|Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Toast and Remarks with Others on the Dedication of the Harry S. Truman Building
Ben Franklin Room
Washington, DC. 9/21/00
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Welcome, everybody. We are here this evening to really have a lot of fun, and I would like to begin this very special evening with a toast to Mr. John Truman, whose great-uncle was our nation's 33rd President.
John, I know that you corresponded with President Truman -- or Uncle Harry, as you called him -- while he was in the White House, and that you remained in close touch after he returned to Independence, Missouri.
I also know your family considers it an honor that the Truman name will adorn the headquarters of the Department of State. But, please know that it is we who work here -- and all our successors -- who truly will be honored by association with Harry Truman's remarkable record of global leadership.
John, you are a living link to President Truman, and our presence here tonight shows how much we value the legacy you represent.
Let us all, then, toast the good name of Harry S Truman. And let us honor his memory by heeding his example -- to keep America strong and respected, prosperous and at peace.
(Toast and Applause.)
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Hold your breath, everybody. This is a look-alike. (Laughter.)
MR. TRUMAN: Madame Secretary, my wife and I deeply appreciate your kind invitation to this event. I come with the gratitude of the entire Truman family, including President Truman's daughter Margaret, who is unable to be here.
President Truman was recently ranked by some historians as our nation's fifth greatest president, and now the State Department is being named after him. He would be surprised. (Laughter.) President Truman believed in government and revered the presidency, where his greatest achievements were in foreign policy, so he also would have been pleased.
President Truman cared about names and the honor attached to them. In a three-page handwritten letter from the White House, he wrote me that I was the fifth John Truman, and that he knew that I would keep that name as honorably as had all the other John Trumans. So he would have been honored to have his name attached to the United States State Department.
President Truman made foreign policy decisions in accordance with his favorite saying: "Always do right. This will gratify some people, and astonish the rest." (Laughter.) Naming the State Department after President Truman is the right thing to do.
To the United States, the State Department and the Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright.
(Toast and applause.)
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: (In progress) - and I think we all had a lot of fun. Triscuits were a big thing. (Laughter.)
Let me again say how very pleased I am to have everybody here for this very special evening. Members of the Truman family; Excellencies from the diplomatic corps; Members of Congress; Michael Beschloss; George Elsey; General Dawson; Elmer Staats; Larry Hackman and staff of the Truman Library; esteemed representatives of the military, academia and the press; distinguished guests and friends - and all the other people here - good evening. (Laughter.)
Before I begin, I especially want to recognize two leaders from Capitol Hill who initiated and worked so hard to gain approval of the proposal to name this building in honor of President Truman, Representatives Ike Skelton and Roy Blunt. We are very glad to have been able to work together.
I am truly excited you are all here tonight, and I hope to see everyone at our dedication ceremony with President Clinton, here at C Street tomorrow.
You may have noticed that from the music to the menu, we've tried to replicate everything here as it was done in President Truman's day. And to prove we're serious, the ushers will now come around to your table to confiscate your cellular telephones. (Laughter.)
Seriously -- if I may just jump the gun by just a few hours -- welcome to the Harry S Truman Building. Now doesn't that have a truly great ring to it?
And that's because no leader did more than Harry Truman in his time to shape America's fundamental global role in our time.
The decisions he made, the institutions he built, the principles he stood for, have kept us safe through more than half a century of turbulence and testing. And they will light our way for decades to come.
In 1947, the American people were weary of war and wary of new commitments. But in Europe, life-giving links between farm and market, enterprise and capital, hope and future had been severed in the aftermath of the global conflict.
President Truman and his advisers knew that the economic and political health of Europe and the security and prosperity of America were closely connected.
Faced with high uncertainty and risk, they acted with vision and boldness. The result was a massive package of US assistance that would ultimately total more than $100 billion in today's dollars.
British Foreign Minister Ernest Bevins called the Marshall Plan "a lifeline to sinking men," and it was -- although I expect that some women in Europe were grateful also. (Laughter.)
It was also a shining hour for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which approved the Plan unanimously, on a bipartisan basis -- and in the midst of a heated Presidential campaign.
