The Spirit of Peace
"WE MUST NOT FAIL OR FALTER"
By HARRY S. TRUMAN, President of the United States
Delivered at the lighting of the National Community Christmas Tree, Washington, D. C., December 24, 1945
Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. XII, pp. 165, 167.
THIS is the Christmas that a war-weary world has prayed for through long and awful years. With peace come joy and gladness. The gloom of the war years fades as once more we light the National Community Christmas Tree. We meet in the spirit of the first Christmas, when the midnight choir sang the hymn of joy: "Glory to God in the Highest, and on Earth, Peace, Good Will Toward Men."
Let us not forget that the coming of the Saviour brought a time of long peace to the Roman world. It is, therefore, fitting for us to remember that the spirit of Christmas is. the spirit of peace, of love, of charity to all men. From the manger of Bethlehem came a new appeal to the minds and hearts of men: "A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another."
In love, which is of the very essence of the message of the Prince of Peace, the world would find a solution for all its ills. I do not believe there is one problem in this country—in the world—today which could not be settled if approached through the teaching of the Sermon on the Mount. The poet dream, the lesson of priest and patriarch and the prophets' vision of a new heaven and a new earth, all are summed up in the message delivered in the Judean hills beside the Sea of Galilee. Would that the world would accept that message in this time of its greatest need!
This is a solemn hour. In the stillness of the eve of the Nativity when the hopes of mankind hang on the peace that was offered to the world nineteen centuries ago, it is but natural, while we survey our destiny, that we give thought also to our past—to some of the things which have gone into the making of our nation.
You will remember that Saint Paul, the apostle of the gentiles, and his companions, suffering shipwreck, "cast four anchors out of the stern and wished for the day." Happily for us, whenever the American ship of state has been storm, tossed, we have always had an anchor to windward.
We are met on the south lawn of the White House. The setting is a reminder of Saint Paul's four anchors. To one side is the massive pile of the Washington Monument—fit symbol of our first anchor. On the opposite end of Potomac Park is the memorial to another of the anchors which we see when we look astern of the ship of state—Abraham Lincoln, who preserved the Union that Washington wrought
Between them, appropriately too, is the memorial to Thomas Jefferson, the anchor of democracy. On the other side of the White House, in bronze, rides Andrew Jackson—fourth of our anchors—the pedestal of his monument bearing his immortal words: "Our Federal Union—it must be preserved."
It is well in this solemn hour that we bow to Washington, Jefferson, Jackson and Lincoln as we face our destiny with its hopes and fears—its burdens and its responsibilities. Out of the past we shall gather wisdom and inspiration to chart our future course.
With our enemies vanquished we must gird ourselves for tne work that lies ahead. Peace has its victories no less hard won than success at arms. We must not fail or falter We must strive without ceasing to make real the prophecy of Isaiah: "They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more."
In that day, whether it be far or near, the kingdoms of this world shall become indeed the Kingdom of God and He will reign forever and ever, Lord of Lords and King of Kings. With that message I wish my countrymen a merry Christmas, and joyous days in the new year.
world every aggressive use of force, every war of aggression. Who could not greet such an intention enthusiastically, especially in its effective realization?
But if this is to be something more than a beautiful gesture, all oppression and all arbitrary action from within and without must be banned.
In the face of this accepted state of affairs, there remains but one solution: a return to God and to the order established by Him.
The more the veil is lifted from the origin and increase of those forces which brought about the war, the clearer it becomes that they were the heirs, the bearers and continuers of errors of which the essential element was the neglect, overthrow, denial and contempt of Christian thought and principles.
If, then, the root of the evil lies here, there is but one remedy: to go back to the order fixed by God also in relations between states and peoples; to go back to a real Christianity within the state and among states. And let it not be said that this is not realism in politics. Experience should have taught all that the policy guided by eternal truths and the laws of God is the most real and tangible of policies. Realistic politicians who think otherwise pile up only ruins.
The Prisoners of War and Political Prisoners
And now, lastly, our gaze, which has wandered, if only for a moment, over the present state of the world, must pause once again on the masses, still immense, of war prisoners. As we get ready to pass in quiet, interior joy and fervent prayer the holy feast of Christmas, which reaffirms and ennobles, with century-old and undiminished harmony, the bonds of the human family, and invites to the domestic hearth, as to a sacred rite, even those who habitually live long away from it, we remember with profound sorrow all those who, although the end of the war has been proclaimed, must this year again pass the beautiful season in a foreign land and feel, on the night of rejoicing and peace, the torment of their uncertain lot and of their separation from parents, wives, children, brothers, sisters,, all their dear ones.
And while we wish to pay the tribute of just recognition and praise to those authorities and to those organizations and individuals who have striven to alleviate and to abbreviate their sorrowful condition, we cannot conceal the pain we felt when, in addition to the sufferings inevitably accruing from the war, we heard of others which were almost on purpose inflicted on prisoners and deported people; when, in some instances, we saw their captivity prolonged without reasonable cause; when the yoke of imprisonment, of itself oppressive, was aggravated by hard and unjustified labor, or when in unconscionable disregard for standards set up by international conventions and by the still more sacred standards of Christian and civil conscience, they were refused in an inhuman way the treatment due to the vanquished.
To these children, still held in prison, may our Father's message be carried on the wings of the Christmas angels. May they receive and be comforted by our wish—shared by all who cherish the sense of man's brotherhood—to see them regularly and speedily restored to their anxious families and to their normal peacetime occupations. And we are certain that we voice the sentiments of all right-thinking men when we extend that wish to include those political prisoners, men, women and youths, at times exposed to dire sufferings, against whom no accusation of crime or violation of the law can be brought, but, at most, only their past political views.
We shall include with affectionate solicitude also those missionaries and civilians in the Far East who in consequence of recent grave events are living in affliction and danger. There is an obvious natural obligation that these unfortunate victims be treated in a humane manner: Indeed, we consider that the much-desired pacification and concord among peoples could not be better initiated than by their liberation and as far as possible by their fair, proper and equitable rehabilitation.
With such sentiments and wishes on our lips and in our heart, we ask our Divine Saviour to bestow on you, venerable brethren and beloved sons, and on all our dear sons and daughters scattered over the earth, an abundance of His graces, of which the token is this apostolic benediction which with all our heart we impart to you.