Harry S. Truman photo

The President's News Conference With the Keen Teen Club of Chicago

April 06, 1946

[The Official Reporter's notes state that the conference was in progress when he arrived.]

THE PRESIDENT .... I shall go into that in some detail, if you will.

[1.] Q. Mr. President, do you think, if Britain passes this law before the House of Lords now, that Britons will be required to surrender some of their sovereignty to U.N.O., and that that will set the pace for the world?

THE PRESIDENT. I haven't given it any study. I can't answer your question. I'm sorry.

[2.] Q. Mr. President, what part has religion played in your advancement from a local official to the highest office in our land?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, a system of morals is necessary for the welfare of any individual or any nation. The greatest system of morals in the history of the world is that set out in the Sermon on the Mount, which I would advise each one of you to study with everything you have.

[3.] Q. Mr. President, if universal conscription should go into effect, would provision be made for fellows who wanted to continue their education further?

THE PRESIDENT. I think you have a wrong impression of a universal training program. It is not universal conscription. You don't serve in any military organization. You are merely trained so that you may be able to do it if the emergency ever comes. They are two entirely different things. Universal training will not interfere with education in any way whatever. In fact, it will help in education. It is something you all ought to have in your education.

[4.] Q. Mr. President, since we the young people of the United States are someday going to be our country's representatives to the U.N.O., how do you think we could best prepare ourselves for this work?

THE PRESIDENT. The best way to prepare yourself is to find out all about your local government, your State Government, your National Government, and then study international affairs. You ought to know more about your own country than anybody else does, before you start talking about the other fellow's country.

[5.] Q. You have shown a great deal of loyalty to your friends on various occasions. Have you anything to say about loyalty to our schools and to our friends?

THE PRESIDENT. That is one of the fundamentals of the right kind of a life, loyalty to your friends. In my opinion, of course. I am only expressing my opinion as an individual.

[6.] Q. Mr. President, what are your views on continuation of the draft?

THE PRESIDENT. It will have to be continued for 1 year, or else do an injustice to those men who are now overseas. They have a perfect right to have the same privileges that the rest of the military organization has. It is not fair to keep those men on the job, when they are entitled to come home and be discharged. And the only way to keep it up on a fair basis is to extend the draft.

[7.] Q. Mr. President, would you say that we, the American youth of World War II--would you say that we, the American youth, played an important part in winning World War II?

THE PRESIDENT. Certainly. You made the greatest contribution that is possible. You served and fought in it.

[8.] Q. Mr. President, do you think that a considerable proportion of the indifference of the American people to government, its institutions, duties and functions, could be largely eliminated by more attention to their own local civic affairs?

THE PRESIDENT. Certainly--certainly. [Laughter] That's all right. Now that was a good question.

[9.] Q. Do you think having one universal language would be practical?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't know whether it would be practical or not, but it certainly would be a great thing for world peace if we had it.

[10.] Q. Mr. President, you are one of the men of the what might be termed lost generation of the last war. What do you think about this generation in terms of that ?

THE PRESIDENT. I didn't understand the question. Will you please repeat it?

Q. On the basis of the youth of the last war, what happened in World War I, what do you think is going to--what is our destiny--to the youths of World War II?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think the welfare of the country, of course, is in the coming generation, and I am not at all averse to putting the welfare of this country into the hands of the coming generation. They are all right. There is nothing wrong with them at all. I know, because I have had a lot of contact with them.

[11.] Q. Mr. President, would you be in favor of a national youth organization, with conventions, to discuss current problems, and be acknowledged by Congress as a recognized group in their opinions?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't think that is necessary. I think the youth will come forward anyway, without any recognition by law. They have a great organization now which works for the welfare of the country, I think.

Q. Mr. President, do you think that teenagers should be allowed to have a voice in making decisions in all--all high school governments-have a voice

THE PRESIDENT. I think they should probably be listened to. I haven't had experience in running a school to give you an intelligent answer on it. Only, when I was in high school, I had to obey the orders of the teacher, and I think maybe that was a pretty good thing. [Laughter]

[12.] Q. Mr. President, Chicago has a fund for taking over the servicemen's Service Center as a youth canteen. What do you think of it?