History records that Harry Truman became President after only 82 days as Vice President. He was thought to know little of foreign policy, and in fact, was much in the dark about important questions of national security. Many saw him at the time as too ordinary a man to inherit Franklin Roosevelt's daunting job.
But in fact, Truman's bedrock character, life experience and political background prepared him well for the momentous decisions he would soon be called upon to make.
When Roosevelt died, Truman was ready -- whether he, himself, knew it or not. In the weeks and years that followed, he amassed an astonishing record:
-- bringing the war in Europe and the Pacific to an end, and then jump-starting recovery in both places;
-- helping to found the United Nations;
-- forging NATO and the OAS;
-- deciding, against the recommendation of his top advisers, to recognize the newborn State of Israel;
-- establishing the Point Four program;
-- assisting Greece and Turkey in their struggle to remain on freedom's side of the Iron Curtain;
-- airlifting supplies to a blockaded Berlin;
-- defending South Korea from Communist aggression;
-- standing up to General McArthur in order to preserve civilian control of the military;
-- and spending the political capital required to desegregate our armed forces.
That is a towering legacy of sound judgment and political courage. And it is why Harry S Truman -- assisted by such giants as Secretaries of State George Marshall and Dean Acheson -- came to be regarded as the greatest foreign policy leader of the greatest generation.
And it explains why Winston Churchill was moved to tell President Truman that "You, more than any other man, have saved Western Civilization."
Harry Truman could never have earned such praise had he not understood one vital principle. And that is that America cannot exert global leadership without resources. In Truman's words, "We must be prepared to pay the price of peace or assuredly we shall pay the price of war."
The challenges we face today are different in kind, but not in scope, from those of Truman's generation. Yet today -- even excluding the peak year of the Marshall Plan -- we spend only one seventh as much of our budget on foreign affairs as we did under President Truman. And we rank dead last among the industrialized nations in the percentage of our wealth that we use to support democracy and growth worldwide.
This fall, some in Congress want to cut these budgets even further. That would be a grave mistake. For it would ignore the hard-learned lesson of Harry Truman's life -- that problems abroad, if left unattended, will all too often come home to America.
The 21st Century is no time for America to retreat. Congress should give this President and the next one the resources required to lead.
Tonight has a very special meaning for me. Harry Truman was my first American President. As many of you know, I wasn't born in the United States, and on November 2nd, 1948, I was in London - actually sitting in a bathtub listening to the returns from the American elections. I was already hooked on foreign policy because my father was a diplomat, but that election hooked me on politics - and Harry Truman hooked me for sure.
Because of his vision and that of his great generation, I have been privileged to live my life in freedom.
President Truman stood, in life, for all the things his name will stand for now, in memory.
He showed the world what a supposedly ordinary man could achieve by holding to the right values.
And now the name of Harry S Truman will forever remind all who enter the Department of State that America must act boldly -- with purpose and principle -- if we are to build a world where the blessings of freedom and prosperity are ever more widely shared.
Thank you very much.
Thank you. And it is now my pleasure to introduce someone who has done a great deal to make this event possible -- the Director of the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum, Larry J. Hackman.
MR. HACKMAN: Madame Secretary and distinguished guests, thanks to Secretary Albright, one of the high points of my tenure as Director of the Truman Library was the very moving ceremony at the Library in March 1998 when the three new members were accessioned into NATO. The documents passed by the three foreign ministers were accepted and signed by Secretary Albright on the same table from the Muehlebach Hotel, known in the Truman years as the Kansas City White House, on which Harry Truman signed legislation in 1947 authorizing aid to Greece and Turkey, thereby bringing the Truman Doctrine to life.
Then, in 1965, President Lyndon Johnson came to beautiful downtown Independence in the Truman Library to sign the Medicare legislation into law on that same table and to present Medicare cards number one and number two to Harry and Bess Truman in recognition of his fair deal proposals for universal health care.
Everyone at the Truman Library, of course, almost every day refers to that table as, "The Truman-Johnson-Albright Major National and International Policies Table." (Laughter.) We're proud of it and we're grateful to you for March 1998 and for tonight.
