at the Harry S. Truman Presidential Museum & Library
thank you for those kind words. Dr. Devine, I'm very pleased to be here
and have a chance to see this impressive library. I thank you so much
for the opportunity to tour it and also to meet those young folks that
were there doing a mock decision -- White House decision -- with respect
to Korea. I don't know if the rest of you know it, but they have a program
here where they bring in students and they wrestle, they assign roles
-- Secretary of Defense, Secretary of State, President, and so forth
-- members of the press -- and they then have debates and discussions
and try to think through those decisions, and they're tough decisions,
to be sure.
Stewart, it's good to see you. I understand that, I think it's the city
and the library are going to award Congressman Ike Skelton the Truman
award, sometime next month, or May. You made a good selection -- Ike's
a fine man. I also want to say hello to the people here from Wentworth
Military Academy, and the American Legion, I saw a number of folks from
the Legion here outside, and was pleased to see those who have served
our country so well.
have been an admirer of President Harry Truman for many years. In fact,
I was down in Key West, Florida, not too long ago with my family. My
wife and I took our three children and seven grandchildren and we all
went to, I think they called it the "Winter White House" or
the "Little White House" or something, down in Key West. If
some of you have not seen it, you ought to do it when you're on vacation.
It's most impressive and our grandchildren of all ages from nineteen
down to about three or four toured and found it most interesting and
I think it's important for people to have a sense of what an epic figure
President Truman was and how much he affected our country -- and the
world's post-World War II history.
have to admire a President who was so down to earth that when he was
asked what's the first thing he's going to do when he's home, he said
I'm going to "take the grips up to the attic." Now, some of
you are a little young and you don't know that a "grip" is
a suitcase, back in the old days. And I can remember my father using
the word, my wife using the word.
I'd known how much packing I'd have to do, I'd have run again."
certainly was loyal to his family, his hometown, and his friends. As
I recall, he overrode his advisors and even attended the funeral of
Mr. Pendergast, who was not terribly popular at that period, and did
it because he went back a long way with him.
felt like the moon, the stars, and all the planets had fallen on me"
and "I pray to God that I can measure up to the task."
guess he'd been Vice President for less than three months when he was
called on to replace a man who was a really giant in everyone's life
during that period.
was 12, living in Coronado, California when President Roosevelt died.
My father was out on an aircraft carrier in the Pacific during World
War II and they announced over the school's system that President Roosevelt
had died. And millions of people across this country and the world cried
because he was so big a figure in everyone's life.
the free world suddenly found its trust placed in, as they said then,
a former haberdasher -- but also a former soldier -- from Independence,
Missouri. And the world wondered -- and indeed President Truman wondered
-- if he was up to the task.
she replied, "Why not?" She said, "I've read them several
you think about it, her task was almost as daunting as his -- she had
to succeed Eleanor Roosevelt, who was also a big figure. I can remember
being in college and watching Eleanor Roosevelt on a corner talking
to somebody and she was tall and animated and powerful. In fact I see
someone who was probably there with me at Princeton many, many years
did however apparently eventually agree to answer reporters' questions.
She had the following ground rules: the questions had to be written
and submitted in advance. Her responses would be in writing. She reserved
the right to respond with short one-syllable answers and frequently
"no comments." She was on to something. She had it figured
out pretty well. I like that.
to consider what lessons might apply to another -- and in many ways
very different -- struggle that could occupy our country for a good
many years ahead.
the institutions and the programs that started on President Truman's
watch -- some almost from scratch -- and which proved to be so crucial
during the Cold War and indeed since the period since:
of which of course are still going strong.
addition, President Truman led the way in extending official diplomatic
recognition to the new state of Israel. Again, a step that was not particularly
popular in many places of our country during that period.
country went through important cultural changes as well, under his leadership,
including his decision to desegregate the federal workforce. It changed
our federal government, just significantly, to make that decision --
not by Congress but by an Executive Order. And then he did the same
thing for the United States military, and in effect I suppose you could
say, he helped make that United States military one of the most color-blind
institutions in the United States of America and an institution which
has provided countless Americans with the opportunity they deserved
and had previously not had. Those steps were truly historic and they
have had lasting effect on our country. It is surprising to me that
they hadn't been done before and he had the wisdom and the courage to
with the perspective of history, the many new institutions and programs
of the Truman years can seem, I suppose to many people, as part of a
carefully crafted, broadly supported strategy that led to what now almost
seems like an inevitable victory in the Cold War.
