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What the President said when he campaigned here 60 years ago

Article by Central Staff

History – September 2008 – Colorado Central Magazine

Remarks by President Harry S Truman on Sept. 20, 1948, during his famous whistlestop campaign. It was the last time a presidential candidate spoke in Central Colorado. These are from transcripts at the Truman Museum and Library in Independence, Mo.

Cañon City (Rear platform, 7:32 p.m.)

Well! I guess this is all the rest of Colorado. I can’t tell you how very much I have appreciated the cordiality of the welcome I have received in Colorado today. In Denver I never saw such crowds. And Colorado Springs and Pueblo. I think this crowd here in Cañon City is bigger than either one of the crowds in Colorado Springs or Pueblo. I believe that Colorado is interested in Democrats. Particularly in your Democratic President.

Truman campaigning in 1948, from Truman Library.
Truman campaigning in 1948, from Truman Library.

As we came down from Denver to Pueblo today, we passed by Pike’s Peak, and I understand tonight we are going to pass by Mount Elbert, which next to Mount Whitney is the highest mountain in the country. And I was thinking about those high mountains and these high prices under which we live. Prices are higher than Mount Elbert or Pike’s Peak or Mount Whitney, either one; and that was brought about because we have special interests who want to profit by those prices, and they have prevented a control of those prices to make things fair for the fellow that has to work for a living. I don’t know whether they want to do it. I think 7 or 8 or 9 times I asked for legislation that would improve that price situation, but I didn’t get anywhere with it at all.

This 80th Republican “do-nothing” Congress was not interested in your welfare and mine. They were interested in certain special interests in the country who want to control the country as they did in times past. In fact, they would like to put the West back where it was in 1860 as a sort of colony of the East.

You remember when we were trying to build the Pacific Railroad across the United States, Daniel Webster made a speech in the Senate of the United States. Daniel Webster was one of the original Republicans, and he made a speech in the Senate of the U.S., and he said he did not want to open up the West, he never did think this part of the country was any good, he didn’t think it ever would be any good.

And you remember when he sat down with Lord Ashburton to write a treaty about 54-40, he and Lord Ashburton took a ruler and drew a line across the map and said this will do, the country is no good anyway.

I think the Republicans have always thought that. At least this Republican 80th Congress seems to think it, because they are trying to keep you from trying to get your projects built out here.

I have asked for funds for reclamation projects, for power projects, and for those projects in this part of the country that mean so much to you people; and they have turned me down every time.

I don’t think they want you to prosper. They are afraid of you.

I want you to help me keep the Government in the hands of the people. The people west of the Mississippi River can do that if they want to do it, because there are enough people east of the Mississippi River who are in sympathy with what you believe in — conservation, public power, and the implementation of our national resources for the benefit of all the country, not just for a few people who speculate on the stock exchange in Wall Street.

In Des Moines on Saturday I told the farmers what was good for them. In Detroit on Labor Day I told the men who work what was good for them. Today in Denver, Colo., I told you people out here what would be best for your interests and for the interests of the country as a whole.

The Democratic Party doesn’t stand for any special interests. The Democratic Party wants every man, woman, and child to have his fair share of the national income.

I am not so sure that is what the Republicans want. At least they did not show it when they had control of the country. They gave us a phony boom and a bust. They ruined the farmer, the worker, and the ordinary citizen.

And who pulled you out of that boom and bust?

In 1932 you elected Franklin Roosevelt. In 1934 you sent me to the Senate. In 1944 you elected me to be Vice President of the United States, and I succeeded the greatest President this country has ever had — Mr. Roosevelt.

I have been trying my best to carry on for the welfare of the country. Of course, I had a different situation than we had in wartime. You know, people will get together and cooperate when the country’s existence is in danger. But, you know, it has been most difficult to operate things since hostilities ceased, because special interests and various other people were not very anxious to see a Democratic administration come out very successfully.

Now I have had to come out here and tell you what the facts are and to urge you to use your judgment, for your own interests. And your own interest is a Democratic administration in Washington, in the Congress, and in the White House for the next 4 years.