We and the Truman Library Institute, our non-profit partner, are just finishing a nearly $24 million campaign of federal, state and private funds, most of it private, to support a major renovation and reinvention of the Truman Library. We call what we are creating, "A Classroom for Democracy," because it so closely matches our vision and also Harry Truman's. He used to say that the Truman Library should never be a monument to him; it ought to be a place where people, especially young people, could come to learn about the presidency, about how our government works, and about its relationship to the world.
This classroom includes two world class permanent exhibits, the largest one by far on the Truman presidency, and most of that on the Truman presidency and foreign affairs, with key exhibits on ending World War II, the Truman Doctrine, the Marshall Plan, the creation of NATO, the recognition of Israel, the response in Korea, and other important policies and decisions.
Perhaps most innovative and the fullest embodiment of President Truman's own high hopes for the Library is something we're calling the White House Decision Center at the Truman Library. This is a place where every day, for the full day, 60 high school students come in eight meeting rooms that resemble the West Wing of the White House during the Truman period and in a mock White House press room, and play the roles of the President and the Secretary of State and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and other key officials and advisors as they learn and reconsider making key decisions on what the right policy and the right action is and how to respond in Korea, in Berlin, and how to desegregate the armed services. It's a way to strengthen student skills and information gathering, analysis, decision making, communication and leadership, and while they are learning something also about the Truman Administration and the world.
Harry Truman didn't much like things to be named after him. It was his feeling, he said late in life, "that whatever useful acts may have been performed during my administration were, in fact, the acts of the American people." But how would he feel about this State Department building? If Truman were alive today, he would be 116 years old. I think he would surely be honored to give his name to this building for two reasons.
First, President Truman greatly valued the remarkably close relationships he had with George Marshall and Dean Acheson. The foreign policy of the Truman Administration is largely the product of a partnership built on a foundation of absolute trust and respect between the President and his two great Secretaries of State. I believe Truman would give his name to this building for their sake. He would first try to get them to take the honor instead of him, so it could have been the Marshall-Acheson Building; but when they insisted on deferring to him, as they would have, he would, I think, accede to their wish.
Second, Truman's pride in the legacy of his foreign policy might well overcome his natural modesty. Truman was probably as ill-prepared as any new president in this century to direct the country's foreign policy when he took office on April 12th, 1945. And the challenges he faced in the world were as great as those faced by any president since Lincoln. But with assistance - the assistance and the loyal support of Marshall, Acheson and other advisors - he put in place policies, programs and institutions that achieved remarkable success and durability.
In his farewell address, given January 15th, 1953, President Truman made a prediction regarding the outcome he believed his foreign policy would help bring about. "As the free world grows stronger," he said, "more united, more attractive to men on both sides of the Iron Curtain, and as the Soviet hopes for easy expansion are blocked, then there will have to come a time of change in the Soviet world. Nobody can say for sure when that's going to be, or exactly how it will come about, whether by revolution or trouble in the satellite states or by a change inside the Kremlin; whether the Communist rulers shift their policies of their own free will or whether the change comes about in some other way, I have no doubt in the world that a change will occur."
How could Truman not be proud if he were alive today and would look back from the year 2000 of what the long-term impact of what he and his colleagues put in place?
Now, having said those things about Harry Truman and having imagined him alive and with us in his 116th year, I have to let him say one thing on politics during this political season. (Laughter.) Not too long after he left the presidency, he said something about political polls. "I wonder how far Moses would have gone if he had taken a poll in Egypt." (Laughter.) "What would Jesus Christ have preached if he had taken a poll in Israel? Where would the reformation have gone if Martin Luther had taken a poll? It isn't polls or public opinion of the moment that counts; it's right and wrong and leadership, men with fortitude, honesty, and a belief in the right that makes epics in the history of the world. Enough said."
I hope you enjoy the souvenir items we have for you from the Truman Library as you depart this evening. Visit us any time on our web page at Trumanlibrary.org. Students and teachers and scholars and ordinary citizens all over the world already do so. Come see the new Truman Library when we reopen next spring. This is the only time you will ever hear me say, "Don't come to the Truman Library. Wait till the spring."