of course, things didn't unfold that way. That isn't the way it was
in history. They never unfold quite that way. Our country was tired
after the Second World War and strong strains of isolationism still
persisted. Many Americans were not in the mood for global involvement
on the part of the United States. And particularly against something
as ill-defined as the Communist menace at the time. It wasn't as though
they were engaged in a battle and you needed to respond, it was different
than World War II. It was something that you couldn't quite put your
hand on, you couldn't quite show a movie about it as readily.
was a time of heated disagreements. We think back now, it seems like
anybody with any sense would have recognized the importance of the Cold
War and of pursuing our values and our interests as a country. I don't
think it would surprise anyone to hear that Harry S. Truman was a proud
and enthusiastic partisan.
used to say:
he wasn't shy about expressing his views to those who did.
together, leaders of both of our political parties tended to get the
big things right. And they did get the big things right. They understood
that war had been declared on our country -- on the free world -- whether
we liked it or not. That we had to steel ourselves against an expansionist
enemy, the Soviet Union, that was determined to destroy our way of life.
small but perhaps telling moment in the history of the Cold War took
place on one of President Truman's first days in office.
President Truman, as he put it, "I then explained to him in words
of one syllable, exactly why they were not." After the President's
typically frank reply, and undiplomatic response, Molotov apparently
said to President Truman, "I have never been talked to like that
in my life."
replied, "Carry out your agreements and you won't be talked to
like that again." Sounds reasonable to me.
I would submit, is our task today in the Global War on Terror, the struggle
against violent extremists. These two eras have many differences --
I understand that. The enemy today is not an empire, but a shadowy movement
of terrorist cells; the threats today are not conventional, they're
unconventional; and al Qaeda and other terrorists have no territories
to defend, no nations, no diplomats to sign agreements, and no hesitance
to kill innocent men, women and children.
these two eras also have something important -- and instructive -- by
way of similarities:
are other similarities between the two conflicts that are less obvious,
but equally instructive.
is the critical importance of being able to bolster the capacities of
partner nations. This notion was the heart of the Marshall Plan, which
cost more than $100 billion in today's dollars, but most certainly helped
to save Western Europe from Soviet tyranny and led to the emergence
of important democratic allies that, despite our occasional differences,
remain indispensable to our success today.
post-World War II effort to aid the Japanese helped Japan become a stalwart
democracy. President Truman's decision to come to the aid of Greece
and Turkey -- in accordance with the Truman Doctrine -- proved essential
to saving both countries from Communist takeover.
was during the Truman era that we came to the rescue of what is today
called the Republic of Korea. The result of that long-term investment
-- and it was a significant investment in dollars and in lives -- has
made the Korean peninsula the most stark example of the differences
between a free system -- a free political system and a free economic
system -- as opposed to a command economy and a vicious dictatorship.
I have a satellite photograph taken at night of the Korean peninsula
that I keep in my office on my desk and it shows a peninsula, with the
demilitarized zone in the middle, the same people in the north as the
south, the same resources in the north and in the south. And at night
the south is just filled with electricity and light, here's the 12th
most powerful economy of the face of the earth. And the north is absolutely
black, nothing but one pinprick of light in Pyongyang, the capital of
North Korea. The starvation and malnutrition has been so bad in the
North that they now take people into their military that are four feet
ten inches tall and weigh under 100 pounds. It is a tragedy. And in
the south, the 12th largest economy on earth. It says it all that picture.
should be noted that few, if any, of those foreign policy initiatives
won universal acclaim here at home, or abroad for that matter. Indeed,
a former diplomat in the closing days of World War II said that "democracy
would never work" in Japan -- don't you love that certainty? A
1946 Life Magazine article was entitled "Americans Are Losing The
Victory In Europe." 1946.
