Harry S. Truman photo

Radio Address as Part of the Program "Religion in American Life"

October 30, 1949

[Broadcast from the White House at 11:25 p.m.]

Fellow citizens:

The United States has been a deeply religious Nation from its earliest beginnings. The need which the founders of our country felt--the need to be free to worship God, each man in his own way--was one of the strongest impulses that brought men from Europe to the New World. As the pioneers carved a civilization from the forest, they set a pattern which has lasted to our time. First, they built homes and then, knowing the need for religion in their daily lives, they built churches. When the United States was established, its coins bore witness to the American faith in a benevolent deity. The motto then was "In God We Trust." That is still our motto and we, as a people, still place our firm trust in God.

Building on this foundation of faith, the United States has grown from a small country in the wilderness to a position of great strength and great responsibility among the family of nations. Other countries look today to the United States for leadership in the ways of peace, and it is our task to meet that challenge.

I am convinced that we are strong enough to meet the challenge. We are strong enough because we have a profound religious faith. The basic source of our strength as a nation is spiritual. We believe in the dignity of man. We believe that he is created in the image of God, who is the Father of us all.

It is this faith that makes us determined that every citizen in our own land shall have an equal right and an equal opportunity to grow in wisdom and in stature, and to play his part in the affairs of our Nation.

It is this faith that makes us respect the right of men everywhere to worship as they please and to live their own lives free from the fear of tyranny and strife.

It is this faith that inspires us to work for a world in which life will be more worthwhile--a world of tolerance, unselfishness, and brotherhood--a world that lives according to the precepts of the Sermon on the Mount.

I believe that every problem in the world today could be solved if men would only live by the principles of the ancient prophets and the Sermon on the Mount.

Each one of us can do his part by a renewed devotion to his religion. If there is any danger to the religious life of our Nation, it lies in our taking our religious heritage too much for granted. Religion is not a static thing. It exists not in buildings, but in the minds and hearts of our people.

Religion is like freedom. We cannot take it for granted. Man--to be free--must work at it. And man--to be truly religious--must work at that, too. Unless men live by their faith, and practice that faith in their daily lives, religion cannot be a living force in the world today.

That is why each of us has a duty to participate-actively-in the religious life of his community and to support generously his own religious institutions.

Just as an active faith sustained and guided the pioneers in conquering the wilderness, so today an active faith will sustain and guide us as we work for a just peace, freedom for all, and a world where human life is truly held sacred.

Religious faith and religious work must be our reliance as we strive to fulfill our destiny in the world.

Note: The President spoke at 11:25 p.m. from the Projection Room at the White House, following an introduction by Charles E. Wilson, president of the General Electric Company, who served as chairman of the nationwide, interfaith campaign, "Religion in American Life." The campaign ran from November 1-24, 1949.

Harry S. Truman, Radio Address as Part of the Program "Religion in American Life" Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/230275

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