And now it is my pleasure to introduce to you Donald Dawson. Donald Dawson was a very valued, close member of President Truman's staff during his Administration. He is a former president of the Truman Library Institute for National and International Affairs, and he played a key role, along with former Ambassador Phil Kaiser, who is also here with us this evening, in advocating the legislation that led to the renaming of the State Department that we're about this evening.
Please welcome Donald Dawson, and thank you very much.
GENERAL DAWSON: Thank you, Larry, for those kind words. Madame Secretary, distinguished guests, old friends and new friends, it's wonderful to be here tonight and to recall old friendship and memories that go back a half century, and to see the rewards that have come through the years because of those friendships.
I would like to thank Congressman Ike Skelton of Missouri and the Missouri delegations of the House and Senate for their support of the action we are celebrating tonight. And for Secretary Albright for making this historic event possible.
I would like to acknowledge two very warm friends that I have worked with through the years, the first being George Elsey, who was on the staff of President Roosevelt, joined with President Truman's staff, and became Administrative Assistant. He and his lovely wife are here tonight.
And I want to acknowledge the assistance and help that Phil Kaiser, who was one of the first appointees that I managed when I went to the White House to work for President Truman, and who became later, after being Assistant Secretary of Labor, Ambassador to Austria, and served Averell Harriman, the Governor of New York for many years. He is here tonight with his lovely wife. And I give them our hearty thanks because they have served our country and us above and beyond the call of duty.
The State Department, in reality, presents the face of America, the United States of America, to the world. And it is altogether fitting and proper that this Department should be named after Harry Truman.
I would like to recall a memory or two, when I went to work for President Truman. One of the first papers that I had to present to him required his signature, and I went behind his desk and placed the papers before him in the Oval room, on the desk, standing at his left shoulder. And I said, "Now, Mr. President, if you do it this way, you will get that advantage; and if you will do it this way, you will get this advantage."
As I prattled along, as any brash young fellow would do, he finally looked up at me, and he said, "Don, what is best for the country?" And it was on that basis that I found he made all of his decisions as President: what is best for the country.
It is not a great secret that President Truman wasn't the most popular President during his time in office. In fact, he was often criticized. And that is no news to most of us. On one occasion, after listening to a text of what was called "Trumanism", he took to the diary and wrote a famous line, which I would like to read to you tonight. And I quote, "Let us define Trumanism. We have built up our armed forces; we have prevented Tito from taking Trieste; we forced Stalin out of Iran; we saved Greece and Turkey; we stayed in Berlin; we knocked the socks off the Communists in Korea; we gave the Philippines free government; and we gave Puerto Rico home rule. Is that Trumanism? If it is, I confess I am proud to have my name a part of it."
And in my career, I have found it a matter of great pride to me, as I go along the road, to have my name associated with the name of that great man, Harry Truman.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: And I think, General, we will all be very proud to say that we work in the Truman Building.
I now have the pleasure of introducing tonight's keynote speaker. Michael Beschloss is an award-winning historian of the presidency and the author of six critically acclaimed books so far; and that is, he is still quite young. He has written brilliantly about Kennedy and Khrushchev and Eisenhower and the U-2, Johnson and the White House tapes, arms control and the end of the Cold War. His current projects include a history of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. He is a product of Andover, Williams, Harvard and Oxford pedigree - pedigree. Very good. (Laughter.)
I might say that my first meeting with Michael was when he came, and I was sitting in an office at CSIS, and he said, "I want to be a diplomatic historian." And I thought, how does somebody just decide to be a diplomatic historian? Well, he has certainly done what he set out to do.
He is also, if I may just add, one of the most appealing talking heads to appear regularly on my television screen.
Ladies and gentlemen, a man who Newsweek Magazine has called the nation's leading presidential historian, our very good friend, Michael Beschloss.
