Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum


President Truman's Farewell Address to the American People
January 15, 1953

Listen to the broadcast: Audio of broadcast | Read transcript

1. President Truman stated that Inauguration Day would be a "good object lesson in democracy."
Specifically, what civics lesson was he referring to?

2. What was the purpose of his last Presidential speech?

3. Truman mentioned places he had visited as President, the transportation modes he had used,
and the number of miles he had traveled. How would his mileage and transportation methods
compare with those of the current president?

4. According to Truman, what occupies most of a president's time? Do you think this is still true
today?

5. Identify the slogan associated with Harry Truman, a portion of which, was mentioned in the
Address.

6. As you listen to, or read the Farewell Address, list as many significant decisions, or issues that
Truman had to deal with as President as you can.

7. What did Truman ask the American people, regardless of their political party, to do?

8. President Truman stated that history would remember his administration for the beginning of
the "cold war." What did he mean by "cold war"?

9.What was different, according to Truman, between the actions of the United States at the end
WWI and those at the end of WWII?

10.In the aftermath of World War II, the United States was faced with crisis situations in several
regions. What were they? What solutions were used to deal with the Soviets?

11. Harry Truman was, and had always been, a serious student of history. How did he use the
lessons of history to reach a decision on the situation in Korea?

12. Truman noted in his Farewell Address that a president does not act alone; he has others he
can rely on to help him make decisions. Who did Truman consult about the Korean crisis?

13. The President mentioned how difficult it was for him to send Americans to fight in Korea.
Why, from his personal point of view, was this such a tough decision to make?

14. What was, for Truman, the real "issue" of Korea?

15. What reasons did Truman to support his conviction that the United States would prevail over
the communist threat?

16. How did Truman say he responded when someone asked why we didn't use the atomic bomb
to end the Soviet threat to other countries and to ourselves?

17. The President made some predictions that seemed to be impossible to achieve at the time he
made them. What did he say would happen and has happened?

18. List some of the things Truman would "dream" of happening in the future.

19. Describe the mood or tone of the Farewell Address.

20. Why was this an important speech for President Truman to make?

21. What can you learn about the character of Truman from his Farewell Address?

Further research:
1. Truman mentioned the meeting in Potsdam, Germany with Churchill and Stalin. What was the
purpose of this historic conference? What was Truman's "ace in the hole"? What was the
Potsdam Declaration? What was the response of the Japanese government? Visit this section of our site for more information.

2. The President described the inconvenience of living at Blair House during the renovation of
White House, and the protectiveness of the Secret Service as he went between the two sites.
What had occurred that caused the Secret Service to take extraordinary measures (for the time)
to protect President Truman? See this section of our web site for help.

3. Truman stated that history would probably remember his White House years for the Cold War
and the bomb. How would you rate Truman as a President? Great? Near Great? Average?
State your reasons with specific examples.
How does history view the Truman Presidency? By what standards do historians judge a
president? See www.americanpresidents.org/survey/historians/overall.asp

4. The President devoted considerable time to the cold war which he predicted in 1953 the
United States would win. Have we won as Truman predicted and, if so, what are the
indicators that we no longer live in the shadow of the cold war?

5. He spoke of his decision to send troops to Korea as his most difficult and made bearable
because he had the support of the American people. Site an example(s) of a time when other
presidents have sent troops into combat without the backing of their constituents.

6. "Starting a war is no way to make peace", according to Truman. Do you agree or disagree?
Can you site an instance(s) where the U.S. has been the aggressor? How important is it to
you that a Chief Executive seek Congressional and/or public approval for a military action?