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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.
  127. Rear Platform Remarks in Montana  
May 12, 1950

[1.] MISSOULA, MONTANA (7:22 a.m.)
After that introduction, I will have to deliver the goods, won't I?

This is a grand reception, and I appreciate your willingness to come out at this hour of the day--of course, we farmers think this is pretty late in the day--but I do appreciate the fact that you were willing to come out at this hour of the day to listen to what I have to say.

I was glad to meet your Governor yesterday at Grand Coulee. It has been a pleasure to see Mike this morning, and I am extremely sorry that Senator Murray's wife is sick so he can't be here.

I am told that this is one of the wonder cities of the great State of Montana, and looking at this crowd, I am inclined to believe it. One reason I like this city is because it has given me one of the finest men I know in public service, and that is my good friend Mike Mansfield. Mike works not only in the interests of his district in Montana, but Mike has a national outlook that is for the welfare of the country as a whole. He is not sectional. There are few men in this country, in the Congress or out, who can equal him in the farseeing grasp he has of the country's international and domestic problems.

You know, some people will take a look at an acorn and all they can see is just an acorn. But people of Mike Mansfield's type are something different. They can see into the future. They can see a giant oak tree, with its great limbs spreading upward and outward coming from that acorn.

In Washington there are some men, no matter how hard they try, who can only see little acorns. I don't have to call any names, you know who they are. Even give them a magnifying glass, or even a pair of spyglasses, or even a telescope, they just shake their heads and all they can say is, "I'm sorry, I can't see anything but an acorn there."

Let me give you an example of how this little mind works. Down on the Colorado River, there is a structure of which you are all proud--Hoover Dam. Here is an interesting thing. When that dam was being planned back in 1928, it was violently fought by special interests. One Congressman from the same political party as the gentleman after whom the dam is named, had this to say about it in Congress: he said it would damage industry, it would waste the taxpayer's money, and it would lead us into communism. That's real acorn thinking, I think.

Hoover Dam was built. I don't need to tell you that this democracy of ours is the world's greatest bulwark against communism, and it is stronger because of the great reclamation, irrigation, and power and flood control projects like that dam, and like the one I dedicated yesterday.

Not so far north of Missoula, up near Glacier National Park, we are building another great dam--Hungry Horse. It will be one of the largest concrete structures in the world. They told me yesterday that Coulee was the largest in the world, so you have got to make a pretty big one to make it larger than Coulee. And it will provide vast new benefits to this entire region.

Hungry Horse Dam will produce 285,000 kilowatts of power itself, and we will begin getting that power just 2 years from now. This is a key project in the long-range program for harnessing the great water power of the Columbia River basin. It is a major step toward the full development of Montana's water resources, much of which now lie idle and unused.

Hungry Horse Dam will be valuable not only in bringing cheap power to this area, but it will aid in the production of additional cheap power at some of the present and proposed dams farther downstream. It will be helpful in cooperating with them in giving cheap power all over this whole district. Its beneficial effects will snowball all the way along.

I am interested in seeing some of this power used to develop the important phosphate industry, that will bring new jobs to this State of Montana, and it will be a great boon to farmers all over the Western States. Hungry Horse will also be valuable for flood control.

When I was out here in 1948, I could see that the big floods on the lower Columbia River were really started by the upstream tributaries. We shall be able to control some of these streams by dams like this at Hungry Horse.

Like Hungry Horse, these dams have many values. And they are paying propositions for the taxpayer. The investment in power and irrigation are repaid direct, and the entire investment is repaid over many, many increases in the national wealth.

People don't take into consideration that the construction of public works such as Hungry Horse and Grand Coulee and Hoover Dams create industries, which create new jobs, which create prosperity for immense numbers of people.

Many people who talk loosely about the size of our national budget forget that many of our expenditures are investments which will make a stronger and a better country.

I often think that projects like this must make the Communists wonder. They must wonder how it is possible for free men, in a democracy, to plan and develop a vast country, and do it in ways which increase the liberty and the welfare of all the people. The Communists think the only way to run things is from the top down. Our system proves that it is much more effective to run it from the bottom up.

We will never be in danger from communism in this country as long as we keep looking forward and doing things to increase the welfare and freedom of our people.