THE PRESIDENT. I think it's a good idea.

Q. Mr. President, do you think the American youth--I mean, we haven't suffered the pangs of war--do you think we are serious minded enough to be able to meet our country's problems when we meet the other countries future--in the future, I mean?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, we have all gone through the same stage that you are going through.

Q. We haven't suffered the destruction of our homes.

THE PRESIDENT. No, that is true; but then, I am perfectly willing to agree that the coming generation will take care of the situation in this great Republic, just as the past generations have. I have perfect faith in them.

[13.] Q. Mr. President, in the minds of the men who have been enrolled in ROTC, and military schools throughout the country, there is quite a question of what part their past training will play when universal training comes into effect?

THE PRESIDENT. I think they will get credit for it. They should.

Q. I think that all--all the men that I know in my school are very much in favor of the training, but are worried about how much time will be duplicated?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, it won't be duplicated at all. I think they will get credit for all the training they have had. For those who have had the training, there will be no necessity for it to be given them in duplicate.

[14.] Q. Mr. President, what advice would you give to anyone of our age that is interested in going into politics?

THE PRESIDENT. Well--[laughter]--politics is government. Politics is government. And everybody in the Republic ought to be interested in the welfare of his government. Therefore, everybody ought to know something, and take--something about and take an interest in politics. A man who wants to go into it professionally, he has to start at the bottom and work up. At least, that is my experience.

[15.] Q. Mr. President, all of us here are interested in newspaper and presswork. How much importance would you assign to the press in the working of real democracy and good government?

THE PRESIDENT. Freedom of the press is absolutely essential to a Republic and to good government.

[16.] Q. Mr. President, what do you think of having representatives in Congress for youth to write to, so they can be recognized, to prevent these strikes going on in Gary, and some schools?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, everyone has access to his Congressman. That is what our Government is rounded upon. You have a perfect right to write to your Congressman at any time you want to. When I was in the Senate, I used to receive thousands of letters from everybody in my State. I always answered them. I got a lot of good out of it.

[17.] Q. Mr. President, do you think the question before the House now, about suspending the draft for 9 months, will go through?

THE PRESIDENT, I hope not.

[18.] Q. Mr. President, you have had the opportunity to meet people of the various countries. What would you say their general opinion was of the American youth?

THE PRESIDENT. The American soldier abroad has made a very fine impression. I am going to speak about that today out at Soldiers' Field.

[19.] Q. Mr. President, do you believe that the youth of today will be capable of upholding the government of tomorrow?

THE PRESIDENT. I certainly do.

Q. Could you indicate any special advice on it? I realize this is a youth gathering--

THE PRESIDENT. Just follow the generations of our government right straight down, and if you find that--when a man reaches 62--[laughter]--usually he begins to worry about the coming generation, that is a sure sign that he is getting to be an old man. [More laughter] The next generation sometimes doesn't profit by the experience of the previous generation--if you take World War I and World War II. I am hoping that the coming generation will profit by the experience of the past generation, and will make the country that much better to live in. The country is always on the improvement. I think it's improving in every generation, and I think you are going to improve it over the generation to which I belong.

[20.] Q. Mr. President, do you favor a policy of exchanging more students of other countries, particularly Russia?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, not particularly Russia, but every country--Russia included.

[21.] Q. Mr. President, would you advise teenage girls to enter politics, or plan to enter politics?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, that is something for her to decide for herself. She should take an interest, as I said a while ago, in the government of her community, and of her county, and of her State. To go into politics professionally, that is another matter. She should decide that for herself.

Q. Mr. President, what do you think about the women that are in Congress now? [Laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. Young man, what would you expect me to say? [More laughter] I think they are a very fine bunch of women. They represent their districts capably and well.

