80th Birthday Greetings
from President Johnson to Former President Truman
On May 6, 1964, Harry S. Truman was in the Grand Ballroom of the Muehlebach Hotel in Kansas City, Missouri, attending a luncheon in his honor when he was informed that he had a telephone call from The White House. In his greetings, President Lyndon B. Johnson shared these words with the 33rd president, who guided the nation and the world through the perilous years following World War II: “When you blow out those candles, Mr. President, I hope you think of all the lights you have turned on during 80 years. They are still burning in Greece and Turkey and Western Europe and the Far East and in the hearts of your countrymen.” Thanks to the archival work of the presidential libraries, we have the full transcript of their phone conversation, which took place two days before President Truman’s 80th birthday.
May 6, 1964
THE PRESIDENT. I wanted to call collect, but Lady Bird wouldn’t let me. And then I only have change for three minutes. So, I wanted to tell you “Happy Birthday.”
PRESIDENT TRUMAN. I will tell you what I will do. I will accept it as collect.
THE PRESIDENT. On behalf of Lady Bird, Lynda Bird, and Luci and I, we wanted to say “Happy Birthday.” We speak for 190 million other Americans. Last night I read that a politician thinks a nation belongs to him, while a statesman knows he belongs to the nation. That is the way we feel about you.
PRESIDENT TRUMAN. You are as kind as you can be, and that is the way I feel about you, too. I don’t think we have had a better President in a hundred years than we have right now, and I am tickled to death with him.
THE PRESIDENT. I hope you know that you belong to all America, and you are one of our greatest national assets, one of our greatest resources, and when you blow out those candles, Mr. President, I hope you think of all the lights you have turned on during 80 years. They are still burning in Greece and Turkey and Western Europe and the Far East and in the hearts of your countrymen.
PRESIDENT TRUMAN. I will do my very, very best. I want to thank you for that high hat you sent me, and I am going to wear it-don’t worry about that. It’s my kind.
THE PRESIDENT. Wonderful. The Old Testament tells us there were giants on the earth in those days. We are already saying that about you, Mr. President. Americans will be saying it as long as the name of this country lives in history, so you want to take care of yourself and I want you to come by to see me when you get back here.
PRESIDENT TRUMAN. I will make the first call on you when I get to Washington.
THE PRESIDENT. Well, happy birthday again.
PRESIDENT TRUMAN. I will do that because I think I ought to report to the President. He might want me to do something.
THE PRESIDENT, Fine. Happy birthday again.
PRESIDENT TRUMAN. Thank you very much.
THE PRESIDENT. You are welcome. Goodbye.
SOURCE: Lyndon B. Johnson, Greetings Telephoned to President Truman on the Occasion of His 80th Birthday. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project