I hope the country never gets into the hands of little men with acorn minds. Let us keep it in the hands of men who can see the trees, and who will work for a nation, and a world, at peace.

You people have been grand to me here in Montana, and I appreciate it, and I hope that on this trip I can persuade the people of the Nation that it is their welfare we are working for.

I am out here to make a report to you, just as I would make a report to Congress, and I think you have a perfect right to that report. And I know you are interested in it, or you wouldn't get up this early in the morning to hear what I have got to say about it. And I thank you very much.

[2.] GARRISON, MONTANA (9:15 a.m.)

I am so happy to see all you schoolchildren out here this morning. I imagine you must have had a holiday today, didn't you ? We have been traveling around over the country meeting people and explaining to them various aspects of the Government, because we believe that people are really interested in the Government.

I am more than happy this morning to have the Governor of the great State of Montana and Mike Mansfield, the Congressman from the First Montana District, here with me.

We have some tremendous problems facing us in the operation of the Government of the United States. The Government, as you know, is your Government. The President is your President. He is the only national official besides the Vice President who is elected at large by the whole country.

I deem it my duty, and it is a constitutional necessity for me to make reports to the Congress once a year on the state of the Union. This time I am going around over the country trying to make a report on the state of the Union to the people themselves.

I am glad to see you all this morning. I have been discussing the farm problems, reclamation, the national resources of the country; and yesterday, I dedicated Grand Coulee Dam to the uses of the people. That is one of the greatest projects in the history of the world. When it is finally finished, it will create more than 2 million kilowatts of electricity. That is a wonderful thing. It was running yesterday at the rate of 1,580,000 kilowatts, and there were all sorts of gadgets for us to look at.

Not only does that dam create power for use in that section of the country, but it will also eventually lift water into the desert and put a million acres into cultivation. Sometime beginning in 1952, I think, the first irrigated farm will be opened up.

Now you have projects like that in Montana. Hungry Horse is one of them. That great dam will create 2,285,000 kilowatts when it is finished. It will create jobs. It will create cheap power. It will help this part of the world go into industry, and you can't lose anything by it, and neither can any of the rest of the country.

I explained yesterday that we have a Northwest power district, and a Southwest power district, a Southeast power district, and we hope to have a Northeast power district, if we can ever get the St. Lawrence development as it should be.

Then we have the center of the country with the Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio River Valleys which can be developed in exactly the same way. All that will create wealth, create jobs, create industries; and it helps the country.

There are some people who think that these things ought not to be done, because they like to have things stay just as they are. I am not one of them. I believe in progress, and I am happy to say that your Congressman, Mike Mansfield, believes in progress, too. He is one of our ablest public officials in this country, and I depend on him a great deal, because I know he has good judgment, I know his heart is right, and I know he believes in doing things for the benefit of all the people.

It has been mighty nice of you to come out here this morning. I am more than happy to see all of you, and I am glad I got this 5-minute stop here, so that I could get a chance to say a few words to you.
Thank you very much.

[3.] BUTTE, MONTANA (Address, 10:55 a.m., see Item 128)

[4.] HELENA, MONTANA (2:17 p.m.)

Governor, Congressman Mansfield, and ladies and gentlemen:

I appreciate very much this fine reception which the people of Helena have given me today. I certainly am glad to be here on Vigilante Day. I wish I could have seen that parade. I was glad to get a chance to see those floats alongside the train on each side. I think my family has enjoyed them as much as anything they have seen on the trip.

I appreciate also the introduction from Governor Bonner. I think he has given me a little too much credit, but I appreciate it just the same.

The Governor was with me yesterday at Grand Coulee, when I had the privilege of dedicating Grand Coulee. Today that dam is just about the biggest manmade structure in the world, it is generating more power than any other power plant in existence, and in a few years it will be providing water for hundreds of thousands of acres.

Grand Coulee is a product of the vision and farsightedness of the people of the Northwest, people who can make bold plans for the future, and who not only can make the bold plans but who have the courage and the energy to carry them out.

