Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

Contact: Holly Milledge, 816-268-8245 . Public Relations/Marketing, or
Ray Geselbracht, 816-268-8212 . Education and Outreach Coordinator

Truman Scholar Richard Kirkendall presents
“Harry’s Farewell,”
President Truman’s self assessment of his Administration
Thursday, January 16, 7:00 PM

On Thursday, January 16 at 7 PM, the Truman Presidential Museum & Library kicks off a year of programming marking the 50th anniversary of President Truman’s departure from office. The initial program, “Harry’s Farewell; An Address on the Historical Significance of the Truman Presidency,” will be presented by Dr. Richard S. Kirkendall in a public lecture commemorating the anniversary of President Truman’s 1953 farewell speech. The presentation will be held in the Truman Presidential Museum & Library auditorium. The program is free with the price of museum admission. Reservations are necessary and can be made by calling Central Ticket Office at (816) 235-6222.

The lecture will focus on Truman's address itself--why and how it was written, what it said, how it was received at the time, and how it looks from a current perspective. Dr. Kirkendall has been writing and teaching about the life of Harry S. Truman for 40 years. He is the retired Bullitt Professor of American History at the University of Washington and a member of the board of directors of the Harry S. Truman Library Institute.

When President Truman spoke on January 15, 1953, he did more than say goodbye to the American people. He responded in his address to charges-heard from many quarters and reflected in public opinion polls-that he had failed as President. His approval rating, as he well understood, was very low. Only about 30% of the American people thought he was doing a good job. The Korean War was dragging on and on, China was communist, the Soviet Union had the atomic bomb, Senator McCarthy and others were claiming that Soviet espionage had penetrated the American government, and the American people were afraid. But, despite all this, President Truman felt that he had not failed, that his presidency had put in place a structure of peace and prosperity that would continue to serve the American people for many years to come, and that his policies had in fact educated, strengthened, and in some ways changed the American people, which had become and would remain the foundation for freedom in the world.

Truman’s last opportunity to make this argument to the American people was in his farewell address, which he delivered from the Oval Office by radio and television on January 15, 1953. “In speaking to you tonight,” he said, “I have no new revelations to make-no political statements- no policy announcements. There are simply a few things in my heart that I want to say to you.”

The President outlined seven major themes, several of which were quite prescient:

1) A President’s strength in all he does is necessarily based on the support of a freedom-loving citizenry who will do what is necessary to maintain freedom in the world
2) The United States has learned how to attain real and lasting prosperity
3) The American conscience has awakened to the great issues of civil rights
4) Americans have come to understand, early in the atomic age, that atomic war is unthinkable, and that peace must be the ultimate goal of the United States
5) Americans have come to understand that the United States must be actively involved with other freedom-loving peoples in the world if a lasting peace is to be attained
6) Aggression must be repelled, as it was in Korea, wherever it appears in order to maintain the structure of peace in the world
7) Communism and other tyrannies which respect neither God nor man will never be able to survive for long provided that free peoples remain strong, and that the creativity, enterprise, and determination of free peoples have the potential to create a golden age of peace and prosperity for the whole world.

Harry's Farewell," besides being an address open to the public, is the first component of a projected three-year training program for teachers intended to bring a new excitement to history education in the Kansas City area. This program is being underwritten by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and the Harry S. Truman Library Institute. Representatives of the Foundation and the Institute will be present at "Harry's Farewell," as will teachers from the central city school districts that are participating in the training program. Other invited guests will include scholars and public history professionals from the Kansas City area that will comprise the community of educators that the program intends to create.

In addition to the conference, a number of public programs throughout 2003 will be held to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Truman’s departure from office including a session the evening of July 17, 2003 featuring Truman biographers Robert Ferrell and Alonzo Hamby. Access President Truman’s Farewell address here. For information on the educational conference being planned for this summer, contact Dr. Ray Geselbracht at 816-268-8212 .

The Truman Presidential Museum & Library is one of ten Presidential Libraries administered by the National Archives and Records Administration. It is located at U.S. Highway 24 and Delaware in Independence, Missouri. For more information on the Museum and programs, call 1-800-833-1225 or visit www.trumanlibrary.org.

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