Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

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Harry S. Truman
1945-1953


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Provided courtesy of The American Presidency Project.  John Woolley and Gerhard Peters. University of California, Santa Barbara.
  256. Address in the Chicago Stadium  
October 25, 1948

THANK YOU, thank you very much. I can't tell you how very much I appreciate this most cordial Chicago welcome that no city in the world can equalize. It's a real pleasure to be here this evening in Illinois. One of the reasons for my special fondness for this great city, is the memory of a man who was the last great Governor, a distinguished Democrat and my friend. I refer, of course, to that great Governor, Henry Horner. I hope that the people of Illinois will do all they can to bring back the same high ideals of government that he so much represented, in electing as your Governor, my good friend, Adlai Stevenson. And, if Illinois is to be properly represented in Washington, you'll want to elect to the Senate that able and outstanding liberal, Paul Douglas. While you're doing that, you might just as well elect the whole Democratic ticket here in Illinois. I know you're going to pay tribute to Governor Horner's memory at the unveiling of a monument in Grant Park. I have always had the utmost admiration for Governor Horner, who was truly a great humanitarian. Racial and religious prejudice were unknown to him. He truly believed in the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. I sincerely regret that my schedule does not permit me to be here longer in person. You can be sure, however, that I will be here in spirit.

It is certainly inspiring to recall that in this hall, 16 years ago, the Democratic Party gave the Nation our great leader, Franklin D. Roosevelt. And, when I think of Chicago, I can never forget that 4 years ago the Democratic Party honored me with the nomination for Vice President of the United States, right here in this hall. There were 30 policemen getting me from the back of the hall to the platform. Tonight it took about 330.

We have passed through many stormy and exciting days since the election of 1944. We were fighting a terrible war then. We won that war for freedom, and we are now engaged in an even greater struggle--the struggle to preserve freedom and peace all over the world.

Now, the principal objective of my administration as President has been to create worldwide conditions of a just and lasting peace. I have never turned from that objective.

And, my friends, I would much rather have peace in this world--a 'permanent peace in this world--than to be President of the United States, or to hold any other office in the world. I have never turned from that objective. I never will stop working for peace.

I have worked hard for peace, because I know that peace is no idle dream. It is a real and living possibility.

In our generation, mankind has taken some long steps toward this goal.

Thirty years ago, a great Democratic President gave voice to the conscience of the world when he proposed the League of Nations. The President--that great President-was Woodrow Wilson. Vicious partisan attacks kept the United States from joining the League, but Woodrow Wilson opened up a great vision for all those who have come after him.

Because we did not live up to our Godgiven opportunity, after World War I, the League of Nations failed to 'prevent the most tragic war in history--World War II.

I sincerely hope that we have learned that lesson. Now we have another chance. We have a chance, this time, to build an enduring peace. We have that chance because of the vision of another great Democratic President.

Franklin Roosevelt's wisdom and foresight inspired the nations of the world to forge a new and stronger instrument to keep the peace--the Charter of the United Nations. Today, any nation that dares to contemplate aggressive war knows that it must face the collective judgment of the United Nations and the combined forces of many countries.

We all know that we have a long way to go before the threat of war is finally lifted. The United Nations still lacks much of the power which it must have to do its work successfully. But we are working to get that power for the United Nations, and eventually we will get it. We are on our way, and, please God, with courageous and sustained effort on the part of the free nations of the world, we can do more than merely avert war.

We can preserve for our children and our grandchildren the liberty and freedom which we enjoy today. We must do more than just avert war. We must also preserve here in the United States the kind of life we believe in and want to keep. That's why I am going to talk tonight about the attacks on our American democracy which are going on right now inside this country.

The American way of life which most of us have been taking for granted is threatened today by powerful forces of which most people are not even aware.

Everybody knows about the contemptible Communist minority. We all detest that Communist minority. Everybody knows, too, about the crackpot forces of the extreme right wing. We have a vociferous representative of that force here in Chicago. We are on our guard against them, however.

The real danger to our democracy does not come only from these extremes. It comes mainly from the powerful reactionary forces which are silently undermining our democratic institutions.

I am going to tell you just what these forces are.

We must not imagine, just because we love freedom, that freedom is safe--that our freedom is safe. Eternal vigilance is still the price of liberty.

Other people have also loved freedom, but have lost their liberty with tragic suddenness.

It happened in Italy 25 years ago. It happened in Germany 15 years ago. It happened in Czechoslovakia just a few months ago. And it could happen here.

I know that it is hard for Americans to admit this danger. American democracy has very deep roots. But, if the antidemocratic forces in this country continue to work unchecked, this Nation could awaken a few years from now to find that the Bill of Rights had become a scrap of paper.