MR. BESCHLOSS: Well, Madame Secretary, all I can say in reply to that is, when Hollywood makes the motion picture, "The Madeleine Albright Story" - and I am sure they will - my nomination for the title role will be Gwyneth Paltrow. (Laughter.)
I think it couldn't be more appropriate that Madeleine Albright be the Secretary of State to preside over the renaming of this building for the 33rd President. As she mentioned, it was eight days after Election Day 1948 that Harry Truman surprised everyone and beat Thomas Dewey. That was the time an 11-year-old refugee from Czechoslovakia arrived with her family by ship at Ellis Island.
Even then, Madeleine Albright was a Democrat. And she was a Democrat because even before she came here, she admired the resolute stand that Harry Truman took toward the Soviet Union. And I think it is fair to say that in the years that followed, there has been no more acute student or practitioner of Harry Truman's style of diplomacy and statecraft than Madeleine Albright as a worthy successor to George Marshall and Dean Acheson.
And I think if President Truman came back tonight, he would not only be pleased to see Madeleine Albright as Secretary of State; he might even regret that foreign-born Americans could not run for President.
And I am absolutely certain that, as a champion of equal opportunity, Harry Truman would be absolutely thrilled by how little Madeleine Albright resembles Dean Acheson. (Laughter.)
As many of you know from having known President Truman, when he spoke or wrote a letter, he usually had that habit of saying exactly what was on his mind. And when I was thinking about what I might say tonight, I began looking through the Truman private papers to get a little bit of a window on Harry Truman's private inner views about the State Department itself. Here is what I found.
In 1952, Truman wrote a letter to a friend in Kansas. He said, "The State Department is a peculiar institution. It is made up principally of extremely bright people who made tremendous college marks, but who really have very little association with actual people down on the ground." (Laughter.) He went on, "The people in the State Department are clannish and snooty, and sometimes I feel like firing the whole bunch." (Laughter.) "But it requires a tremendous amount of education to accomplish the purposes for which the State Department is set up." He went on, "And in many key places, I have men of common sense. But still, at the lower levels, we still have those career men who have been taken out of the colleges without any experience with the common people."
Truman goes on to say, "I'll give you just one particular instance to show how the situation works. Alben Barkley, when he was a United States Senator, was in Egypt with a bunch of congressmen and senators at a meeting. They were escorted by the charge d'affaires in Cairo. This man wore a check suit, carried a cane, wore a cap and talked with an Oxford accent. Barkley kept looking at him and wondering if the gentleman could have been reared in Egypt." (Laughter.) "Finally, Barkley asked him what his antecedents were; the man said he was a native of Topeka, Kansas." (Laughter.) Truman finished the letter by saying, "If that man dared go back to Topeka wearing that check suit, the cap and carrying a cane, he would have lasted about ten minutes." (Laughter.)
That was Harry Truman in 1952. Forty-eight years later, of course, he would be delighted to see the diversity in this building, and in the American missions around the world. Like almost every other President, Truman occasionally felt annoyed that some employee of the State Department seemed to be foiling his purposes. And in one such moment of irritation, he told a friend that he understand why Franklin Roosevelt never trusted the State Department. Nonetheless, unlike FDR, Truman refused to circumvent the Department with White House aides or ad hoc special envoys.
In 1945, some of the people here complained that the problem was that the man Truman first appointed as Secretary, James Byrnes, traveled too much. There was one wag in this building who joked by saying, "The State Department fiddles while Byrnes roams." (Laughter.) That man may still be here today. (Laughter.)
But you have to also remember that when this Department was attacked from the outside, no one was quicker to defend it than Harry Truman. In 1950, Senator Joe McArthy wired the President with a reckless charge he had made in public that the State Department was filled with Communists and Communist sympathizers, and that he had their names in his hand. Here is Truman's reply. He wrote, "My Dear Senator, this is the first time that I ever heard of a Senator trying to discredit his own government in front of the world. You know that isn't done by honest public officials. Your telegram shows that you're not fit to have a hand in the operation of the Government of the United States. I am very sure that the people of Wisconsin are extremely sorry that they are represented by a person who has as little sense of responsibility as you."
(Laughter and Applause.)
