"WAR HAS CHANGED ITS SHAPE AND ITS DIMENSIONS"
TRUMAN, Harry S. Advance Press Transcript of Truman's Final State of the Union Address, Signed. [Washington, DC]: January 7, 1953. Eight leaves, mimeographed typescript on versos and rectos for 16 pages. Legal folio (8 by 14 inches), stapled upper left.
Advance press transcript of Truman's final State of the Union Address, signed by him, a stirring summation of the challenges and accomplishments of his years in office, and a call to unite behind the efforts of President-Elect Eisenhower. This is a mimeographed advance transcript of the speech, marked "Confidential" at the top, issued in very small numbers for the use of the press—most copies would have been discarded after use.
"I took the oath of office on April 12, 1945. In May of that same year, the Nazis surrendered. Then, in July, that great white flash of light, man-made at Alamogordo, heralded swift and final victory in World War II—and opened the doorway to the atomic age." By the time he delivered this, Truman was a lame-duck President with popularity ratings which had never recovered from his firing of Gen. Douglas MacArthur. Truman had decided early in 1952 not to seek reelection, both because of his poll numbers and his opposition in principle to third terms. He had actively courted Eisenhower, who as a military man had remained apolitical all his career, to run as a Democratic candidate. It was only when Eisenhower decided to run as a Republican that Truman supported Adlai Stevenson. He was thus wholehearted in his endorsement, although it meant the end of 20 years of domination of the government by the Democrats.
This speech marks the historic first public announcement by Truman of the successful development and detonation of the hydrogen bomb. The Communist threat and the possibility of a nuclear war were major concerns for Truman, as he makes clear near the end of his speech: "The war of the future would be one in which man could extinguish millions of lives in one blow, demolish the great cities of the world, wipe out the cultural achievements of the past—and destroy the very structure of a civilization that has been slowly and painfully built up through hundreds of generations. Such a war is not a possible policy for rational men. We know this, but we dare not assume that others would not yield to the temptation science is now placing in their hands. With that in mind, there is something I would say, to Stalin: You claim belief in Lenin's prophecy that one stage in the development of communist society would be war between your world and ours. But Lenin was a pre-atomic man, who viewed society and history with pre-atomic eyes. Something profound has happened since he wrote. War has changed its shape and its dimension. It cannot now be a 'stage' in the development of anything save ruin for your regime and your homeland" (page 13).