I am glad that Canyon Ferry Dam is being built not far from here. While Canyon Ferry Dam is not as big as Grand Coulee, it will be of tremendous importance and benefit to all this area. It should provide water for nearly half a million acres, and the power from Canyon Ferry will mean lowcost electricity for farms, city homes, and new industries.

Projects like Canyon Ferry benefit everybody in the country. They are a real investment in the future of the Nation as a whole.

You only have to travel across the country, as I have been doing this week, to realize what a wonderful future is ahead of us. Everywhere I have been, I have seen encouraging evidence of expansion and growth, and preparation for future prosperity.

Of course, I have met a few skeptics who have been saying that the country is going to the dogs. They say that we are going bankrupt, or that we are headed straight for socialism. But the fact is, these calamity howlers have been saying the same thing for years. They have always been wrong in the past, and they are just as wrong now as they were in the past.

Let us take a look at some of the recent progress we have made--progress, by the way, that we have made in spite of those same skeptics. Twenty years ago, we were at the beginning of a terrible depression that lasted over 3 long years. Beginning in 1933 we began a vigorous reform. By 1939 we were producing more goods and services than we had in the last boom year before the depression. Since 1939 we have done even better. Since 1939 the annual per capita income of our citizens, after taxes, has increased by more than 40 percent.

The income of farmowners, although it has slipped some in the last year or so, is more than 50 percent higher than it was in 1939. And annual wages and salaries of employees have increased about 75 percent. And, despite terrible howlings from some quarters, the annual income of corporate businesses, after taxes, has increased 100 percent since 1939. Doesn't look very much to me like the country is going to the dogs.

I am convinced that we can do just as well in the future as we have done in the past. I am convinced that we can lift our annual output of goods and services to more than $350 billion by 1960. This will be a one-third increase, and that increase will be good for everybody. Farmers and workers and businessmen can and should all prosper together.

I am convinced that by 1960 the standard of living of every industrious family in the country will be far better than it is now. I wish I had time to give you some statistics that come to me each month. I know, if you had a chance to study them, you would be just as optimistic and enthusiastic about our future as I am. Every month, and then quarterly, I receive an economic report from the economic advisers to the President of the United States, and that report goes into great detail on the situation as it develops in the country each month.

The reason I am optimistic, this report shows that employment is on the rise, that income is on the rise, and that prices are holding steady. It shows that unemployment is far less than it was at the beginning of the year. It shows that the output of goods and services is far greater than it was at the beginning of the year.

This report is a combination of all the reports in the country, made up from reports by the Securities and Exchange Commission, reports of the Department of Labor, reports of the economic experts on the Board of Trade, on the New York Stock Exchange, reports by the Chicago Board of Trade, reports from all the departments of the Government--the Department of Commerce, the Treasury Department--the reason I was delayed a little bit, the Secretary of the Treasury had to call up and talk to me about some business that had to be transacted over the telephone; but the report gives the complete picture of the economic situation in the United States every 30 days.

And I know what I am talking about when I talk to you optimistically about what the future holds. And don't let anybody tell you anything different but that this Republic, the greatest in the history of the world, is on the road to becoming greater and greater. And when we do that, we will get peace in the world.

Of course, this won't all happen by just sitting down and waiting for it to happen. You have got to do something to make it happen. We must work toward the kind of farm program that will put farming on a permanently sound basis.

We need to expand and extend our social security laws; we need a housing program that will enable low and middle income families to own their own homes.

We must conserve and develop our national resources to better advantage, and that must be developed in the public interest and not for the "greed" boys.

We must see that our children get a good education.

If we have these measures, and others like them, then the United States will continue to grow and to prosper, and our Nation will continue to exert a strong force for peace in the world.

Since September 2, 1945, my whole time has been spent in an effort and an endeavor to get a lasting peace for the world. One of the first decisions I had to make when I was sworn in as President of the United States on April 12, 1945, after President Roosevelt had died, was the decision as to whether we should hold the San Francisco conference and form the United Nations. I said, "Yes, we will go forward with it," and we were successful in organizing the United Nations, and we are going to be successful in making it work for peace.

To do that, we must have the wholehearted support of the people of the United States for that purpose. That is the reason I am going around over the country reporting to you on just what conditions are, and what is necessary to obtain the world objective for which we work and pray.

