The Revoluntionary College Project
Harry S Truman

ABOVE - College President Gilbert Mead walks down the steps of William Smith Hall with President Harry S. Truman. The Chestertown Volunteer Fire Company Band played patriotic music as degrees were awarded to twenty-four seniors.  Although not scheduled to speak, a relaxed and sometimes nostalgic Truman addressed the crowd of 3000 before returning to the White House by auto.

Red SwirlHarry S. Truman, 1946 

President Truman’s Remarks at Washington College on Receiving an Honorary Doctor of Laws Degree - June 1, 1946

Dr. Mead, Colonel Brown, Governor O’Conor, distinguished Senators, Congressman Roe, ladies and gentlemen, and this wonderful bevy of graduates, young men and young women, here before me, it is a very great honor to me to be here today.

I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it.  The honor that is given to me today by this venerable institution, and it is a venerable institution according to our standards in this Western Hemisphere, is one that I’ll treasure all the rest of my life.

This college has a wonderful background and history. I listened to President Mead a while ago as he discussed that background and history. One of the things I like about this college is that it is a small college in a rural setting.

I was born in a small town. I was raised in a small town. Don’t quote me on that in Independence. I spent the best 10 years of my life operating a 540-acre farm in Jackson County, Mo., and that farm is still home to me.

This is a wonderful institution on account of its connection with the first President of the United States. It was a privilege the other night to be present at the graduation of my daughter, at another Washington University in which George Washington was interested, an in which he had some measure of helping the founding. In fact, he directed that the institution be founded in his will.  I understand that he was a trustee of this great institution when he was made President of the United States. A great honor.

My great predecessor, who I succeeded at his death, was also an honorary graduate of this great institution, and he liked small colleges and small communities and rural communities.  He always called himself a farmer. Although he was graduated from Harvard and Columbia in a community that is very large in population, I think his heart ran to the soil.  I know that mine does.

I think this country is great on account of its small educational institutions, more than anything else. You know James A. Garfield said that his idea of a college was a bench in a log house with himself on one end and Mark Hopkins on the other, and his idea on that was that Mark Hopkins was famous as an educator because he was an individual educator.

In institutions such as this the teachers and the professors can give individual attention to each member of each class. As you were receiving your diplomas, I listened to Dr. Mead and he had a very special salutation for each and every one of you.

Now I would like for the president of Harvard, of Yale, of Columbia or Princeton to have that individual touch that your president had here today. That is what young men and young women need when they are getting an education. They want someone whom they can trust, and they want someone in whom they can have confidence, to whom they can take their problems and have them solved.

This looks to me as if it is a wonderful class. When the roll was called, I thought I was in Jackson County, Mo. The names are exactly the same.

This is true all over the United States in these small educational institutions.

You know the reason for that.  Every one of those small institutions gives some two or three men a chance to be “big shots” in their communities.  When you go to the National City Bank or the United States Steel Corporation or the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, you will find one “big shot” and a hundred or so vice presidents, vice presidents, vice presidents. So many vice presidents you can’t tell how the institution’s run.

I believe that an institution such as this will contribute more in the long run to the welfare of this great nation of ours than any other thing that is this country at this time.

You know I am an optimist so far as the United States of American is concerned. I think it is the greatest country that the sun has ever shone upon, and I think it is facing the greatest age in its history. And I think that is due to the fact that the country is going to be in the hands of you young people who are going to carry on the tradition of the great man who was a trustee when he became President of the United States, the man who helped to institute the greatest government in the history of the world, a government, as I have said time and again, which has a diffusion of powers and which prevents any one man or any one group of men from gaining absolute control. Sometimes they think they have control, but it has never tuned out that way, and it never will.

Now, I can’t tell you how very much I appreciate the honor which you have conferred upon me. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it, but from the bottom of my heart I thank you. 

 


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