My friends, that must never happen! Look back over history, and you will find that wherever ruthless men have destroyed liberty and human rights, certain economic and social forces had paved the way for them.

What are these forces that threaten our way of life? Who are the men behind them? They are the men who want to see inflation continue unchecked. They are the men who are striving to concentrate great economic power in their own hands. They are the men who are setting up and stirring up racial and religious prejudice against some of our fellow Americans.

I propose to state in simple, unmistakable language, just exactly how each of these three groups of men--working through the Republican Party, if you please--is a serious threat to the future welfare of this great Nation.

Let's take that first group--the men who want to see inflation continue unchecked. Believe it or not, there are such men. They know that inflation--since price controls were killed just over 2 years ago--has sent corporation profits soaring to the fantastic level of nearly $20 billion a year.

They are so blinded by the glitter of gold that they forget that inflation--if it is not stopped--will bring on another terrible. crash like the one of 1929.

We were fortunate to be led from that depression to new prosperity by a great and true lover of democracy--Franklin Roosevelt. But we cannot always count on being. led--in time of economic trouble--by a man, with genuine faith in the people. When people are hungry--and homeless--and frightened--they are easy victims for clever demagogues. In our own time, we have seen the tragedy of the Italian and German peoples, who lost their freedom to men who made promises of unity and efficiency and security.

I have had all this in mind in the long, hard fight I have been making on inflation. When I asked the Republican Both Congress to pass laws to check inflation, I was thinking not only of high prices, not only of our housewives and the daily budget.

I was thinking also of the urgent need to prevent another boom and bust cycle that would surely endanger our democracy.

When those Republican leaders of the 80th Congress failed to act against inflation, they proved themselves blind to the lessons of history.

The American people cannot afford to entrust their future to men of such little vision. The Bible warns us that where there is no vision, the people perish. That is why I urge the election, on November the 2d, of a Democratic Congress and a Democratic President.

We must never again entrust our political destinies to men who lack the will to safeguard our future and our freedoms.

I say to you, if you want to protect American democracy, you must elect a Congress and an administration that will meet the peril of inflation squarely, and conquer it.

Now, the record conclusively proves that you cannot rely on the Republican Party to do that. The Democratic Party, and the Democratic Party alone, has led the fight on inflation.

Now, let's look at that group of men who are jeopardizing the future of democracy in the United States through their concentrated economic power. This is just as dangerous as inflation. Again and again in history, economic power concentrated in the hands of a few men has led to the loss of freedom.

When a few men get control of the economy of a nation, they find a "front man" to run the country for them. Before Hitler came to power, control over the German economy had passed into the hands of a small group of rich manufacturers, bankers, and landowners. These men decided that Germany had to have a tough, ruthless dictator who would play their game and crush the strong German labor unions. So they put money and influence behind Adolf Hitler. We know the rest of the story.

We also know that in Italy, in the 1920's, powerful Italian businessmen backed Mussolini, and that in the 1930's, Japanese financiers helped Tojo's military clique take over Japan.

Today, in the United States, there is a growing--and dangerous--concentration of immense economic power in the hands of just a few men. That's a dangerous situation. The Democratic Party has been fighting that ever since the Democratic Party has been in existence. This 80th Congress I talk so much about was the tool of that sort of a situation in this country. They contributed towards the concentration of wealth.

Great corporations have been expanding their power steadily. They have been squeezing small business further and further out of the picture. The lobbies which work for big business found that they could get what their bosses wanted from the Republican leaders of the 80th Congress.

That 80th Congress was beset by more lobbyists and more powerful lobbyists than any Congress in the history of these United States.

Now, my friends, the record of that 80th Congress is a sad tale of the sellout of the people's interest to put more and more power into the hands of fewer and fewer men. The Republican Congress, acting for big business, has already begun its attack to break the strength of labor unions by voting the vicious Taft-Hartley law. I vetoed that bill and fought to prevent its passage with all the strength I had as President of the United States. That Taft-Hartley law is the opening gun in the Republican onslaught against the rights of the workingmen in this country.

The Republican 80th Congress repeatedly flouted the will of the people. And yet the Republican candidate has the gall to say, and I quote him verbatim: "The 80th Congress delivered as no other Congress ever did for the future of this country."

Well, I'll say it delivered.

It delivered for the private power lobby. It delivered for the big oil company lobby. It delivered for the railroad lobby. It delivered for the real estate lobby.

That's what the Republican candidate calls delivering for the future. Is that the kind of future you want? Well, I'm sure you don't, so be sure you elect a Democratic President and a Democratic Congress on November 2d.