I hope that you will inform yourselves completely on all the issues. I hope you will find out just exactly what is meant by the messages which I send to the Congress. I hope you will find out just exactly what the debates in the Congress mean. And I hope you will study very carefully those people who are trying to overturn our interest in the United Nations, and who are trying to put us back in the 1890's.

We are not going back--we are going forward, to 1960, and 1970, and 1980, and anon. We are going to be better after each decade than we were when we started on that decade.

We can do that, if you will wholeheartedly help to do it, and work to do it--and that is what I am asking you to do. And that is the reason I am out here.

[5.] GREAT FALLS, MONTANA (5:25 p.m.)

Thank you, Congressman Mansfield. It is a very great pleasure to have had the opportunity to ride across the great State of Montana with your Governor and with Congressman Mansfield. The Congressman is one who really knows what it's all about, and who works at it. I like him very much.

I appreciate this welcome very much in this largest city in Montana. It seems to me that this great city knows how to do things. I have had a most successful and satisfactory trip across the country during the past week, and now I am on my way back to Washington. On this trip I have been giving a firsthand report to the people of the great Northwest and the Middle West about the problems this country is now facing, and what we are doing about them, and what we need to do in the future.

Here in Great Fails you are fortunate in having a fine newspaper, the Great Falls Tribune. I wish there were more Great Falls Tribunes around the country so the people could get the truth.

In the past few days I have been describing the great work we have been doing in conservation, irrigation, reclamation, electric power, and flood control. We have been building some magnificent structures like the Grand Coulee Dam, the Hungry Horse Dam, and Canyon Ferry Dam here in Montana. But these are only the beginning of the coordinated development of all of our natural resources. We need to speed up the development of our resources, if we are to keep our economy prosperous and expanding.

Down in Butte this morning, I explained what kind of labor-management laws we need on the books, and I explained why it is necessary to extend our social security system, and to expand and increase our systems of old-age insurance and unemployment compensation.

We have done some fine work in the housing field since the war, but we are still far short of our goal of having a decent home for every family in the country. Here in Great Falls, a city that has grown so rapidly in the last few years, you can certainly appreciate how badly we need a long-range, low-income, and middle-income housing program.

In Lincoln, Nebr., the other day, and at a number of other towns since then, I have explained the kind of farm legislation we need to put on the books. Our present price support laws have kept farmers' incomes from dropping as badly as they did after the First World War. But they are not good enough. In the last 2 years farm income has dropped substantially.

One of the main improvements we need to make in our present laws is to provide for a system of production payments. This would help us make sure that the incomes of farmers would stay at prosperity levels, that we would get greater amounts of the kinds of foods we need, and we would avoid huge surpluses.

You know, to read some newspapers, you would think that no one supported the system of production payments to farmers that I just described. But the fact is, more and more people all over the country are realizing that production payments are exactly what we need.

For example, after my Lincoln speech the other day, I got a telegram from the Master of the Ohio State Grange, and he told me that he was very much in favor of the system. I have the telegram right here, if anybody has any doubts about it.

Also, at the Minnesota State Fair last fall, they held a--what you might call a poll, but this was an actual poll, the people were there, and they voted themselves; and it came out nearly two-to-one for production payments, but they didn't say anything about it in the papers that were against it.

The American people support the programs I have been discussing, when they learn the true facts about them. When the people understand these measures, they realize that they are vitally important to the future growth of this great country.

It is just as important to see that people in other countries learn the facts about the United States, and what we are doing for world peace.

We face a great problem these days: the menace of Communist aggression. The Communists want to take over all the world, and they are trying to win converts to their side by telling preposterous lies about the United States.

Out of one side of their mouths they say we are weak and that we are going to collapse. Out of the other side they say we are strong, and we are getting ready to wage an imperialistic war. These lies are dangerous because there are millions of people in the world who don't have accurate sources of information, and who simply don't know the truth about the United States. And there are a lot of people right here in the United States that don't know the truth about their own country, and I am trying to teach them.

That is why I have been urging a great campaign of truth. I would like to see our newspapers, our magazines, our radios, and our motion picture companies join with the Government in spreading the truth to Europe, Asia, and Africa, about what we are really like in this country.