You see why we historians like to write about Harry Truman. (Laughter.) He writes the books himself. (Laughter.)
Above all of this, there are a lot of other reasons why it is so fitting for this building to be named for Harry Truman. Construction on the older part of the building, at 22nd and C Street, was started in 1939, and that was when Truman was a first-term Missouri Senator. That was at the moment that he was fighting with many of his own constituents and risking his own reelection to make sure that this country was prepared if it had to go to war against Hitler and the Imperial Japanese.
As many of you know, that building was designed not to house the State Department, but the War Department. And it tells you almost everything about the isolationist Congress of the mid-'30s. They thought the American military would and should remain so modest that its headquarters would fit into such a relatively small building.
Then, in 1941, came Pearl Harbor. Knowing what it would take to fight World War II, Congress authorized rapid construction of a new War Department building, the Pentagon, the largest building the world had ever seen.
Franklin Roosevelt always hoped that the post-War American military would be so small that, after VJ Day, it could move out of the Pentagon and come back to 22nd and 2nd Street. But after he became President, Harry Truman knew otherwise. In 1947, as the Cold War began, he ordered the last remnants of the War Department to leave that building and go to the Pentagon. And he told the State Department to move in, led by one of his heroes, the Secretary of State, George C. Marshall.
I would bet that Truman probably liked a lot of the architecture of that 1939 building, the old part of this complex, especially the murals that are very much the Thomas Hart Benton mural he commissioned for the Truman Library in Independence. You'll notice that there is one mural called, "America the Mighty," in the East Lobby of that part of the building, and another on the American Revolution in the lobby on the fifth floor.
Alas, I am not quite so sure that Truman would have loved the architecture of this building - this part of the building that we are all in tonight. As many of you know, Truman was not wild about contemporary art or architecture. One day, in 1948, he went to the National Gallery to see some paintings by old masters, and wrote in his diary, "It is a pleasure to look at perfection and then think of the lazy, nutty moderns. It's like comparing Christ with Lenin." (Laughter.)
In 1953 -- he was in the habit of writing these things - in 1953, Harry Truman read an article in The New Republic on modern art and architecture, and afterwards wrote in his diary, "I felt as if I had read a third-level State Department monograph on the Cold War." (Laughter.) He went on to say, "I dislike Picasso and all the moderns. Any kid can take an egg and a piece of ham and make more understandable pictures."
Several years later, he wrote in his diary, "I saw a bronze monstrosity in one of the London art galleries and asked the director if it was meant to be a vicious-looking bug. The director turned pale and told me it was actually a modernist conception of love at first sight. I fainted." (Laughter.)
You can imagine what Truman might have said about this building, as it looked when it was finished in 1960, but what he would have loved were the renovations in the classical manner that have made this room, and so many other rooms in this building, look the way they do tonight.
Whatever Truman might have thought of the architecture, there is a much more profound reason why his name belongs on this building. And that is, a thousand years from now, when Americans remember Harry Truman - and I think they will - they will remember him above all for making the decisions that led to the final defeat of the two great global dangers of the 20th century: fascism and Soviet communism.
It is hard to think of a more American story; it is almost like a fable. From the middle of America, a farmer's son - a farmer's descendant - with no college education, but an insatiable appetite for history, goes off to fight in World War I; fails in business; goes into politics and serves in the Senate. Then, unknown to most Americans, he is anointed by Franklin Roosevelt as Vice President. Eighty-two days later, the moon and the stars fall on him, and he has to make some of the most fateful decisions that have ever descended on a single human being. And with tear-stained cheeks, Americans are wondering whether this so-called local politician from Missouri is up to the job.
You know, these days we often hear this word used, "gravitas." Harry Truman had it in his genetic code. In his diary, he once wrote of his astonishment to be holding what he called the greatest office in the history of the world. Truman said, "Not one of the great Oriental potentates, Roman emperors, French kings, Napoleon, Victoria, Tamerlang, the mogul emperors, had half the terrifying power and influence that the President of the United States now has." He wrote, "It's a terrifying responsibility, but the responsibility has to be met and the decisions made, right or wrong." He said, "I make them as they come, always prayerfully, always hopefully."
