Tried and Experienced Leadership
By HARRY S. TRUMAN, Senator from Missouri, and Democratic Vice-Presidential nominee
Broadcast from Lamar, Mo., August 31, 1944
Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. X, pp. 706-708.
MR. CHAIRMAN, members of the notification committee and fellow citizens:
I am deeply honored to have been named as the Democratic party's candidate for the Vice-Presidency and accept with humility and a prayer for guidance that I may perform honorably and well whatever tasks are laid before me.
Upon being nominated for the office of Vice-President of the United States, my first wish was to express my appreciation to the members of the Democratic party.
I have wanted since then to address my fellow Americans everywhere, regardless of party, so that I might offer a statement concerning the critical times that lie ahead.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt is my leader and commander in chief. In the past I have supported the policies formulated by him to protect and advance the welfare of our nation. I will continue to do so and will continue my efforts to make certain that those policies are carried out promptly and efficiently by those intrusted with their administration.
We have long been engaged in a desperate struggle to preserve our liberties and to safeguard the American way of life. Many of our brave citizens have given their lives to win for us the certainty of victory, now assured. All of us now toil and sacrifice to win this most terrible of all wars. Victory is now in sight Our courageous, well trained and completely equipped soldiers and sailors are beating down the enemy wherever he can be found. Their unequaled valor under the greatest leadership ever given a fighting force guarantees this victory.
The task of the government has been to provide that leadership, as well as the foresight which will enable victory to be won as soon as possible. When victory is won, government must provide for our returning veterans and our war workers an assurance that their sacrifices were not in vain; that they will return to a country worth fighting for; that they will have an opportunity to earn a good living; and that the same humane principles and policies for the protection of the average man and woman carried out under Franklin D. Roosevelt for the past twelve years will be continued under his leadership.
Although victory may be close at hand, it must still be won. Our enemies are still numerous and well equipped. They have the advantage of fighting on the very threshold of their homes. We must fight in every climate and on every terrain. We must transport our armed forces and their equipment—and maintain them—thousands of miles from our shores. Our enemies are fanatical and desperate. They chant hymns of hate and utter threats that before they succumb they will destroy the foundations of our civilization, so painfully and slowly erected by the hard work of generations of mankind.
The carrying out of plans already made to overwhelm the enemy, and the formulation of new policies as the occasion demands, require the co-ordination of all our resources and all of our people. The skill and ability of the military, of business, of labor and of agriculture must all be directed with initiative, with courage, with foresight and with experience, just as they have been since the emergency actually began. We know from the success of our efforts to date that under the continued leadership of President Roosevelt these objectives will be accomplished.
Under his leadership we have met one crisis after another, in peace and war. In each of these crises we have had anxious moments when we faced the fearful possibilities of national disaster. No one can ever forget the prayerful moments that preceded our successes in Africa, in Italy, in France and in the Pacific. Those successes were possible because our fighting men had what they needed, where they needed it and when they needed it. Much of the credit for this must be given to the wise decisions of the President.
None but the most uninformed question the fact that Franklin Roosevelt did make chose vital decisions in collaboration with the great leaders of our war allies. Those decisions brought about the greatest succession of victories in the annals of warfare.
Tomorrow's challenge is today's problem. The proven leadership of our successes must continue. The fortunes of the future for which our boys have fought, bled and died must not be endangered by intrusting them to inexperienced hands. There is no substitute for experience, which can be gained only through years of application and service.
I am confident that the people of the United States, and I know that the people of my own state of Missouri, may be trusted in this vital hour to choose their President from a standpoint of proven experience and qualification. They will not choose for President, by political chance, a man who lacks experience.
In the struggle to rid the world of the enemies of democracy, the firing of the last shot on the battlefield marks but a beginning. Military victory over Germany is but a step. Military victory over Japan, though it may follow with all possible speed, will be but the completion of one turn in a long road.
War has taught us that, whether we like it or not, we cannot build a wall of isolation around the United States. Our very existence depends upon the establishment and maintenance of a sound and just peace throughout the world.
If you ask the historian why we failed to bring about a lasting peace after World War I, he will answer: "A partisan struggle for political power." Let us remember the warning of Woodrow Wilson. He stressed that in an effort to make peace partisan politics should be adjourned.
"Partisan politics," he said, "has no place in the subject we are now obliged to discuss and decide." His wisdom has been proved by the test of time.
We have another historical parallel today. Make no mistake about the fact that once again we also have among us a group of isolationists as determined, as bitter, and as dangerous as the band who set themselves against the League of Nations and gave to Wilson's peace in 1920 a stab in the back.
Much work has been performed in the task of building for peace. The peace we seek is partly made. While the main task is yet ahead of us, world peace was actually in the process of making many months, even years ago.
The administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt was preparing the ground to support this peace structure when, against the bitter criticism and dire warnings of the isolationists and their press, Mr. Roosevelt first proposed lend-lease.
This peace was in process many months ago when two men met in mid-Atlantic and drew up a charter, a set of principles for peace that have been cited and used as guides by both Democrats and Republicans alike ever since they were first set forth.
This peace was being made at Casablanca, at Moscow, at Quebec, at Cairo, at Teheran. It was being made last week in our own nation's capital. It will be made in many other places, at many other times. It is a continuing process, already years under way, still years in prospect. We are, in our effort to make this peace, very definitely in midstream.
And this peace has been given life movement and certainty by the high resolve of the men who are making it. Neither time nor space nor the personal hazards of a world at war have been allowed to interrupt it.
