Harry S. Truman photo

Remarks at the Pemiscot County Fair, Caruthersville, Missouri.

October 07, 1945

Jim Ahern, my friends of Southeast Missouri, Northeast Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Illinois:

It is a pleasure to be here today. Once again I am your guest at the American Legion Fair. It is a customary procedure for me. This is number twelve. I came down here the first time, if I remember correctly, in 1934. At that time I was the Presiding Judge of the County Court of Jackson County, and a candidate for United States Senator. The next time I came I was the United States Senator from Missouri, and for nine times I came down here as the Senator from Missouri-because I liked to come. I have almost as many friends in this part of the great State of Missouri as I have in Jackson County, and that is really saying something.

Last year I came as the candidate for Vice President of the United States. Mr. Roosevelt and myself were the candidates on the Democratic ticket. We won that election, as you know, and I settled down as President of the Senate and its Presiding Officer to happily enjoy a 4-year term.

Then suddenly, like a bolt out of the blue, Mr. Roosevelt passed away--a great leader, a great humanitarian, the greatest of our war Presidents. And the greatest responsibility that ever has fallen to a human being in the history of the world fell to me.

In my first address to the Congress, after that happened, I explained to them that I had not sought that responsibility, nor had I sought the honor which goes with that responsibility. But I have been a public servant in one phase or another for the past 30 years, and I have never shirked a job. I shall not shirk this one.

I told the Members of Congress and the Nation that if we were to be successful--and we will be, undoubtedly--it would require the cooperation not only of the Congress but of the country as a whole, for us to accomplish the things which Almighty God intended this great Nation to accomplish.

Just to rehearse for your benefit a few of the things that have happened since April 12, 1945--just about 6 months ago. The San Francisco Conference was convened on the 25th day of April--just 13 days after I was sworn in as President of the United States. That conference was successful, and just about 4 months after it was convened, the United States Senate approved the Charter of the United Nations by an overwhelming majority. There were only two Senators against it, and I never did understand why they were against it. At any rate, the United States entered on an entirely new development of its foreign policy.

Some 3 months after that I went to Berlin to meet with the heads of the Governments of Russia, Great Britain, and the United States, in order to discuss the world outlook for the coming peace. The deliberations of that conference will be felt for generations in the final peace.

Just a little less than a month after I became President, that is, 26 days after I was inaugurated, the Axis powers in Europe folded up. On the 12th day of August, Japan folded up. In the meantime, one of the most earth-shaking discoveries in the history of the world was made--the development of atomic energy was discovered. That discovery was used in the last war effort against Japan, and the effect of that atomic bomb is too terrible for contemplation. But we have only begun on the atomic energy program. That great force, if properly used by this country of ours, and by the world at large, can become the greatest boon that humanity has ever had. It can create a world which, in my opinion, will be the happiest world that the sun has ever shone upon.

Now I am reminding you of all these things which have taken place in the last short 6 months to impress upon you the terrible responsibilities of the President of the United States. The President of the United States is your President. I am telling you just what his responsibilities are, because you are my friends and I think you understand the difficulties which I face.

Now it is just as necessary to have the cooperation of every branch, and every member of every part of the Government of the United States, from the constable in this township to the President of the Senate. We must have that cooperation. We must go forward--we are going forward.

We understand that the road to peace is just as difficult and maybe more difficult than was the road to victory during the war. And the reason for that difficulty is that we all distinctly understand that after every war there is bound to be a letdown, there is bound to be a change of attitude, there are bound to be a great many of us who say, "Oh well, I don't have to work any more. I don't have to take any interest in the welfare of my Government any more." We can't have that attitude. We must cooperate now as we never have before in the history of this country. We have the greatest production machine that the world has ever seen. We conclusively proved that free government is the most efficient government in every emergency. We conclusively proved that, by our victories over Germany and Italy and Japan and their allies. In order to prove to the world that our reconversion program can be handled just as efficiently, and that our tremendous production machine can be operated for peace as well as for war, we must all get in and push.

That doesn't require anything in the world but plain understanding among ourselves. That requires the cooperation of management and labor and the farmers, and every storekeeper, and every man who has an interest in the Government of the United States. And by showing that we ourselves know where we are going and why, we can show the rest of the world the road to liberty and to peace. We are not anywhere near stalled on that road. We are only beginning to travel it.

We are going to have difficulties. You can't do anything worthwhile without difficulties. No man who ever accomplishes anything can expect to do it without making mistakes. The man who never does anything never makes any mistakes. We may make mistakes. We may have difficulties, but I am asking you to exercise that admonition which you will find in the Gospels, and which Christ told us was the way to get along in the world: Do by your neighbor as you would be done by.

And that applies to you, and you, just as it applies to Great Britain and France and China and Russia and Czechoslovakia, and Poland and Brazil. When the nations decide that the welfare of the world is much more important than any individual gain which they themselves can make at the expense of another nation, then we can take this discovery which we have made and make this world the greatest place the sun has ever shone upon.

Now, in 1938, I stood on this platform right here and explained to you that our then isolationism would eventually lead to war. I made that speech after President Roosevelt made his speech at Chicago in 1937, in which he warned the world that we were approaching another world war.

We can't stand another global war. We can't ever have another war, unless it is total war, and that means the end of our civilization as we know it. We are not going to do that. We are going to accept that Golden Rule, and we are going forward to meet our destiny which I think Almighty God intended us to have.

And we are going to be the leaders.

Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 4:30 p.m. at the Fair grounds. His opening words "Jim Ahern" referred to James T. Ahern, president of the American Legion Fair Association.

Harry S Truman, Remarks at the Pemiscot County Fair, Caruthersville, Missouri. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/230787

Filed Under




Simple Search of Our Archives