Harry S. Truman photo

Address at the State fair Coliseum in Detroit

October 30, 1952

Governor Williams, ladies and gentlemen:

[At this point someone in the audience shouted, "Give 'em hell, Harry." The President then resumed speaking.]

Just give me a chance and I will do it-it is good indeed to be in Detroit once more, and to be speaking before this meeting of Democrats. As you may have heard, I am out campaigning for a Democratic victory in this election.

I am campaigning harder this year than I campaigned for myself in 1948. And the reason is, I believe this election is one of the most important our country has ever held.

Tonight, I want to speak to you--not only to the people here in Detroit and in Michigan, but to the people all over the United States by radio and television.

This is one of my last appearances as President. It is one of the last that I can talk to the people of the entire country as the head of the Democratic Party, as their President, as their Chief Executive, and as the Commander in Chief of your Armed forces. And there are some things I want to say right from the heart.

When I leave the White House January 20, 1953, I will have served as your President for 7 years and 9 months, plus a few days.

These have been momentous years in the history of our country and in the history of the world. I have had to deal with some of the gravest problems that ever confronted a President of the United States.

In those years I believe our country has made some great advances. In particular, I have in mind three great achievements that I would like to tell you about.

I hope you will forgive me if I talk a little bit about the accomplishments of my administration. I believe I am entitled to do that tonight. History doesn't begin to be kind to a President for about 50 years after he has served. If there is anything good about me, you will never find it out from the newspapers of today. Jefferson, Lincoln, Jackson, Cleveland, Woodrow Wilson, franklin Roosevelt were treated in exactly the same way, so you see I am in pretty good company.

The first achievement I want to mention concerns prosperity. We have discovered how to manage our economic life so that we can maintain a high level of prosperity and avoid depressions. We have created a rising level of wealth, and one that is distributed fairly and broadly among all the people.

I don't say we will never have a depression again. But I do say that we can prevent it--if we will apply the lessons of the New Deal and the Fair Deal.

The second great achievement is in the field of civil rights. Here, we have awakened the conscience of the Nation. Instead of failing backward into a period of race hate and prejudice after World War II, we went forward. We are steadily breaking down the barriers of prejudice throughout our economic, cultural, and political life. We still have a very long way to go, but this progress is for me one of the great satisfactions of my whole lifetime.

The third great achievement I want to mention is in the field of foreign relations. This is the most important of all, because it means our national survival.

At the close of World War II, the Soviet Union began a worldwide effort to absorb the free countries into its system of Communist tyranny. Their plot was a staggering one--conceived with diabolical cunning-to take advantage of war-weariness and our fervent hopes for peace.

Our allies were weak and economically prostrate; we ourselves wanted to demobilize our Armed forces, and concentrate on our affairs here at home. Most of the world was defenseless, and unaware of the danger. Looking back, we can see that the Soviet plot was shrewdly timed--and that its success must have seemed inevitable to its leaders.

Now, we have managed to organize ourselves to meet this thing and to stop it-and I think it is one of the greatest achievements in our history. We ought to be tremendously proud of what we have done.

Just think of it! This Nation of ours, which only 20 years ago had been strongly isolationist, attained the leadership of the whole free world. We poured forth economic aid to other nations and helped them to stop Communist subversion within their borders. We built up alliances and defenses across the world. Then in June of 1950 the leaders in the Kremlin thought they could terrorize the free nations into submission by an act of outright, military aggression in little Korea. We stopped that, too. We met it by force of arms. We stopped it, and we held it, and we drove it back.

We met aggression in Korea to save our freedom in the United States and to save the freedom of all the free world.

I think we are now reaching a turning point in this struggle. The balances are moving in our favor. We will see that all our sacrifices and effort have been worthwhile. We will have gained our end of stopping aggression without a third world war.

If we stop aggression without another world war, the United States will have measured up to its responsibilities as the greatest nation in the history of the world.

These are our three great achievements. As you can see, they are all still in process-and still incomplete. I would like to stay in office and see them through, but I long ago decided that two terms were enough for any man. The burdens of the Presidency are grave and exhausting. In a democracy like ours, no man should consider himself indispensable. So I decided that I would not run for reelection.

Nevertheless, I want to see these three great advances carried through to final success. I want to see our economic life grow and expand further for the benefit of all classes. I want to see us achieve our goal of complete acceptance of civil rights. I want to see us win this struggle for world peace.

In this election, the voters have the choice between two political parties to carry this great work forward. There is a great difference between the philosophy of the two parties on these fundamental problems.

