Truman announces Point Four program - HISTORY
Year
1949

Truman announces Point Four program

In his inaugural address, President Harry S. Truman calls for a “bold new program for making the benefits of our scientific advances and industrial progress available for the improvement and growth of underdeveloped nations.”

The resulting Point Four program (so-called because it was the fourth point in Truman’s speech) resulted in millions of dollars in scientific and technical assistance–as well as hundreds of U.S. experts–sent to Latin American, Asian, Middle Eastern, and African nations.

Though Truman did not mention communism or the Soviet Union during his discussion of Point Four, it was clear that the program was part of a foreign policy designed to contain the Soviet threat. As the president noted, over “half of the people of the world are living in conditions approaching misery.” While the “material resources” that the United States might offer to these nations was limited, its technical superiority was “constantly growing” and was “inexhaustible.” Truman believed that this technical expertise could be used to foster economic development and opportunities for capital investment in the Third World. Such action would also benefit the United States, since past experience demonstrated that “our commerce with other countries expands as they progress industrially and economically.” “Democracy alone,” Truman announced, “can supply the vitalizing force to stir the peoples of the world into triumphant action.”

The program drew some criticism in the United States and abroad. In America, some U.S. businessmen and agricultural producers were wary that programs aimed to help other countries with the production of goods and crops might be at odds with their own interests. The Senate, reflecting many of these concerns, passed the program by the margin of only one vote in May 1950. Abroad, suspicions arose that Point Four was merely another form of economic imperialism designed to force Third World nations to increase their natural resource production for the benefit of Western industries. Despite these concerns, America’s technical assistance initiatives to other countries continued throughout the duration of the Cold War, though they came to operate under a variety of different program and agency names.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Donald Trump is inaugurated

In the culmination of his extraordinary rise to power over a tumultuous election year, Donald John Trump is inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States in Washington, D.C.From the time he kicked off his presidential campaign in June 2015 at his namesake Trump Tower in ...read more

Barack Obama is inaugurated

On a freezing day in Washington, D.C., Barack Hussein Obama is sworn in as the 44th U.S. president. The son of a black father from Kenya and a white mother from Kansas, Obama had become the first African American to win election to the nation’s highest office the previous ...read more

FDR inaugurated to fourth term

On January 20, 1945, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the only president to be elected to three terms in office, is inaugurated to his fourth term.At the height of the Great Depression, Roosevelt, then governor of New York, was elected the 32nd president of the United States. In his ...read more

Terry Waite disappears

On this day, British negotiator Terry Waite disappears while attempting to win freedom for Western hostages held in Lebanon. Waite, special envoy of the archbishop of Canterbury, secured the release of missionaries detained in Iran after the Islamic revolution. He also extracted ...read more

John F. Kennedy inaugurated

On January 20, 1961, on the newly renovated east front of the United States Capitol, John Fitzgerald Kennedy is inaugurated as the 35th president of the United States. It was a cold and clear day, and the nation’s capital was covered with a snowfall from the previous night. The ...read more

Hong Kong ceded to the British

During the First Opium War, China cedes the island of Hong Kong to the British with the signing of the Chuenpi Convention, an agreement seeking an end to the first Anglo-Chinese conflict.In 1839, Britain invaded China to crush opposition to its interference in the country’s ...read more

Arafat elected leader of Palestine

Yasser Arafat is elected president of the Palestinian National Council with 88.1 percent of the popular vote, becoming the first democratically elected leader of the Palestinian people in history.Arafat, the founder of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), originally ...read more

Iran Hostage Crisis ends

Minutes after Ronald Reagan’s inauguration as the 40th president of the United States, the 52 U.S. captives held at the U.S. embassy in Teheran, Iran, are released, ending the 444-day Iran Hostage Crisis.On November 4, 1979, the crisis began when militant Iranian students, ...read more

The Wannsee Conference

On this day, Nazi officials meet to discuss the details of the “Final Solution” of the “Jewish question.”In July 1941, Herman Goering, writing under instructions from Hitler, had ordered Reinhard Heydrich, SS general and Heinrich Himmler’s number-two man, to submit “as soon as ...read more

Richard Nixon takes office

Richard Nixon is inaugurated as president of the United States and says, “After a period of confrontation [in Vietnam], we are entering an era of negotiation.” Eight years after losing to John F. Kennedy in the 1960 election, Nixon had defeated Hubert H. Humphrey for the ...read more

New communist offensive anticipated

In continued efforts to disrupt an anticipated communist offensive, a contingent of more than 10,000 South Vietnamese troops begin a sweep 45 miles northwest of Saigon to find and destroy enemy forces. There was much speculation that the North Vietnamese would launch such an ...read more

Ronald Reagan becomes president

Ronald Reagan, former Western movie actor and host of television’s popular “Death Valley Days” is sworn in as the 40th president of the United States.More than any president since the Texas-born Lyndon Johnson, Ronald Reagan’s public image was closely tied to the American West, ...read more

Robert Frost reads at JFK’s inauguration

On this day, 87-year-old Robert Frost recited his poem “The Gift Outright” at the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy. Although Frost had written a new poem for the occasion, titled “Dedication,” faint ink in his typewriter made the words difficult to read, so he recited ...read more