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.
  177. Address Before the Annual Convention of the American Newspaper Guild  
June 28, 1950

MR. PRESIDENT, it is a pleasure to be with you today.

I was just explaining to your president out in the hall that I had a conversation with our former Ambassador at Large just a short time ago, and he was telling me what a contribution Mr. Martin has made to ECA, and I appreciate that.

It is a pleasure to meet with a group which plays so vital a part in upholding the American tradition of a free and responsible press. The men and women whom you represent perform a great function in gathering and disseminating the news of the world. Never has this function been so important to the general welfare as it is today.

When the Newspaper Guild was organized 17 years ago, its main purpose was to establish better economic standards for the working force of the American press. Over the years, the Guild has established such improved standards. Its efforts have greatly benefited many members of the newspaper profession.

One of the most important activities of the Guild and all our labor unions is to work with the free trade union movement of other countries. The AF of L, the CIO, the Railway Brotherhoods, and all our major unions have extended the hand of fellowship and friendly assistance to the free trade unions of the world.

Nothing is more vital to the cause of free institutions everywhere than this work of our labor unions. In many countries, working men and women have been the object of intensive propaganda and infiltration by the Communist movement. Our free trade unions better than anyone else can effectively demonstrate to these people that the Communists are not interested in their welfare, but only in using them to further the imperialistic designs of an aggressive foreign power.

Our unions can best show the workers of other lands that the democratic way, not the Communist way, is the road to real economic advancement. Out of our own experience we know what can be done to improve the economic conditions of working people.

It is hard for us to realize just how bad economic conditions are for many peoples of the world. Famine, disease, and poverty are the scourge of vast areas of the globe. Hundreds of millions of people in Asia, for example, have a life expectancy of 30 years or less. That is what the country had when the people landed at Jamestown. Many of these people live on inadequate diets, unable to perform the tasks necessary to earn their daily bread. Animal plagues and plant pests carry away their crops and their livestock. Misuse of natural resources exposes their land to flood and drought.

Conditions such as these are the seedbed of political unrest and instability. They are a threat to the security and growth of free institutions everywhere. It is in areas where these conditions exist that communism makes its greatest inroads. The people of these areas are eagerly seeking better living conditions. The Communists are attempting to turn the honest dissatisfaction of these people with their present conditions into support for Communist efforts to dominate their nations.

In addition to these attempts at persuasion, the Communists in these countries use the weapon of fear. They constantly threaten internal violence and armed aggression. The recent unprovoked invasion of the Republic of Korea by Communist armies is an example of the danger to which the underdeveloped areas particularly are exposed.

It is essential that we do everything we can to prevent such aggression and to enforce the principles of the United Nations charter. We must and we shall give every possible assistance to people who are determined to maintain their independence. We must counteract the Communist weapon of fear.

But we must not be misled into thinking that our only task is to create defenses against aggression. Our whole purpose in creating a strong defense is to permit us to carry on the great constructive tasks of peace. Behind the shield of a strong defense, we must continue to work to bring about better living conditions in the free nations.

Particularly in the underdeveloped areas of the world, we must work cooperatively with local governments which are seeking to improve the welfare of their people. We must help them to help themselves. We must aid them to make progress in agriculture, in industry, in health, and in the education of their children. Such progress will increase their strength and their independence.

The growing strength of these countries is important to the defense of all free nations against Communist aggression. It is important to the economic progress of the free world. And these things are good for us as well as good for them.

For these reasons, I recommended in my inaugural address the program that has become known as "point 4." The Congress authorized technical assistance to underprivileged areas under this program. This new law marks congressional indorsement of a practical and sensible course of action that can have tremendous benefits for the future of the world.

It is possible to make tremendous improvements in underdeveloped areas by very simple and inexpensive means. Simple measures, such as the improvement of seed and animal stocks, the control of insects, the dissemination of health information, can make great changes almost overnight. This does not require vast expenditures. It requires only expert assistance offered to the people on a genuinely cooperative basis. We have already seen, on a relatively small scale, what can be accomplished.

I am going to give you a factual--in fact a reporter's--account of a few technical assistance projects which have raised living standards in the countries where they were carried out. These are a preview of what a full-scale 4-point program can mean in the future.

In northern India there is a very rich farming area known as the Terai district. In recent years, the malaria mosquito forced people to leave this land. One hundred and four villages were abandoned. Even in the face of India's tragic food shortage, no crops were planted in this rich soil.

India called on the World Health Organization for help, and that organization sent a malaria control team which arrived in northern India in April 1949. In the face of great difficulties, this international group sprayed the area with DDT.

Today, a year later, no infected mosquito is to be found in any village in the Terai district. Local workers have been trained to continue the spraying. Families who were refugees from malaria only a year ago are back in their homes, and their fields are green again.

This demonstrates how a simple program can make tremendous improvements in a short time.

Let me give you another example of what point 4 can mean; this one in Iran. This story concerns not an international organization, but one of our American voluntary groups, the Near East Foundation.

Four years ago the Government of Iran asked the Foundation to set up a demonstration project in a group of 35 villages not far from the capital at Tehran. The Foundation brought village leaders to a series of training courses. It won their confidence, and through these leaders it began to carry out agricultural and health improvements. The Foundation met a water shortage by drilling deep wells. It overcame waterborne diseases with an inexpensive water filter. It sprayed homes with DDT. It sprayed crops with insecticides. It helped to organize schools in each of the 35 villages.

