Address in Spokane at Gonzaga University

Harry S. Truman

May 11, 1950

Senator Magnuson, Father Corkery, Governor, ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests:

I am very glad to be here today at Gonzaga University. I appreciate very much your cordial welcome and the Certificate of Merit you have given me.

I shall highly treasure that wonderful certificate. I am highly pleased and highly complimented that you would think of giving me a certificate based on the quotations from speeches I have made in the past. I shah treasure it, and it will hang with the pictures that I will treasure most highly when I cease to be President of the United States.

I am also pleased that Mrs. Lewis Schwellenbach is on the stand today. I was very fond of Lewis. I understand he was dean of the Law School at one time. He and I were in the Senate on the same day, and he was a Senator that you read about. You still have that sort of representation in the Senate in Senator Magnuson.

I have just come from dedicating Grand Coulee Dam, a magnificent structure which will bring untold benefits for generations to come to the citizens of the Pacific Northwest.

Grand Coulee Dam is an example of how we are developing and using our natural resources to create richer, fuller lives for our fellow citizens.

I often wish that creating new wealth from our natural resources was all we had to do to create a better life for our people. But a good society requires far more than progress in material things.

The good society we are seeking is based on order and peaceful cooperation, among men who share common ideals of freedom and justice. All these things are not easy to attain.

For a society is made up of men, who are often weak, and selfish, and quarrelsome. And yet, men are the children of God. Men have within them the Divine spark that can lead them to truth, and unselfishness, and courage to do the right.

Men can build a good society, if they follow the will of the Lord.

Our great Nation was founded on this faith.

Our Constitution, and all our finest traditions, rest on a moral basis.

We believe in the dignity and the rights of each individual. We believe that no person—and no group of people—has an inherent right to rule over any other person or any other group. Our Government was established to secure individual rights, and to provide a means by which men working together, under laws of their own making, could promote the welfare of all.

Throughout our history we have moved toward these ideals. In economic life, in political life, in social life, we have gone forward. We have demonstrated that men can govern themselves, individually and as a group, and can advance their common welfare.

We are continuing to move forward every day toward greater freedom and equal opportunity for all citizens. This is a purpose each of us must strive to achieve, in his daily life, and in his own community. It is a purpose which, in some cases, requires collective action, through our elected representatives in local, State, and Federal governments.

One case that requires collective action is engaging our attention now in the national legislature. This is the problem of preventing discrimination in our country because of religion, color, or national origin. Such discrimination violates the basic moral principles of our society and our Government.

I sincerely hope that the Congress will enact legislation at this session to protect the rights of all citizens, to reduce discrimination based upon prejudice, and to insure that every citizen can participate equally in our national life.

The same moral principles that underlie our national life govern our relations with all other nations and peoples in the world.

We have built our own Nation not by trying to wipe out differences in religion, or in tradition, or customs among us, not by attempting to conceal our political and economic conflicts, but instead by holding to a belief which rises above all differences and conflicts.

That belief is that all men are equal before God.

With this belief in our hearts, we can achieve unity without eliminating differences—we can advance the common welfare without harming the dissenting minority.

Just as that belief has enabled us to build a great Nation, so it can serve as the foundation of world peace.

Nations can live together peacefully, working for their common welfare, just as we do in this country. If they believe in the brotherhood of man, under God, millions and millions of people, all over the world, know that in their hearts we can live together.

But many of these peoples are oppressed by disease and poverty. And many are under the control of tyrants. These people are prevented from expressing, in their daily lives and through their governments, their belief in the brotherhood of man.

The great problem before us in the world today is how to break through the barriers of ignorance and poverty—through the bartiers of tyranny—and let the common people of the world combine their will for peace. That’s all the common people in any country you can name want, peace and the right to live as they choose in their own countries. The greatest obstacle to peace is a modern tyranny led by a small group who have abandoned their faith in God. These tyrants have forsaken ethical and moral beliefs. They believe that only force makes right. They are aggressively seeking to expand the area of their domination.

Our effort to resist and overcome this tyranny is essentially a moral effort.

Those of us who believe in God, and who are fortunate enough to live under conditions where we can practice our faith, cannot be content to live for ourselves alone, in selfish isolation. We must work constantly to wipe out injustice and inequality, and to create a world order consistent with the faith that governs us.

That is why—even if our own existence were not at stake—we would have the obligation of working abroad as well as at home to bring about the conditions in which all those who share our beliefs can work with us for lasting peace.

We must strive to defend human rights abroad as vigorously as we work for them at home. The Declaration of Human Rights, drawn up in the United Nations, is a landmark in the long struggle to protect the rights of people too defenseless to protect themselves.

We must continue the great work we have so successfully begun of getting the world’s economy back on a sound basis, of helping the underdeveloped countries of the world improve their standards of living, and of establishing a system of world trade under which all nations exchange their goods and services with mutual profit.

So long as aggression threatens, we must keep our defenses strong, and provide strong support to other like-minded nations who wish to build up their defenses.

I was highly impressed and highly pleased with that ROTC show of yours this afternoon, and it gave me a great deal of pleasure to present that flag to that organization that had come of age.

For these are the practical, immediate ways to protect our moral values, and to expand the ability of others to put those values into effect.

In the face of aggressive tyranny, the economic, political, and military strength of free men is a necessity. But we are not increasing our strength just for strength’s sake.

We must be strong if we are to expand freedom. We must be strong if free men are to be able to satisfy their moral obligations.

It is the moral and religious beliefs of mankind which alone give our strength meaning and purpose.

The struggle for peace is a struggle for moral and ethical principles. These principles unite us with religious people in every land, who are striving, as we are striving, for brotherhood among men.

In everything we do, at home and abroad, we must demonstrate our clear purpose, and our firm will, to build a world order in which men everywhere can walk upright and unafraid, and do the work of God.

Thank you.

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