I think that when the people know the truth about the United States, they will turn to our side, not the side of communism. The Communists have an organization which does not believe in morals or ethics or truth. They work with lies, and they try to mislead people, and when they get control they are just a plain police state. You can't go anywhere, or do anything, or talk to anybody, without permission from those up above. That is not the kind of country we fought for and worked for since 1776.

I think we have got the greatest government in the history of the world, and I am trying to support that government with everything I have. I have sworn to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, and that is what I am doing as President of the United States.

I am out here telling you the facts as I see them. That is my job. Every year I make a report to the Congress called the message on the state of the Union. I have made a trip around the country this time, giving the message on the state of the Union to the people themselves, so they will understand what I am trying to do, and I believe they do understand it.

Thank you again for this wonderful reception. I appreciate it more than I can tell you.

[6.] BIG SANDY, MONTANA (7:45 p.m.)

You know, I have been reading a lot of stories about Big Sandy, Mont., and most of them were most interesting. I have always wanted to see this location in the United States that was once one of the most famous cow towns in the country. I also heard from the brakeman on this train that this town during the war bought more bonds per capita than any other town in the United States, and I congratulate you on that, too.

Everywhere I have stopped on this cross-country trip of mine, large crowds have come out to see me. I appreciate that very, very much.

I think it means that the people are interested in their Government, and that they want to learn what the facts are about, what our Government is doing, and what I am trying to do, and what I am fighting for.

One of the subjects in which I am vitally interested, and which concerns you people here in the West very directly, is reclamation and irrigation.

Here at Big Sandy, you people are in the area which will feel the direct benefits from our construction of Tiber Dam, west of here on the Marias River. We have got a river of that same name in Missouri, also--named by the same Frenchman, by the way, too.

I understand that actual construction of Tiber Dam will begin this summer. Great reclamation developments like this all over the country seem to cost a lot of money, but they bring back big returns. They are investments, not expenditures.

Tiber Dam will mean better incomes for the farmers now here, and opportunities for new farmers to come. It will help you build a bigger and more prosperous community.

By carrying out the projects like Tiber Dam, we are building a stronger and more prosperous country. We are laying the foundations for lasting farm prosperity. I am very much interested in seeing the farmers of this country well off. I grew up on a farm myself, and I know how hard a farmer's life can be. But a farmer's life these days is nothing like the life I had to spend. I have got a couple of nephews running the old farm together, and they do most of their farming sitting down. I used to stand up and walk to do mine.

We have been doing a lot in recent years to make farm life easier and happier. Bringing electricity to farmers has made them much more productive, and it has certainly made life on the farm much more pleasant.

Fifteen years ago, when the REA started, only 10 percent of the farm houses had electricity. Now 80 percent of farm homes have electricity.

Congress is authorizing a program--a Federal program--to extend rural telephone facilities. I am very pleased to see that, because I know how much telephone service means to people who are isolated, especially in areas where there are long and severe winters.

Government money spent to help improve rural life is one of the best investments we can make in the future of the United States. Better farmers mean a stronger Nation, and a strong United States is the best hope of a lasting peace in this world.

What I want to see is a balanced economy in this great United States of ours. I want the farmer to have a fair share of the national income of this country. I want to see labor receive good wages so that they can buy farm products, and I want to see business, both big and little, prosperous and able to carry on the necessary distribution of the things that we need.

That is what makes a great country--a country in which all the people can share alike in its wealth. If we do that, then we are in a position before the world to say that our system of government is the best in the world--is the best in the history of the world.

If we can do that, eventually we will get a world peace without the necessity of having our young men slaughtered as they have been in the past.

Thank you very much for coming out here tonight. I appreciate it. It has been a pleasure.

[7.] HAVRE, MONTANA (8:45 p.m.)

Thank you very much, Governor, for that cordial introduction, I appreciate it most highly. It is a pleasure to have the Governor and Congressman Mansfield on the train today in the trip across Montana. I had thought at nearly every stop that all the people of Montana were there, but apparently they weren't, because most of them are here tonight.

Of course I am more than happy to be here this evening, and to see so many musicians in the audience. I understand that you are going to have a musical festival tomorrow. My only regret is that I can't stay over. Maybe you have heard that I like music, too. The fact is that my whole family is musically minded.