Today, only 4 years later, the village people are at work in new carpentry shops, vegetable gardens, and orchards. And, most startling of all, the yield of grain in this area has tripled.

The effects of the Near East Foundation's work are spreading throughout Iran. This story will be matched many times over, under the point 4 program.

My next illustration is in the Republic of Liberia on the west coast of Africa. Here a United States Government economic mission has been working since 1944--headed, incidentally, by a former agricultural extension agent from Missouri. One of the Missouri gang you hear so much about. This mission in Liberia has laid out roads, and mapped the timber supply, and helped to open up an iron deposit. Agricultural technicians have helped to expand rice production for the local market, and the production of palm oil and cocoa for export.

The effect of these steps has been remarkable. In one village near Monrovia, the cash income of the people, derived from selling rice, cocoa, and palm oil, has increased from $5 per person a year to $35, since the arrival of our economic mission.

Our mission--which has only five Americans in it--has worked in close cooperation with the Liberian Government. That Government already has built three new agricultural experiment stations. This is remarkable progress but it is only the beginning of the economic development which Liberia needs to become a prosperous member of the family of nations.

These achievements I have cited are samples of the kind of work that needs so badly to be done in underdeveloped areas all over the world.

Under the expanded point 4 program, we can greatly enlarge the scope of these activities. There are tremendous opportunities to improve living standards for wide areas of the globe. It may prove altogether possible, for example, through the activities of the Food and Agriculture Organization, to wipe out the scourge of rinderpest, the fatal animal disease that is responsible for so much of the rural poverty in the Far East. The development of hybrid rice seed, which the Food and Agriculture Organization is now working on, could conceivably increase rice production by 10 percent, and improve the health and living conditions in the Orient immeasurably. As an example of what hybrid seed can do, our corn hybrids, where they have been used in Italy, have increased corn production by over 25 percent.

Aside from these basic improvements in agriculture and health, it is equally important, in many areas, to build modern communication and transportation systems, and to establish local industries. Without these, the underdeveloped areas cannot put their natural resources to use for their own benefit and in profitable trade with the rest of the world. Building roads, and railroads, and factories will require considerable amounts of public and private capital. To aid the flow of American capital abroad, I have recommended that the Congress provide for limited guarantees to encourage greater investments overseas. I am hopeful that this legislation will be enacted soon.

Point 4 is not now--and should not become--a matter for partisan differences of opinion. However, some critics have attempted to ridicule point 4 as a "do-good" measure; others have said it is a waste of money. This is the most foolish kind of shortsightedness. If we fail to carry out a vigorous point 4 program we run the risk of losing to communism, by default, hundreds of millions of people who now look to us for help in their struggle against hunger and despair.

What we want to do is to teach these people how to help themselves. Point 4 is a successor to the old colonialism idea, the exploiting idea of the middle 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. We want to have a prosperous world that will be interested in buying the immense amount of surplus things that we are going to have for sale. In order to do that, they have got to have something to give back to us, in order that they can buy our goods. I want to keep this factory organization of ours going at full tilt, and in order to do that, we must help these people to help themselves.

Point 4 is an investment in a peaceful and prosperous world. It is a program which will bring increasing results over the years. It will bring about a chain reaction in economic development. It will serve to create economic health where poverty existed, and to equip the people of underdeveloped areas to carry forward their economic gains and preserve their independence.

A major share of this world campaign to improve the livelihood of peoples will be carried out under the United Nations.

In the United Nations Charter, each member government pledged that it would promote solutions of international economic, social, health, and related problems.

At its last session, the General Assembly voted unanimously to support a technical assistance program for raising the standard of living in underdeveloped areas.

Two weeks ago the United Nations conducted a Technical Assistance Conference to make plans and to raise funds for this new program. Fifty-four nations attended and 50 of them offered contributions.

By the end of the Conference, more than $20 million had been pledged. The United States pledged $12 million, subject, of course, to appropriation of the necessary funds by the Congress. This was the largest single contribution, but in relation to their resources a number of other nations contributed more.

The outstanding characteristic of this Technical Assistance Conference is the fact that it demonstrates clearly the common desire of the peoples of the world to work together for human advancement. In a world dark with apprehension, the point 4 idea offers new hope.

All our citizens must play a part in making the point 4 program a success. Our missionary groups, our philanthropic and charitable agencies must continue the efforts they have been making over the years for the improvement of conditions in foreign lands. Our young people can find careers in the pioneering work of bringing technical assistance to these countries. Our unions and our business organizations should enlarge their foreign contacts and bring the benefits of their experience to less developed countries. You newspaper men and women can help point 4 to achieve its aims by telling its story to the American people and to the people of the world.

Our point 4 program and the work of the United Nations are constructive ways to build the kind of world where all nations can live in peaceful prosperity, dedicated to the purpose of creating better lives for their people. We support this program because we seek a peaceful world, and a free world, where all men can live as good neighbors.

NOTE: The President spoke at 4:30 p.m. at the Statler Hotel in Washington. In his opening words he referred to Harry Martin, president of the American Newspaper Guild. The Guild, an affiliate of the Congress of Industrial Organizations, held its 17th annual convention in Washington June 26 through June 30.

The address was recorded and broadcast later that day.
 
Provided courtesy of The American Presidency Project.  John Woolley and Gerhard Peters. University of California, Santa Barbara.