I do not want to see the clock turned back, and the work of all these years undone. That is why I am campaigning for the Democratic nominee for President. That is why I am campaigning for the Democratic nominee for President, Adlai Stevenson of Illinois.

I am going to talk to you now about the fundamental differences between the two parties.

Let us take, first, the differences between them on the question of prosperity.

The Republican Party was last in power in 1932, and in that year the American dream was all but shattered.

That was not only a time of breadlines and soup lines and misery for millions, as we all remember. It was also a time of deep crisis in American history--when the whole American idea was on trial. The crisis called for' boldness of thought and swiftness of action.

The Republican Party had neither. So the American people turned them out, and gave the reins of government to the Democratic Party.

You well remember the confidence, the faith, the ringing words of Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Under his leadership, the Democratic Party corrected, one by one, the deep-seated wrongs that had come into the American economic system and the American society while under the Republican Party's policies.

I came to the United States Senate from Missouri in January 1935, and I worked on these great programs of the New Deal during that inspiring period in American history.

It was inspiring because we made the Government of the United States the Government of all the people. We moved the Capital of the United States from Wall Street to Washington--and it's still in Washington, and it's going to stay there.

The voice of the farmer was heard in the legislative halls. We thought of him, and not of the commodity speculators, when we wrote our farm laws. We brought him a measure of security through price supports, soil conservation programs, and systems of farm credit.

We listened to the ordinary workingman, and we thought of him when we wrote labor laws. We guaranteed his right to organize; we gave him a position of real bargaining equality with powerful employers. And we gave him insurance against unemployment, and a system of security for his old age.

We listened to the minorities of the country-the foreign born, the Negroes, the religious minorities--and in the laws we wrote they were given the equal treatment that all men deserve.

We introduced wise and farsighted economic policies that saved the free enterprise system and saved this American Republic.

I do not need to tell you that franklin Roosevelt's whole program was fought unceasingly by the Republican Party, in and out of the Congress. They had no use for these measures of economic democracy. Everything we did in those days they called socialism. They said our measures would lead to bankruptcy.

Well, you know how foolish that was. The country is not bankrupt--the country is rich, because the people are working and producing and eating where they did not work and eat before.

Yet, to this very day, the Republican Party does not admit that the Roosevelt New Deal had any good in it. Every one of their platforms, from 1936 to 1952, bemoans the loss of their liberties.

In my own term as President, they attacked the full employment bill--with the idea of a depression-proof economy. And they have continued in the Congress to oppose the extension and improvements of all our programs of social welfare. The record is clear.

Now get this--this is important: You cannot trust the Republican Party to safeguard and increase your prosperity. If you want prosperity to continue, elect the party that has built your prosperity since 1932. Keep the Democratic Party in power. They have given you what you need and what the country needs and what the world needs. You can't turn them out.

Now, let's see if we can trust the Republicans with our second great advance--our progress toward full enjoyment of human rights and civil liberty.

In this great State you honor the memory of a man who was one of the bravest champions of human rights who ever lived-frank Murphy. His tradition is carried on by your present Governor, Mennen Williams, and by your Democratic Senator in Washington, Blair Moody. Now, Mennen Williams sent a civil rights program to the Republican legislature of the State of Michigan, and what happened? They killed it.

In the Congress of the United States, we could have had a civil rights program adopted several years ago if the Republicans had voted for it. Now, why didn't they vote for it? What held them back from doing the decent thing? I'll tell you one of the reasons. It was the hope of making a deal with the Dixiecrats, the reactionary splinter party of the South, to help them win the Presidency in 1952.

My friends, that's the deal they made. But it isn't going to do them a bit of good.

Now the Democratic Party has a Senator from Alabama on the ticket for Vice President. He is a progressive southerner--a man who has stood and fought against the big corporations in his State. He has fought for the workingman, regardless of color or creed. He helped to draft the Democratic platform this year--and that platform contains the best civil rights plank ever written. He stands on that platform. I know John Sparkman, and I honor him and I trust him--not only as a man, but as a fighter for human progress and decency.

Moreover, the Republicans, this year, have stooped to a new political technique that is deadly to the American tradition of liberty.

It is the systematic use of the "big lie," the weapon so widely used by the Nazis, the fascists, and the Communists.

The Republican Party could have rejected this un-American practice this year. But it did not do it. It asked the man for whom this method has come to be named, to be a featured speaker at the Republican convention. Then its candidate for President chose to embrace the practitioners of this method, and ask that they be returned to the Senate of the United States as powerful members of his team.

Worst of all was the justification the Republican candidate offered for this act. He has said that all Republicans may join in his "great crusade," no matter what their methods.