In the last 2 years, I have had to use my veto power time and again on major pieces of legislation to prevent the Republican Congress from turning the country upside down and shaking out its pockets.

The actions of the Congress lead to one inescapable conclusion--Republican leaders stand ready to deliver to big business more and more control over the resources of this Nation and the rights of the American people.

In 1933, the Democratic Party drove the moneychangers out of the temple and brought new life to our democracy. Now, this Republican Party is making soap bubble promises to behave better in the future. Those bubbles are pretty, those promises are fine, but they will vanish at the first touch of reality. You cannot expect the Republican Party suddenly to turn and bite the hand that has been feeding it--the hand of the special interests, and the hand of big business.

To preserve freedom and democracy in this country, we must put control of the Congress back in the hands of the American people. This means we must have a Democratic Congress and a Democratic President.

Now, I must speak of the third evil force which works secretly to destroy freedom, racial and religious prejudice.

The tragic story of what happened in Germany is all too fresh. We know how Hitler used anti-Semitic propaganda as a way of stupefying the German people with false ideas while he reached out for power.

This was not the first time such a thing has happened. The persecution of minorities goes hand in hand with the destruction of liberty.

This country has been mercifully spared extreme racial and religious strife. But in recent years there has been a new outcropping of demagogues among us. Dangerous men, who are trying to win followers for their war on democracy, are attacking Catholics, and Jews, and Negroes, and other minority races and religions.

Some of these demagogues have even dared to raise their voice of religious prejudice in the 80th Congress. We need only remember the shocking displaced persons bill passed in the second session of the 80th Congress, which cruelly discriminated against Catholics and Jews.

We must do everything we can to protect our democratic principles against those who foment racial and religious prejudice.

This evil force must be defeated. I shall continue the fight. And I pledge to you that I shall never surrender.

Racial and religious oppression--big business domination--inflation--these forces must be stopped and driven back while there is yet time.

At any cost, we must prevent the threatened depression and the big business rule which would begin the destruction of our liberties.

We must continue the fight to assure full human rights to all our citizens.

Now, my friends, the Democratic Party is the only party which the people can rely on to serve these great ends.

Republican leaders, of course, give lip service to the principles of democracy. But the Republicans preach one thing and practice another. The actions of the Republican 80th Congress opened the gate to forces that would destroy our democracy.

The gate is open just a little bit, right now.

We need to slam that gate shut on November 2d with an overwhelming vote for the Democratic Party.

Now, you people here in Chicago have a clear-cut example of the difference between the Democratic and Republican concepts of government.

The whole country recognizes that the Democratic administration of Chicago is doing a grand job. It is providing first-rate local government. And the whole country knows, also, that the Republican administration of this State has been reactionary, feeble, and opposed to every forward piece of legislation.

Such is the spirit behind government by Republicans in this great State. In that spirit, democracy can be destroyed and tyranny born.

That is why I say to you that we are now engaged in one of the most important battles in our history. It is a crusade for the right, a crusade for the people against the special interests. I want you to join me in this crusade.

This is not just a battle between two parties. It is a fight for the very soul of the American Government.

The facts show the Republican Party is unwilling to check inflation and has sponsored repressive labor legislation. The facts show that the Republican Party is working today, as it worked throughout most of its history, to deliver this country into the hands of the special interests and big business.

In this battle, the independent voters of the United States will decide the issue. By throwing their weight to the Republicans or the Democrats, they will choose the forces which are to compose our Government.

Day by day, ever since this campaign began, more and more independent American voters have been lining up with the Democratic Party.

They have learned the facts, and the only way they could learn those facts was to learn them from the President of the United States; and I have talked to more than 6 million people in this United States, and they know the facts now. They are determined to sweep back the forces that threaten democracy in this country.

All over the Nation, I have seen unmistakable evidence that the American people are waking up to the tremendous issues which confront them in this election.

We are sweeping toward victory, my friends.

Everywhere I go, I hear news and see faces that make me know the tide is rolling for us.

In the next few days, it is going to roll even higher.

With your help, your unflagging courage--with your enthusiasm in a great cause, we are going to win this election on November the 2d.

NOTE: The President spoke at 9:04 p.m. at the Chicago Stadium. During his address he referred to former Governor Henry Hornet, Democratic candidate for Governor Adlai E. Stevenson, and Democratic candidate for Senator Paul H. Douglas, all of Illinois. The address was carried on a nationwide radio broadcast.
 
Provided courtesy of The American Presidency Project.  John Woolley and Gerhard Peters. University of California, Santa Barbara.