May 11, 1946 – Truman At Fordham University – Presidents Being Presidential
President Truman: “The fact that so many veterans have taken advantage of these educational opportunities increases the heavy responsibility which rests upon our schools and colleges. In preparing our veterans and other young men and women to live in the new atomic age, education faces the greatest challenge in history.
There is profound truth in the first line of the new charter of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. The Charter declares: “Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed.”
I fear we are too much concerned with material things to remember that our real strength lies in spiritual values. I doubt whether there is in this troubled world today, when nations are divided by jealousy and suspicion, a single problem that could not be solved if approached in the spirit of the Sermon on the Mount.
The new age of atomic energy presses upon us. Mark that well! What may have been sufficient yesterday is not sufficient today. New and terrible urgencies, new and terrible responsibilities, have been placed upon education.
Ignorance and its handmaidens, prejudice, intolerance, suspicion of our fellow men, breed dictators. And they breed wars. Civilization cannot survive an atomic war. Nothing would be left but a world reduced to rubble. Gone would be man’s hope for decency. Gone would be our hope for the greatest age in the history of mankind–an age which I know can harness atomic energy for the welfare of man and not for his destruction.
And so we must look to education in the long run to wipe out that ignorance which threatens catastrophe. Intelligent men do not hate other men just because their religion may be different, or because their habits and language may be different, or because their national origin or color may be different. It is up to education to bring about that deeper international understanding which is so vital to world peace.
Intelligent Americans no longer think that merely because a man is born outside the boundaries of the United States, he is no concern of ours. They know that in such thinking lie the seeds of dictatorship and tyranny. And they know from sad experience that dictatorship and tyranny are too ruthless to stop at the borders of the United States and conveniently leave us alone. They know what World War II and the atomic bomb have taught them–that we must work and live with all our fellow men if we are to work and live at all. They know that those without economic hope, those to whom education has been forcibly denied, willingly turn to dictators. They know that in a nation where teachers are free to teach, and young men and women are free to learn, there is a strong bulwark against dictatorship.
That was the last message from President Roosevelt. In a speech which he wrote just before he died, but which he never delivered, he said:
“We are faced with the preeminent fact that, if civilization is to survive, we must cultivate the science of human relationships–the ability of all peoples, of all kinds, to live and work together, in the same world, at peace.”
Until citizens of America, and citizens of the other nations of the world learn this “science of human relationships” of which President Roosevelt spoke, the atomic bomb will remain a frightful weapon which threatens to destroy all of us.”
Here is that complete address, as it was given on May 11, 1946.