June 11, 1949 – On this day, President Truman was dedicating a park in Little Rock, Arkansas to the memory of those killed during World War One and Two.
At the time there was no Korea dispute, no Civil War in Vietnam and only those military interventions having to do with Independence movements. The world was relatively calm – and it was a fervent hope it would stay that way. However, even Harry Truman knew that was easier said than done:
President Truman: “Our concern with the economic health of the world also extends to its underdeveloped regions. The prospects for peace will be immeasurably brighter if we can offer a future of hope and a better life to the people of these regions. In these areas there are millions who for centuries have known nothing but exploitation and poverty, and whose economic life is still primitive.
I have offered a program for bringing these people the benefits of our modern civilization. It is not a program of relief. While it is intended ultimately to bring about a great movement of capital through the channels of private investment for the development of these poverty-stricken regions, it is not a program of imperialism. The development of these areas offers enormous potential benefits to a growing world economy.
We have to lay the foundations for this program with care. I expect shortly to send to the Congress recommendations for initial legislation. This will be but the first step of many that we shall take, over the years to come, in this cooperative effort to better the living standards and to unlock the human skills and the natural resources of the underdeveloped parts of the globe.
The third condition essential for peace is an international structure capable of suppressing international violence. However well conceived our economic programs may be, they cannot succeed unless there is some assurance against the outbreak of aggression. Neither our own prosperity nor the prosperity of other nations can survive unless we can protect the operations of economic life from the threat of war.
Such protection depends on two factors. First, there must be constant efforts by all nations to adjust their differences peacefully. Second, there must be an agreement among nations to employ overwhelming force against armed aggression.
The United Nations is the instrument for accomplishing these ends. It has already achieved the peaceful settlement of difficult issues. It has stopped hostilities in the Near East and in Indonesia. It has done a great deal to explore and find solutions for many of the economic and social problems which afflict the world.
Much remains to be done, however, to carry out the principles of the United Nations. Within the terms of the United Nations Charter, we and certain other countries have undertaken to provide greater assurance against the danger of armed conflict. That is the purpose of the North Atlantic Treaty. The idea behind this treaty–the association of democratic nations for mutual defense-is well understood in this country. Perhaps we do not understand, however, the importance of this pact in the eyes of the other democratic nations which are parties to it. They have been greatly weakened by war. They have been haunted by the fear of again becoming the scene of conflict. By assuring them of our support the pact goes a long way to dispel their fears.
I have been greatly heartened by the unanimous report of the Foreign Relations Committee of the Senate this past week in favor of the North Atlantic Treaty. I believe that it will soon be passed by an overwhelming majority in the Senate. The effect of this action will be immediate and far-reaching in allaying the fears which have retarded the economic recovery of Europe.
It is of vital importance that the Atlantic Pact be followed by a program of military aid to increase the effective strength of the free nations against aggression. This military assistance program is based upon mutual help–will give additional confidence to the people of those nations as they continue to rebuild their economies.
These measures will bring a stability to the democratic nations of Europe which has not existed since the end of the war. They will at the same time contribute directly to the security of the United States of America.
I have discussed the three essential elements of lasting peace–a strong and prosperous United States; a strong and prosperous community of free nations; an international organization capable of preventing aggression.
We have given greatly of our effort and our strength to build a firm and enduring foreign policy upon these essentials. The burdens we have had to assume in this enterprise have been enormous and unusual. Never in the history of the world has the victor contributed to the recovery of the vanquished as this country has done after the Second World War. The size of the national budget shows that we are engaged in an undertaking without parallel in the history of our country or of the world.
But the goal we seek is a great one, and that goal is worth the price. Never has a nation had the opportunity which we have today to do so much for the peace and prosperity of mankind. Never has a nation had a better chance of reaching this high goal. We must not falter now.
We must not defeat our own efforts by doing only half the job that lies before us.
The brave men, whose memory we honor here, did all that was required of them. They did not fail us. We must not fail them in our efforts to reach the goal for which they died.
We must press on in the confidence that we will succeed in the mission a divine providence has assigned to us”.
Here is the complete address, as it was broadcast nationwide on June 11, 1949.