And so Truman made those terrifying decisions one after another. He ordered to drop the atomic bomb; aid to Greece and Turkey; the Truman Doctrine; the Marshall Plan; the establishment of Israel, NATO, the Berlin airlift; Korea. Think how high the stakes were. Think what our lives might be like today if Harry Truman were any less the leader he was in his instincts, judgments, his political skills, and his willingness to jeopardize his political career, if necessary, if it meant serving higher purposes. Truman famously told the American people, "I'd rather have a lasting peace than be President of the United States." He really meant it.
And I think it is not too much to say that the world we are living in tonight is the world that Harry Truman made. He was the man who completed the job of winning absolute victory over the Nazis and the Imperial Japanese. And more than that, in the late 1940s, Harry Truman was the man who wrote the strategy that allowed nine Presidents of the United States to contain the Soviet threat, and then, in 1991, finally to win the Cold War.
Remember those scenes we saw just a decade ago, of the Berlin Wall being knocked down; the captive peoples of Eastern Europe rushing toward freedom; the statues of Lenin being knocked down all over what we now call the former Soviet Union. A few of you will remember that on VE Day 1945, Harry Truman said, "I'm only sorry that Franklin Roosevelt did not live to witness this day."
And tonight, I'm only sorry that Harry Truman didn't live to witness the end of the Cold War and the happy years that followed, years of American world leadership, and the greatest prosperity we have ever known. With Harry Truman's contagious optimism, that was the world he dreamt of for the year 2000. And with great thanks to him, we are all living his dream tonight.
As one or two of you in this room may have noticed, this is a presidential campaign year. And you may, at times, hear some people say, it really doesn't matter who is President, because the country can run itself. Let me leave you with one thought. In 1944, Franklin Roosevelt's Vice President was a gentleman called Henry Wallace. Wallace was a fine man in many ways, but like some Americans, he failed to appreciate the global danger after the war of Joseph Stalin and Soviet communism.
Had Franklin Roosevelt died ten months earlier, Henry Wallace would have become President. He might well have been nominated and elected that year by a party and a country unwilling to change leaders during global war. And had all that happened - and it might have - it would have been Henry Wallace, not Harry Truman, who would have had to answer that question: Should American, exhausted from four years of World War, now stand up in the late 1940s, to resist a spreading Soviet danger?
Wallace's answer would have been: No, the Soviets are our friends. So, had a President Wallace, instead of a President Truman, been making the decisions in the White House in the late 1940s, there is a very good possibility tonight that we might be living in a country whose freedoms had been surrendered to a foreign power, or perhaps, no country at all.
I think the lesson of Harry Truman ultimately is that the forces of history are always rushing forward but, at the most critical moments, they turn on that mysterious alchemy that we all call leadership.
Someone told Harry Truman - I think it was in 1948 - that God had placed him in his mother's womb to preside over the establishment of Israel. And that may well have been true, but I think you can expand it and say--with a half-century of hindsight-- you almost wonder whether God also placed Harry Truman in his mother's womb to save the world for freedom.
Harry Truman's favorite Secretary of State, Dean Acheson, who is also honored in this building, called his boss, "The Captain with a Mighty Heart." That he was. And from tomorrow onward, the Harry S Truman Building will be a living reminder to the people of the United States - and people around the world - what this good man meant, and what this good man did. And at a moment at which it was never more vital, we were all very lucky to have him.
Thank you all very much.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Michael, thank you very, very much for what is your typical blend of wonderful stories and deep insight, and for adding to this very special evening.
We have had a lot of fun, and we have had some very serious moments. And for me, what has come out of this evening is what a great honor it is for all of us who work at the State Department Harry S Truman Building to represent the United States. And for all of you that had the honor of working for Harry Truman, you know how we feel.
I would also again like to thank the Missouri delegation for giving us this name for this building, and Missouri for giving us Harry Truman. Thank you all very, very much.
Now you have had an awful lot to eat tonight, so please drive carefully on your way home.
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