[22.] Q. What would you say is the reason for all the race discrimination--discrimination between Jews and gentiles? How could you overcome that?

THE PRESIDENT. It's lack of education and association.

[23.] Q. Mr. President, is it true that you get a great deal of relaxation from music?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, indeed. Anybody can relax to music.

[24.] Q. What would be your advice to a high school graduate? Do you think he should risk going to work, or go on to college?

THE PRESIDENT. By all means. You can't get too much education. What you get into your head, you can't take away.

[25.] Q. What kind of music do you like best?

THE PRESIDENT. I am very fond of piano music, particularly. [Laughter] I like Chopin, and Mozart, and Beethoven. I am very fond of Gilbert and Sullivan operas, and Verdi operas. Most any kind of music I like, except noise. [Laughter] I don't like noise.

[26.] Q. Mr. President, do you think that any student that is not inclined toward higher education should struggle through college, or do you think they should get some vocational training to take a job?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think that is a matter that has to be worked out by the student himself. Of course, if he can do better in vocational education, that is what he should take. Most everybody eventually reaches the level at which he thinks he can do best, and that is what he ought to do, but I am still in favor of as much education as you can possibly get. The more and better education, the better educated you are, the easier it is for you to get along in the world, and the more tolerant you are. That is what it takes to get along in this world.

Q. Mr. President, I would like to know if you think a new course should be instituted in the high school curriculum to prepare youth for world citizenship?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, I do. That would be a good thing. That is a matter of education, too.

Q. Do you think that there should be more free colleges, so that all who want a college education can have it, without regard to race or creed, or financial status?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes. I think that is good thing. That's the reason for the State universities.

[27.] Q. Mr. President, are you in favor of Mr. Wyatt's housing program?

THE PRESIDENT. Certainly. [Laughter] Mr. Wyatt wouldn't be putting on the housing program if I wasn't in favor of it. [More laughter[

Q. Mr. President, the Housing Expediter recently has ordered a suspension of all land, generally speaking, of nonveterans housing. How will that affect the school program?

THE PRESIDENT. It doesn't affect the school program. If you will read the order very carefully, schools are exempted--and hospitals; and a number of other things are necessary.

[28.] Q. Mr. President, what one thing can the boys and girls in the United States do at this time to help relieve the suffering and hunger in other countries?

THE PRESIDENT. Don't eat so much! [Laughter] Try and get everybody to contribute as much as they can to the welfare and benefit of the people who are starving. That is the most terrible thing that the world is faced with now. We ourselves, at every meal, waste more than will feed a whole family for a day in these countries that are starving. Just bear that in mind. I can't make that too strong. That is an appeal.

[29.] Q. Do you see any immediate solution to the poll tax in the South?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I do not. That is a matter that they will have to work out for themselves, and they are gradually working it out. There are a number of Southern States that repealed it, and I hope they all will, eventually. That is a matter for them to work out themselves. I don't think anybody can work it out for them. It's a matter of education, too.

[30.] Q. Mr. President, why are some of our parents who fought in World War I, and are in the building business, restricted from buying material in order to build, while the veterans of World War II have priority over all building material if they want to build their own homes, or they want to get into business for themselves?

THE PRESIDENT. I didn't know that was the case. I will have to look into that. I think that the World War veterans of World War I had adequate--had plenty of opportunity to build a house while these other young men were at war; but I didn't know there was discrimination.

The Secretary of the Press says I have said enough, and I will have to go. I have had a very pleasant time. It has been--I have been most happy to he with you. I think you have asked some very intelligent questions, and I hope I have given you intelligent answers.

Voices: Thank you, Mr. President.

Note: President Truman's fifty-eighth news conference was held in the Blackstone Hotel in Chicago at 10:15 a.m. on Saturday, April 6, 1946. The White House Official Reporter noted that the conference with the Keen Teen Club--a youth organization sponsored by the Chicago Daily News--was attended by newsmen as observers.

Harry S Truman, The President's News Conference With the Keen Teen Club of Chicago Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/232749

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