Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

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Harry S. Truman

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Provided courtesy of The American Presidency Project.  John Woolley and Gerhard Peters. University of California, Santa Barbara.
  176. Remarks to Members of Reserve Officers Association  
June 28, 1950

I APPRECIATE most highly the remarks of the Secretary of Defense. I think he gave the Commander in Chief a little more credit than he deserves, but then I like that, too.

You gentlemen represent one of the principal components of the authority of the United States in the world. One of the great things about our Government is that it is founded on the fact that the people are the government.

George Washington, in a message to the Congress, and in correspondence with some of his friends, made the statement that every man who lives under a government that is controlled by the people owes that government certain service. Not only does he owe that service in a military way, if it becomes necessary, but he owes service to his government as a civilian, he should take a part in his city, county, and State government; and he should be willing, whenever necessary, to serve the United States Government in whatever capacity he is fitted to serve it.

It is difficult, these days, to get the right sort of men for the right places, due to the fact that they not only have to give up civilian income, which is in most cases much greater than you can get from Government, but they also have to stand and receive a certain amount of criticism and mudslinging which they do not deserve.

Back in 1920--about 30 years ago--it was my 'privilege to organize the first Reserve Officers Association in the United States. It consisted of Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air. It was a unified Reserve Association.

When it became my duty as President of the United States to look into a defense program for the future, after the shooting in the Second World War had stopped, I made it my business to get in touch with every commander--every field commander that we had at that time--and we had some of the greatest ever produced. And I corresponded with those gentlemen, and nearly every one of them is on record as to what he thinks of a unified defense program. They were all for it.

We have succeeded in implementing a defense program. That is a unification of the services on the basis where rivalry doesn't cease, as esprit de corps is just as important as any other morale factor that makes up the Nation. It doesn't mean that there can't be rivalry between organizations under the same command, between the Army, Navy, and the Air Force as to who has the best men and who does the best job. But it means that when necessary there is complete cooperation between them, for the welfare of the country as a whole. That's all that unification means. And it has been implemented, I think, in such a manner that the morale of no single organization has been hurt.

Your organization is of vital importance to the welfare of the Nation. You are the men who, on your own time, try to keep yourselves informed on the latest of military subjects so that in case of emergency you can fill the places that would ordinarily be necessary in an emergency.

I am proud to be a Reserve officer. I think General Bradley told me that I still have a commission as a colonel in the Reserve Corps. I am somewhat beyond the age of retirement, but I don't believe they are going to retire me, at least for 2 years.

I hope you gentlemen will continue to attend your schools and keep yourselves up to date in matters military, and in matters civil.

Remember that the civil government is just as important for your welfare, and for the welfare of the Nation, as your education as military men. I hope that you will take time out maybe to read a short speech which I made yesterday on the laying of the cornerstone of the courts building here in the District of Columbia. I went into some detail on the rights of the individual under his Government. If you will study that, you will never become a man who thirsts for power, you will never become one who overrides the rights of the people to get into a position of power.

That is the most important thing in the Constitution of the United States, that the rights of the individual come first. I am imbued with that idea. I believe that this is a Government of and by and for the people, as Abraham Lincoln said. And as far as I can, as President of the United States, I am trying to implement that theory, not only in the United States but in the world at large.
Thank you very much.

NOTE: The President spoke at 10:25 a.m. at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington. In his opening words he referred to Louis Johnson, Secretary of Defense. Later he referred to Gen. Omar N. Bradley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Provided courtesy of The American Presidency Project.  John Woolley and Gerhard Peters. University of California, Santa Barbara.