The destruction that already has occurred and that which is reasonably certain to occur before the war finally is won will make this a most difficult task. The people of the earth will have to rebuild a new and greater prosperity from the ashes of the efforts of the many generations that preceded them. The nations, great and small, must adjust themselves to these new conditions, and must find a sane and sensible means of living together in friendship and with mutual advantage. We comprise but a small percentage of the people of the earth, and we shall have to guide the way with wise counsel and advice if we expect to play our full part in establishing a good and an enduring peace.
The end of hostilities may come suddenly. Decisions that will determine our future for years, and even generations to come, will have to be made quickly. If they are made quickly and wisely by those who have had years of experience and the fullest opportunities to become well informed with respect to our national and international problems, we can have confidence that the next generations will not have to spill its blood to rectify our mistakes and failures.
It takes time for any one to familiarize himself with a new job. This is particularly true of the Presidency of the United States, the most difficult and complex job in the world. Even in peace time, it is well recognized that it takes a new President at least a year to learn the fundamentals of his job. We cannot expect any man wholly inexperienced in national and international affairs to readily learn the views, the objectives and the inner thoughts of such divergent personalities as those dominant leaders who have guided the destinies of our courageous Allies. There will be no time to learn, and mistakes once made cannot be unmade. Our President has worked with these men during these trying years. He talks their language—the language of nations. He knows the reasons which govern their decisions.
Just as he respects them and their opinions, so do they respect him. At no time in our history has a President possessed such knowledge of foreign leaders and their problems. None has ever so completely won their confidence and admiration.
Winning the war and concluding the peace are only part of the task facing us during the next four years. We must also re-establish our own domestic economy.
To win the war we have shifted millions of workers hundreds and thousands of miles from their old homes; we have built thousands of fine new factories and equipped them with tens of thousands of the best machine tools; we have increased enormously our facilities for manufacturing basic commodities; we have evolved new processes for shaping materials, and new uses for those materials.
We cannot go back to our pre-war status, for it is impossible to reshuffle our people into the old pattern. Nor can we throw in to junk heaps $20,000,000,000 worth of new plants and equipment. Only by using them can we hope to provide good jobs for our brave fighting men when they return, and for our splendid war workers. With those plants we shall make more and better goods. We shall combine full employment with an even higher standard of living. By utilizing new methods and products discovered during the war, and by encouraging further research and invention, we shall insure the position of the United States as a leader of world progress.
The achievement of the goals the Administration has set for the post-war nation will not be easy. Already some selfish interests are complaining. If they can, they will prevent new independent enterprises from acquiring these plants, from hiring workmen and from putting into civilian production a flood of consumer goods at prices within the reach of all.
We must not accept the kind of thinking that during the 1920's kept Muscle Shoals and other World War I plants idle.
The Administration proposes to see to ft that these plants are sold or leased on fair terms to those who will use them to manufacture consumer goods, and to create employment for our fighting men and our men and women war workers.
If we devote the same ingenuity to production for peace in America that we have given to the making of engines of destruction, in this war, our future will be secure. But to do this will require energy and courage. The forces of reaction, and the selfishness of those who always fear any kind of change, will have to be overcome. We cannot go back, as we tried to do in 1920. We cannot stand still. We must go forward.
On all these great issues we know that President Roosevelt will take a progressive and courageous position, because his past record of able and forthright action speaks for itself.
As early as October 5, 1937, when few of us dreamed that war was approaching, Franklin Roosevelt in a speech at Chicago, warned that the peace and freedom of 90 per cent of the world's people were being jeopardized by the remaining 10 per cent, who were threatening a breakdown of all international law and order. You need not be reminded that he was then called an alarmist and a war monger by the isolationists and their press—the same group that now seeks to block every advance he makes for the welfare of the country.
Despite strong opposition he pushed through the national defense program. He steered a course toward preparedness. Through his efforts we obtained selective service that enabled us to train a great army and to discover and supply its needs. Countless thousands of lives were saved by this one prophetic act. He advocated lend-lease, which enabled the British and others to let contracts that gave us a full year's start on war production. He declared a national emergency that enabled our own defense program to make progress beyond anything ever before achieved in the history of the world. I need not recall to you the vitriolic violence of the opposition to these measures—nor the identity of those who opposed them.
Franklin Roosevelt set production goals that were ridiculed as fantastic and misleading. For example, his request in June, 1940, for 50,000 planes. But under his leadership those goals were attained and even surpassed. Industry, labor and agriculture were co-ordinated and did co-operate to produce this inspired achievement.
Without this kind of leadership and preparation what would have been the fate of our nation? Who can tell how many more years would have been required to win the war, and at what greater cost in lives?
On this greatest of all issues, the defense of the country, President Roosevelt was years ahead of his time, just as he was years ahead of his time when he fought for freedom from want and forced through protective legislation for labor, social security for the aged, work relief for the unemployed, and a farm program which saved the farmers. Just as he battled to protect the savings of small depositors and for security regulations to prevent a repetition of the financial excesses of the '20s that brought on the depression.
You remember the battles he fought to accomplish all this, and you know the sources of his Opposition. His opponents are still the same. But which of these great programs are they now willing to tell you they propose to destroy? Those programs have stood the acid test of the years, and the President's opponents dare not openly attack them.
Ask yourselves whether you dare to intrust the further development and growth of these great social reforms to those who not only were without the ability to develop these programs but who even lacked the foresight and courage to support them.
Ask yourselves whether you dare to intrust the negotiation of the peace of the world to those who are not familiar with world affairs.
The welfare of this nation and its future, as well as the peace of the whole world depends upon your decision on November 7.
You can't afford to take a chance. You should indorse tried and experienced leadership—you should re-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt President of the United States.