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TRUMAN, Harry S. Typescript signed ("Harry S. Truman") as President, a mimeograph copy of his Farewell Address to the American People, Washington. D.C., 15 January 1953. 6 pages, folio, rectos only.
TRUMAN, Harry S. Typescript signed ("Harry S. Truman") as President, a mimeograph copy of his Farewell Address to the American People, Washington. D.C., 15 January 1953. 6 pages, folio, rectos only.

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TRUMAN, Harry S. Typescript signed ("Harry S. Truman") as President, a mimeograph copy of his Farewell Address to the American People, Washington. D.C., 15 January 1953. 6 pages, folio, rectos only.

"WHEN FRANKLIN ROOSEVELT DIED I FELT THERE MUST BE A MILLION MEN BETTER QUALIFIED THAN I TO TAKE UP THE PRESIDENTIAL TASK"

Washington's and Eisenhower's farewell speeches are justly famous, but Truman's is a neglected classic of the genre. It is a fascinating mixture of historical and personal reflection, political justification, and astute prediction. "I suppose that history will remember my term in office as the years when the 'cold war' began to overshadow our lives. I have had hardly a day in office that has not been dominated by this all-embracing struggle--this conflict between those who love freedom and those who would lead the world back into slavery and darkness. And always in the background there has been the atomic bomb."

He recalls the Truman Doctrine, the Marshall Plan, the Berlin Airlift and -- less happily -- the stalemate in Korea. But he also makes an impassioned plea against nuclear war: "A third world war might dig the grave not only of our communist opponents but also our own society, our world as well as theirs. Starting an atomic war is totally unthinkable for rational men." He goes on to predict the downfall of Communism: "The communist world has great resources, and it looks strong. But there is a fatal flaw in their society. Theirs is a godless system, a system of slavery; there is no freedom in it, no consent. The iron curtain, the secret police, the constant purges, all these are symptoms of a great basic weakness - the ruler's fear of their own people."

The speech has Truman's distinctive personal touch. He never lost his Everyman sense of wonder at the awesome powers and responsibilities thrust upon him, and here, leaving office, he still marvels at the 600 times a day he had to sign his signature, the thousands of hands he shook every year, the tens of thousands of miles he logged on rail, sea and air. He grumbles about how the Secret Service made him take a car for the one-block commute from Blair House to the White House: "Fantastic, isn't it? But necessary, so my guards thought...and they are the bosses on such matters as that." Above all, he speaks feelingly about the terrifying summons to the White House on 12 April 1945: "When Franklin Roosevelt died I felt there must be a million men better qualified than I to take up the Presidential task. But the work was mine to do, and I had to do it. I have tried to give it everything that was in me."

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