Presidents Hoover and Truman On 'This I Believe'

Herbert Hoover and Harry Truman i i

Former presidents Herbert Hoover (left) and Harry Truman, pictured above in 1947, both wrote "This I Believe" essays. Time Life Pics/Getty Images/Thomas D. Mcavoy hide caption

itoggle caption Time Life Pics/Getty Images/Thomas D. Mcavoy
Herbert Hoover and Harry Truman

Herbert Hoover and Harry Truman pictured in 1947 with members of the food conference meeting.

Time Life Pics/Getty Images/Thomas D. Mcavoy

Questions Or Comments?

Fifty years ago, millions of Americans sat by their radios and listened to the original This I Believe series. For five minutes each day, they heard from statesmen and secretaries, teachers and cab drivers — all of whom spoke about their most deeply held beliefs.

Former presidents Herbert Hoover and Harry Truman both participated in the 1950s series.

Hoover's belief blended his scientific background with his religious faith.

Truman spoke of ending racial and religious discrimination.

The Roots Of Our Progress

Herbert Hoover i i

Herbert Hoover was the 31st president of the United States, serving from 1929 to 1933. Born in Iowa, Hoover was a mining engineer, coordinated food relief in Europe during World War I, and was secretary of Commerce under Presidents Harding and Coolidge. Hulton Archive/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Herbert Hoover

Herbert Hoover was the 31st president of the United States, serving from 1929 to 1933. Born in Iowa, Hoover was a mining engineer, coordinated food relief in Europe during World War I, and was secretary of Commerce under Presidents Harding and Coolidge.

Hulton Archive/Getty Images

My professional training was in science and engineering. That is a training in the search for truth and its application to the use of mankind. With the growth of science, we have a continuous contention from a tribe of atheistic and agnostic philosophers that there is an implacable conflict between science and religion, in which religion will be vanquished. I do not believe it.

I believe not only that religious faith will be victorious, but that it is vital to mankind that it shall be. We may differ in form and particulars in our religious faith. Those are matters which are sacred to each of our inner sanctuaries, but it is our privilege to decline to argue about it. The real demonstration is the lives that we live.

But there is one foundation common to all religious faith. Our discoveries in science have proved that all the way from the galaxies in the heavens to the constitution of the atom, the universe is controlled by inflexible law. Somewhere a supreme power created these laws. At some period, man was differentiated from the beast, and was endowed with a spirit from which springs conscience, idealism and spiritual yearnings. It is impossible to believe that there is not here a divine touch and a purpose from the creator of the universe. I believe we can express these things only in religious faith.

From their religious faith, the Founding Fathers enunciated the most fundamental law of human progress since the Sermon on the Mount, when they stated that man received from the creator certain inalienable rights, and that these rights should be protected from encroachment of others by law and justice.

The agnostic and atheistic philosophers have sought to declaim progress in terms of materialism alone. But from whence came the morals, the spiritual yearnings, the faith, the aspirations to justice and freedom of mind, which has been the roots of our progress? Always growing societies record their faith in God. Decaying societies lack faith and deny God. But America is not a decaying society. It remains strong. Its faith is in compassion and in God's intelligent mercy.

The Ethics Of A Public Man

Harry Truman pictured in August 1945. i i

Harry Truman was the 33rd president of the United States, serving from 1945 to 1953. Born in Missouri, Truman was a farmer, businessman, World War I veteran and U.S. senator. As president, his order to drop atomic bombs on Japan helped end World War II. Fox Photos/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Fox Photos/Getty Images
Harry Truman pictured in August 1945.

Harry Truman was the 33rd president of the United States, serving from 1945 to 1953. Born in Missouri, Truman was a farmer, businessman, World War I veteran and U.S. senator. As president, his order to drop atomic bombs on Japan helped end World War II.

Fox Photos/Getty Images

I believe in a moral code based on the Ten Commandments found in the 20th chapter of Exodus, and on the fifth, sixth and seventh chapters of the Gospel according to St. Matthew, which is the Sermon on the Mount. I believe that a man ought to live by those precepts, and, if followed, it will enable a man to do right. I don't know whether I have followed these precepts or not, but I have tried.

I believe that the fundamental basis for a happy life with family and friends is to treat others as you would like to be treated, speak truthfully, act honorably and keep commitments to the letter.

In public life I have always believed that right will prevail. It has been my policy to obtain the facts — all the facts possible — then to make the decision in the public interest and to carry it out. If the facts justify the decision at the time it is made, it will always be right. A public man should not worry constantly about the verdict of history or what future generations will say about him. He must live in the present, make his decisions for the right on the facts as he sees them and history will take care of itself.

I believe a public man must know the history and the background of his state and his nation to enable him to come more nearly to a proper decision in the public interest. In my opinion, a man in public life must think always of the public welfare. He must be careful not to mix his private and personal interests with his public actions. The ethics of a public man must be unimpeachable. He must learn to reject unwise or imprudent requests from friends and associates without losing their friendship or loyalty.

I believe that our Bill of Rights must be implemented in fact; that it is the duty of every government — state, local or federal — to preserve the rights of the individual. I believe that a civil rights program, as we must practice it today, involves not so much the protection of the people against the government, but the protection of the people by the government. And for this reason we must make the federal government a friendly, vigilant defender of the rights and equalities of all Americans; and that every man should be free to live his life as he wishes. He should be limited only by his responsibility to his fellow man.

I believe that we should remove the last barriers which stand between millions of our people and their birthright. There can be no justifiable reason for discrimination because of ancestry, or religion, or race or color.

I believe that to inspire the people of the world whose freedom is in jeopardy and to restore hope to those who have already lost their civil liberties, we must correct the remaining imperfections in our own democracy.

We know the way. We only need the will.

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