We had a shining example of what the Republicans intend to do to you by this 80th Congress. They have done immense damage to the farmer, to labor, and to the white-collar worker in the 2 years they have been in control of that Congress. I don’t know what they would have done if they had a President in sympathy with them.

Now, you had better look out for your own interests on November the Second, and vote for the welfare of the United States as a whole by sending the Democrats back there, on November the Second.

Your Governor and all your public officials have been kind to us today, and I can’t tell you how very much I appreciate it. If you elect the whole Democratic ticket in Colorado — if you do that, I won’t have any trouble staying in the White House.

Salida, Colorado ( Rear platform, 9:47 p.m.)

Well, you know it certainly is a pleasure. Mrs. Thompson and the Doctor have been worrying ever since we left Colorado Springs as to whether there would be more than 50 people out here tonight. It looks to me like you’ve got 10 times 50 and maybe more, and I appreciate it.

We’ve had a grand day in Colorado today, my family and myself. Denver — well, Denver turned out with I think everybody in town and about a hundred thousand on the outside. And then at Colorado Springs I think everybody in the city was there. In Pueblo we had about twice as many, but Pueblo is twice as big as Colorado Springs. And then when we got to Cañon City they said that was the center of all the Republicans in Colorado and there wouldn’t be anybody out unless they opened up the penitentiary and let all the prisoners out. But they were very much mistaken. There were at least 5,000 or 6,000 people out there in Cañon City, and I didn’t see anybody with stripes at all.

And then look here at Salida. This is a wonderful city. You know, my family used to take their vacations up here at Buena Vista and they would come down to Salida for various reasons; my boss, Mrs. Truman, used to come down here to see the doctor, Dr. Thompson, years ago.

This is a wonderful country, in my opinion, and I think in the opinion of a lot of people; and I want to see it continue its growth. I want to see it improve and become greater and greater as the years go by. I’m not so sure that my Republican opponents want that to happen.

They have a very peculiar idea that special interest and special privilege is the reason for government. I have exactly the opposite idea.

I think the Government belongs to you and me as private citizens. That’s one thing in this country that makes it great. Every single man and woman in this country can have his say and have an interest in the Government of the U.S. and his State and his county and his city, if he wants to, but he has to exercise that privilege on election day. And if he doesn’t do that then he throws away his privilege.

That’s what two-thirds of the population did in 1946. They were disgruntled. They said they wanted a change. They got the change, in the form of the 80th Republican “do-nothing” Congress.

That Congress did not do very much for the common people. It took some of the privileges away from labor; it passed a rich man’s tax bill; it refused to do what was necessary for the farmers; it refused to do anything about prices. In fact, the things that it did not do will fill a whole page, and the things that that Congress did add up to what they did to the people and not for them.

Now, you’ve got another chance to redeem yourselves. On November Second you are going to elect a Senator from Colorado and you’re going to elect all the Congressmen from Colorado, and if you do what you ought to do you’ll elect Ed Johnson to the Senate, you’ll elect a Democrat from this district for Congress and every other district in Colorado, if you’re looking after your own interests.

I not only want you to vote for me but I want you to vote for yourselves, and if you vote for yourselves, you’ll vote the Democratic ticket; and if you don’t vote the Democratic ticket you’ll have a continuation of just what you have had in the last 2 years, and if you do that–if you want that sort of government–I’m not going to worry about your welfare. You can take what you get, just like you had to take this 80th “do-nothing” Republican Congress.

Now, real patriotism, if you have it, will show in your turnout on November Second. I hope there won’t be a single person who is entitled to vote in the State of Colorado, who does not go out and vote.

The income of the State of Colorado has trebled since 1932. It was about 350 million at that time, and do you know what it was in 1947? It was a billion, five hundred million dollars.

There are 61 million people at work in the United States today, and I’ve heard people say that that could not happen in this country. It was not a fact in 1932. There were about 12 or 15 million people who didn’t have jobs in 1932, and jobs are going begging now.

The income is the greatest in the history of the world in this country, and it’s being distributed so that the farmer, the laboring man, the white-collar worker, and everybody who is entitled to it is getting his share of that tremendous income.

I don’t think you want to vote against your own interest. So, if you’ll do what I’m asking you to do on election day I won’t have to be hunting around in this housing shortage for a house after January the 20th.