the situation today is different, I would suggest that a similar rationale
underscores efforts to help bolster the capabilities of our many new
allies in the Global War on Terror -- including Afghanistan and Iraq.
the Cold War, the Soviets sought to undermine the West by cultivating
divisions among our allies, among the countries in the developing world,
and among even the American people. And they met with considerable success.
marched against the United States -- not for the United States -- but
against the Untied States. Not against the Communist bloc, but against
the United States -- both in Europe and here at home. Some of us have
been around long enough to remember when "Euro-Communism"
was very much in vogue. It was very fashionable to talk about Euro-Communism,
the "good" Communism, when there were Communists in the Italian
government, Communists in the Portuguese cabinet, and what have you.
Separating it somewhat from Soviet Communism and allowing as how it
was kind of the wave of the future.
of the world granted the Soviet Union "moral equivalence"
or "equity" with the United States. They talked about the
two superpowers. They talked about the bi-polar world. And they compared
us and equated us, as though we were each part of the problem. I can
remember being called back from Europe when I was ambassador to NATO
and having to testify twice, against the amendment to withdraw all of
our forces from Europe. In the '70s. There were powerful forces against
the Cold War.
one of the most powerful statements of the difference between our way
of life and the Soviets was what President Kennedy said at the Berlin
Wall in 1963. He said quote:
has many difficulties and democracy is not perfect, but we have never
had to put a wall up to keep our people in."
country established institutions such as the Voice of America, which
aired its first broadcast to Soviet Russia in 1947; Radio Free Europe,
that had its first broadcast into Soviet-controlled Czechoslovakia in
1950. Both were in the Truman era.
as millions who were trapped in Eastern Europe during the Cold War were
given hope by messages that filtered in from the West, similarly, I
believe there are reformers in the Middle East, who have been silenced
and intimidated, and who want their countries to be free.
many ways, many critical battles in the War on Terror will be fought
in the news rooms and the editorial board rooms. Unlike the Cold War,
this is an era of far more rapid communications, with the Internet,
and bloggers, and chat rooms, 24 hour news channels, satellite radio.
can travel around the world in an instant. I think it was Mark Twain
who said: "while the truth is still putting its boots on."
And we need to develop considerably greater dexterity to counter the
enemy's skills in media relations and in manipulating the news. And
they are demonstrating their skills daily.
tasks are not easy. They never are.
involved making needed corrections, self-corrections, to be sure. No
path is straight. And it relied on the vision of leadership in both
parties who understood the menace we faced, and resolved -- and stayed
resolved -- to defeat that menace. Leaders like Eisenhower, Kennedy,
Scoop Jackson, President Reagan, and of course those crucial formative
years under President Harry S. Truman.
did what they did without a road map. There was no guide book they could
pick up in the morning when they got out to serve the country -- to
chart the way in an era when the Cold War we were in, it didn't dominate
the news every day. It wasn't something that called people to be courageous,
and to stick with it. It was off the pages. But it was hard, and it
took investment and it took time. Our allies bickered with each other
and with us. Political parties sometimes disagreed, and when crucial
battles were fought, sometimes they were even in secret.
the specter of a superpower confrontation was with us in our consciousness
most every day. And when people asked when the war might be over, there
was no clear answer. And there isn't one today. I was stuck by the mock
news conference these students had down here earlier this afternoon
or this morning and they were pretending they were press people asking
the President why the decision this way and why the decision that way.
And I kept waiting for one of them to ask -- it was concerning the beginning
of the Korean War, the sending in of troops and planes after the North
attacked the South. And I kept waiting for one of the mock press people
to stand up and say, well when will the war be over? And how much will
it cost? We hear that everyday.
President Truman's final words to the nation, as President, in 1953,
I think ought to offer some comfort to those with questions about the
struggle we face today.
we did. But it wasn't in that year. Or ten years. Or twenty years later.
Or thirty years later. It was forty year later. He was right.
the man from Independence -- whose final resting place is not many steps
from here -- deserves enormous credit for that and our nation's undying
perhaps that is a fitting tribute to President Truman. He was a man
of peace -- a reflection of the country he led and loved.
you very much.