That a presidential candidate could regard method as being unimportant would certainly have come as a shock to the men who founded this great Republic. They knew that in the field of human liberty, method is all-important. Liberty itself is but a method of conducting our affairs.

The only difference between tyranny in every form and liberty in every form is a difference in method.

A Republican victory would place these practitioners of the "big lie" in positions of great power, free to attack any who disagree with them.

You cannot trust your human rights to a party that is running on the coattails of Joe McCarthy.

And now, let's see if we can trust the Republicans to complete our program for peace.

While Senator Vandenberg lived, there seemed to be a hope that the Republican Party could agree with the Democratic Party on the realities of the world situation. But after his death, the Republican Party fell under the control of men who protest that isolationism is dead, and then proceed to vote for it.

These men voted against point 4, for example. They voted against military and economic aid to strengthen Korea in 1949 and in 1950. When they had a chance to strengthen Korea against Communist aggression, they would not do it.

Sometimes they vote for an international program but against the money to carry it out. Thus, they have tried repeatedly to turn the Marshall plan and the military aid program to Europe into halfhearted gestures that would build up the free world too little and too late.

This is the way the Republican Party behaves in Congress. Can we expect better from the Republican candidate ?

He had his chance in this campaign to speak out in a strong and clear manner in support of his country's efforts for peace. I thought he surely would do it, but he chose instead to encourage the isolationists in his own party, and to adopt their line. He accepted their philosophy of slashing recklessly at the budget which supports our world peace effort. He has slurred and belittled the efforts of our allies. He has put fear in the hearts of free people all over the world by his loose talk about the fighting in Korea.

His campaign tactics are injuring the unity with which this country is supporting the brave and necessary efforts of its fighting men there. He has talked about his country's policies in such a way that Vishinsky has been able to use his statements in attacking this country in the United Nations.

No, I do not think your chance for peace in the world lies in Republican isolationist policies. of withdrawal, of feeble half measures, of appeasement and surrender.

On all three of these great issues of our day--prosperity, civil rights, and world peace--the Democratic Party offers you a proven program.

Moreover, it offers you, for President, a man of high and unchanging principles, a man of ideals, of experience, and of understanding.

I would like to tell you a little more, from a personal standpoint, about Adlai Stevenson.

It was shortly after the people chose me as President in 1948 that I decided definitely that I would not run for President again. Two and a half years ago I put that decision down on a piece of paper that I still have.

As 1952 approached, I began to think of the many good men in the Democratic Party who could carry on the programs and traditions of the party. I talked with several of them. One of them was a man I did not know very well, who had built up a tremendous reputation as Governor of Illinois. That was Adlai Stevenson.

Adlai Stevenson did not want the nomination. He is a man of humility, and he realized the weight of responsibility that the Presidency carries. He wanted for the next 4 years to be Governor of Illinois, and that is all he wanted.

He had not budged from that decision by the time the National Democratic Convention opened. Then, as you saw and heard by television and radio and through the press, the representatives of American democracy drafted Adlai Stevenson. They wanted the best and the strongest man they could find, and he was their choice. It was a real, genuine draft--the only one in modern history. He responded to the draft because he believed in the programs of the Democratic Party. He was willing to subordinate his personal wishes to those of his fellow Democrats if they felt he was the best man to preserve and build on what had been accomplished.

Governor Stevenson has made no commitments whatsoever to me, and I have not asked him for any, you can be sure of that. In the Presidency his men and his ideas will be his own.

Governor Stevenson has proved himself since his nomination to be an even greater leader than any of us had really known. But all of you know him now. He has spoken to you many times in the last few weeks, and I know that he has inspired you.

In his campaigning, he has shown a great respect for the intelligence of the American people. He has had the courage, in speaking to various groups, to tell them not what they wanted to hear but what he felt to be in the best interest of this great country.

Now, my friends, real statesmen are rarities in the world's history. Once before out of Illinois came a man whose greatness was not fully appreciated until he became President--that was Abraham Lincoln.

I believe, my friends, that Governor Stevenson is such a man. I urge you to vote next Tuesday to make him President of the United States.

Note: The President spoke at 10:30 p.m. at the State fair Coliseum, Detroit, Mich. In his opening words he referred to Governor G. Mcnnen Williams of Michigan. Later he referred to Frank Murphy, Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, 1940-49, Senator Blair Moody of Michigan, Senator Joseph R. McCarthy of Wisconsin, Arthur H. Vandenberg, Senator from Michigan, 1928-51, and Andrei Vishinsky, Soviet foreign Minister.

The address was carried on a nationwide radio and television broadcast.

Harry S Truman, Address at the State fair Coliseum in Detroit Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/231009

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