Whistlestop Speech

Harry S. Truman

From Rear Platform and Other Informal Remarks in Texas and Oklahoma

(Rear platform, 11:15 a.m.)

September 28, 1948

Governor Turner, ladies and gentlemen of Oklahoma, and fellow Democrats:

It certainly is a pleasure to me to start my trip in Oklahoma in this great Democratic stronghold known as the little Dixie of Oklahoma. You know, we have got one in Missouri that we never have to do anything about, it goes Democratic every time there’s a chance for the Democrats to vote; and they tell me that is the way it is here, that the Republicans are just a token down here in this part of the world.

I have had a wonderful trip across Texas with the Governor. I am anticipating the same sort of trip across Oklahoma with your able and distinguished Governor.

It was a very great pleasure to me this morning to meet Carl Albert on the train-your Representative in Congress, and an able and distinguished gentleman with a war record that I envy.

I was telling him a while ago my experience in trying to get into the Second World War. I had served in the first one, and I was a Senator on the Appropriations Committee and on the Military Affairs Committee of the Senate in 1940 when we passed the First Draft Act; and I went down to see General Marshall, who was then Chief of Staff, and told him that I would like very much to serve, that I was still a colonel in the Field Artillery Reserve, and I thought I could do a good job if he would let me.

The General pulled his specs down on his nose, like that, and he said: “Mr. Senator, how old are you?… Oh,” I said, “I am 56.” “Well,” he said, “you’re too old for this war, this is a young man’s war. Go on back and do your duty in the Senate.”

Well, after I became President, he was still Chief of Staff, and he was sitting out in the anteroom waiting for me, one day; and Mr. Connelly handed him a little piece of paper that had been written about that incident, and he said, “General, what would you do now if the same question were put to you by the same fellow ?”

General Marshall said, “I would have to give him the same answer, but I would be a little more diplomatic about it.”

Circumstances alter cases, as you see.

Now I am familiar with this part of the great State of Oklahoma. I have been here many a time when people didn’t look at me so much, they didn’t crowd around when I came to town; and I have had many pleasant visits to Oklahoma, nearly all over the State.

I have been interested in the development of the Red River ever since that development started while I was in the Congress. I have been interested in the development of the waterways of the whole Nation, in fact; and have, I think, made a contribution to that, because I had a complete survey made of the waterways of the country, and had authorizations made by the 79th Congress, and have endeavored to get appropriations out of the 80th Congress to
get those things implemented.

Very difficult thing, to get anything out of this 80th Congress. They don’t want to do anything for the people. They are awful anxious to do things to the people, and they have done a lot of things to the people which I have been telling the people, and it’s beginning to hurt.

Old Tuber, you know, said that the West was “squealing like a stuck hog,” because he knifed appropriations for conservation and flood control, and things of that sort. But I have got them squealing now, and they are going to squeal a lot more before I get through with them.

I want you to analyze this situation. This campaign has just one issue, it’s the special interests against the people–just the special interests against the people.

The Democrats stand for the people, and always have stood for the people. The Republicans have always stood for special interests, and they haven’t changed a bit.

Don’t let them fool you with their slick talk, because if they get back in control of the Congress of the United States and the Presidency, too, the people of this country will be in an awful fix.

You will have such fellows as Taft running the Congress; you will have such fellows as Taber in control of the appropriations; you will have such fellows as Knutson in control of the most powerful committee in the Congress,
the Ways and Means Committee.

There won’t be any change in the complexion–it will just be the 80th Congress all over again that will take you to town, if they get back there and have the Presidency, too. You can’t afford to do that.

You must turn out, down here in this wonderful Democratic part of the world, and help Oklahoma to roll up the biggest Democratic majority it has ever rolled up. I want to see Bob Kerr in the Senate. We need a man like Bob Kerr to take old man Moore’s place. He never was any good in the first place.

I know old man Moore. I served in the Senate with him for quite a while, and if he did anything for the people it was by accident and not intention.

You want somebody like Kerr. You know what he can do. He was your Governor. He was a good Governor, too; and you have got a good Governor now.

So let us have a congressional delegation from Oklahoma that is unanimously for the people and not against them. In order to do that, you have got to turn out and vote, and the bigger the vote you roll up, the more it means in the operation of the Government to the President when he is trying to do things for the people.

And I want the backing of the people, that is the reason I am out here talking to you. I want you to know me. I want you to understand what I stand for; and you won’t have any trouble finding out, because I will tell you in words of one syllable.

But if you can get these other fellows to tell you how they stand, you are good at it. I can’t get them to tell me where they stand. They do a lot of double talk, so that they can take both sides of the street.

This is a fight between the people and the special interests. I am making a crusade to win that fight, and I want you to help me do that. Will you?

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