“...embarking on a new course of full participation in international affairs, full cooperation in the solution of the problems of peace.”.
The United States had a historic reluctance to become involved in foreign affairs and conflicts. As early as 1797, Washington himself had warned against entangling alliances, and this feeling developed into a philosophy of isolationism that led to a high degree of disengagement from the world stage. The U.S. did become involved...
The United States had a historic reluctance to become involved in foreign affairs and conflicts. As early as 1797, Washington himself had warned against entangling alliances, and this feeling developed into a philosophy of isolationism that led to a high degree of disengagement from the world stage. The U.S. did become involved in World War I, though not without a great deal of domestic opposition. This resurfaced in strength after the war when America refused to participate in the League of Nations and elected Harding president. However, the rise of the dictators in the 1930’s, the fighting of World War II which the U.S. could simply not avoid, and its rise to dominance in that war, caused many Americans to see past isolationism and conclude that the U.S. had an inevitable role to play in the world and must act accordingly.
President Truman was one of these. In June 1945, just two months after assuming the presidency, he witnessed the signing of the charter of the United Nations. He supported this body and believed it could be instrumental in maintaining peace in the world. In foreign policy, Truman envisioned the United States as a world leader with the mis-
sion of rebuilding Europe and spreading democratic political institutions and economic prosperity. He realized, however, that unless the American people were educated to this new role and accepted it, his efforts to broaden U.S. influence, power, and international participation would be in vain.
Maj. Genl. Frank Ross McCoy started his career fighting besides Teddy Roosevelt’s men on San Juan Hill, commanded a brigade in World War I, then went on to a distinguished career in foreign affairs. In 1945 he was appointed by President Truman chairman of the Far Eastern Commission, the international organization which negotiated terms of the military occupation of Japan. McCoy was also president of the Foreign Policy Association, an organization dedicated to inspiring Americans to learn more about the world. An invitation from McCoy gave Truman the opportunity to respond with this cogent, forceful call for the re-orientation of the American public’s attitudes in recognition of the U.S.’s new international role.
Typed Letter Signed as President on White House letterhead, Washington, October 13, 1945, to McCoy. "…The fine work your organization has been doing has my complete support. There is, in my opinion, no more urgent task before us at this time than the building of an informed public opinion on the problems of foreign policy. Without a firm foundation of public understanding the United States cannot fulfill its responsibilities or exercise the leadership which our positions as a great democracy demands of us. We are aware, and we shall become increasingly aware, that the road we have taken is hard. The way of cooperation is laborious, and often discouraging. It will demand of us all great patience, and more than that, a much clearer understanding than we have ever had of the problems of other peoples. Unless we exercise this patience and attain this understanding, there will be widespread disillusionment and loss of faith in the possibility of an expanding international collaboration. Such a development would jeopardize the future security and well-being of the American people. Therefore I urge the Foreign Policy Association and other public spirited citizen groups to redouble their efforts at public education in the field of international relations. Your government welcomes this cooperation, and will do its utmost to make available the facts and interpretation of policy on which an intelligent public opinion must be based."
Truman had the vision to realize that the future would entail the U.S. moving into a leadership position in the world, and here makes a number of important, related points. He states that the U.S. has a responsibility to take the leadership role and the times demand it, that international cooperation is critical to the maintenance of peace, that the American people will have to be educated to their new role, and that America’s failure to accept it would jeopardize national security. He then pledges to provide to the public the information it will need to make informed decisions. The American people did, in fact, make the transition Truman outlined here, in no small part due to his efforts. From the Forbes Collection.
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