As I have traveled across the country in the past few days, I have been deeply impressed with the new opportunities that are opening up for the young people of this country.

Many of you can't remember the days in the early 1930's, when young men and women were roaming the streets, looking hopelessly for jobs which never turned up. Those were days of despair, when the future looked black for everybody.

I hope you never have to go through a period like that, and I don't believe you ever will. We know now more about how to keep our country prosperous than we did in those days.

The young people who are growing up in this country now have many advantages that their parents did not have. All of us want our children to have a better life than we had, and it should be the constant aim of each generation to make things better for the next. It has always been a part of the American dream, and I think we have been successful in accomplishing it to a most remarkable degree.

However, I am very much afraid that we are in danger of losing ground in one field which is of greatest importance, and the one where we have taken great pride in our past accomplishments. That is the field of education.

You know, there is no person who has more influence on the life and outlook of the young--besides his mother--than his teacher. His teacher usually has a lasting influence on how he conducts his life after he is grown.

I can remember my first-grade teacher, and my second-grade teacher, and my high school teachers. And the ideals they tried to instill into me I still remember and try to live up to.

Our schools are already in difficulty in many parts of the country, and the greatly increased number of young children who will be reaching school age during the next few years will place such a load upon them as to bring on a real crisis.

At the present time our schools are bursting at the seams. Buildings are at times too old, or too crowded, and we do not have enough teachers, and those we have are overworked and underpaid. Educational opportunities in rural areas do not measure up to those in the cities.

We urgently need to construct more schools, and to provide the transportation necessary to bring the children to the schools.

We also need to expand our vocational education program. Last year, only one-half the high schools in the country were able to provide a vocational education program for their students.

The plain truth is that the cost of providing adequate school systems has long been beyond the financial resources of many of our States.

I have proposed to meet this crisis through a program of Federal financial aid to the States and Territories.

The Senate has already passed such a bill, and I hope that the House will press forward to enact a law to aid education at this session.

Some timid people have raised the false bugaboo of Federal control over education. I do not believe in Federal control, and I do not want Federal control in the schools. I am wholeheartedly in favor of continuing State control over education.

The right way to meet this crisis is for the Federal Government to provide financial assistance to the States, and let the individual States decide how the money shall be spent.

This country has always been a land of opportunity, and I intend to do my part to keep it that way. The American people are deeply devoted to the ideal of universal free education. We must make sure that each boy and girl does get a good education.

Money spent for education is a valuable investment in the future of this country. We should move forward and secure a brighter future for the generations in the coming years that will guide the Nation. There is nothing that could be more important to our country's welfare.

You know, the next generation will either face the greatest age in history, or it won't. And it is up to that generation itself to decide on the course it will pursue.

I think we are on the threshold of an age that will make the past 50 years look like the Middle Ages. I want to see this country go forward to the ideal condition which I know it is capable of. And I know that you young people can take us to that goal, if you go ahead with the proper education, if you learn to be the right sort of citizens of the greatest Republic in the history of the world.

There is nothing in the world to keep you from doing all the great things that are now before us--to work for peace in the world, and eventually we will get that peace, because it is right, and we are on the right side in trying to get it.
Thank you very much.

I forgot to mention the fact that Senator Murray's wife is exceedingly ill. He hasn't been able to be out here today because she has undergone a very serious operation. And I have had two telegrams from him stating that he would have been here had it not been for the illness of Mrs. Murray. I am certainly sorry about it.
[At this point a Chief of the Blackfoot Indian Tribe presented the President with an Indian bonnet and a peace pipe. A little later, as the train was pulling out of the station, the President remarked to the crowd as follows:]

Thank you all again. I appreciate those bands and the drum corps very much. I want to thank the Chief for that bonnet and that peace pipe. I hope we can always smoke the peace pipe with the rest of the world.

NOTE: In the course of his remarks on May 12 the President referred to Governor John Woodrow Bonner, Representative Mike Mansfield, and Senator James E. Murray, all of Montana.
 
Provided courtesy of The American Presidency Project.  John Woolley and Gerhard Peters. University of California, Santa Barbara.