Year
1952

Truman warns of Cold War dangers

In his 1952 State of the Union address, President Harry S. Truman warns Americans that they are “moving through a perilous time,” and calls for vigorous action to meet the communist threat.

Though Truman’s popularity had nose-dived during the previous 18 months because of complaints about the way that he handled the Korean War, his speech received a standing ovation from congressmen and special guest Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

Truman spent much of his speech addressing foreign policy concerns. The primary focus was on meeting the communist challenge. The president declared that the United States was confronted with “a terrible threat of aggression.” He also pointed with pride to U.S. action in meeting that threat. In Korea, combined U.S. and United Nations forces “turned back the Chinese Communist invasion;” elsewhere in Asia, U.S. assistance to its allies was helping to “hold back the Communist advance;” and in Europe and the Middle East, the fight against Soviet expansion was also ongoing.

Truman was particularly proud of the Point Four program, which provided U.S. scientific and technical assistance (such as in the field of agriculture) to the underdeveloped world, claiming that it helped “feed the whole world so we would not have to stomach communism.” There could be no slacking of effort, however, since the Soviet Union was “increasing its armed might,” and with the Soviet acquisition of atomic bomb technology, the world was still walking “in the shadow of another world war.”

Truman’s speech was a stirring rebuttal to domestic critics like Senator Joseph McCarthy, who attacked Truman’s “softness” on communism. Perhaps such criticism contributed to Truman’s decision not to run for re-election. Adlai Stevenson ran as the Democratic candidate, but he lost the election to Dwight Eisenhower.

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