, and production.

I am determined that this work shall go forward energetically. I regard it as one of the most important factors in promoting trade and one of the main hopes for world peace.

These cooperative programs to build a world economy will bring increasing welfare to all free people, and are vital to world peace.

So also is the work we are doing to strengthen the common defense of free countries against aggression.

And so is the effort we are making to create an effective world political order through the United Nations.

All these steps are essential to freedom and peace. They are all ways of putting into practice, in our relations with other nations, the basic cooperative principles of self-help, mutual assistance, and democratic control.

The measures we are taking to bring peace to the world are necessarily imperfect. We are working to solve a problem larger and more difficult than any other we have ever faced. We shall inevitably experience setbacks, as well as successes.

But we must continue to move forward, strongly and steadfastly, in cooperation with other free countries.

We have no other choice.

Isolationism is no alternative. Isolationism is a counsel of despair. Isolationism would bring on another war, and it would be a war in which we might stand alone against the rest of the world.

In our own self-interest, therefore, we must cooperate with other free nations. We must join with them in a common defense against aggression and in providing greater opportunities for human advancement.

But there is another reason why we must work together with the other free nations.

We have a moral duty to protect the exercise of freedom here and in other lands. As a nation we are committed to the principle of freedom because we believe that men are created equal. Freedom is a relationship between equals.

We believe that men are equal because we believe that they are all created by God. The religious traditions which have flowed together to make the foundations of this Nation all emphasize that every individual is an expression of the spirit of God, and should be respected on that account.

Because of that relation between God and man, we believe that each man in himself has dignity and individual worth.

Because of that relation, we believe that all men are brothers, who must strive to live together in freedom and peace.

We would be unworthy of our traditions-we would violate our fundamental beliefs-if we failed to acknowledge and to live by the principles of brotherhood which bind men and nations together.

We must continue to exert our energy and our will, in cooperation with those who share our beliefs, that together we may create on this earth a community of free men, living at peace with one another and working together for the common good.

We must not falter or turn back.

We must go forward, in the faith that we are following the commandments of God, who is the Father of us all.

Note: The President spoke at 2 p.m. at the Field House of the University of Wisconsin. In his opening words he referred to Governor Oscar Rennebohm of Wisconsin.

At the conclusion of his address the President was escorted to his awaiting automobile by the Governor, and the Presidential motorcade proceeded to the Filene House, about 2 miles distant, where the President laid the cornerstone at 3:22 p.m. (see Item 131 [4]).

Harry S Truman, Address at the Dedication of the Credit Union National Association's Filene House, Madison, Wisconsin. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/230597

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