President Harry S. Truman made eight Christmas addresses to the nation during his presidency. In these speeches, which were broadcast from Washington, D.C., or his home in Independence, MO, President Truman spoke about his faith and the connections between it and democracy, compared the plight of Jesus and Mary to that of those doing without or homeless during Christmas, heralded the bravery and purpose of those fighting in Korea, and called on his fellow Americans to uphold the promise of the Christmas story, democracy, and world peace.
December 24, 1945
This is the Christmas that a war-weary world has prayed for through long and awful years. With peace come joy and gladness. The gloom of the war years fades as once more we light the National Community Christmas Tree. We meet in the spirit of the first Christmas, when the midnight choir sang the hymn of joy: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
Let us not forget that the coming of the Saviour brought a time of long peace to the Roman World. It is, therefore, fitting for us to remember that the spirit of Christmas is the spirit of peace, of love, of charity to all men. From the manger of Bethlehem came a new appeal to the minds and hearts of men: “A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another.”
In love, which is the very essence of the message of the Prince of Peace, the world would find a solution for all its ills. I do not believe there is one problem in this country or in the world today which could not be settled if approached through the teaching of the Sermon on the Mount. The poets’ dream, the lesson of priest and patriarch and the prophets’ vision of a new heaven and a new earth, all are summed up in the message delivered in the Judean hills beside the Sea of Galilee. Would that the world would accept that message in this time of its greatest need!
December 24, 1946
[A]s we continue to labor for an enduring peace… we must remember that the world was not created in a day. We shall find strength and courage at this Christmas time because so brave a beginning has been made. So with faith and courage we shall work to hasten the day when the sword is replaced by the plowshare and nations do not “learn war any more.”
We have made a good start toward peace in the world. Ahead of us lies the larger task of making the peace secure.
The progress we have made gives hope that in the coming year we shall reach our goal. May 1947 entitle us to the benediction of the Master: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.”
Because of what we have achieved for peace, because of all the promise our future holds, I say to all my countrymen: Merry Christmas!
December 24, 1947
Down the ages from the first Christmas through all the years of nineteen centuries, mankind in its weary pilgrimage through a changing world has been cheered and strengthened by the message of Christmas.
The angels sang for joy at the first Christmas in faraway Bethlehem. Their song has echoed through the corridors of time and will continue to sustain the heart of man through eternity.
Let us not forget that the first Christmas was a homeless one. A humble man and woman had gone up from Galilee out of the City of Nazareth to Bethlehem. There is a sense of desolation in St. Luke’s brief chronicle that Mary “brought forth her firstborn son, wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.”
For many of our brethren in Europe and Asia this too will be a homeless Christmas. There can be little happiness for those who will keep another Christmas in poverty and exile and in separation from their loved ones. As we prepare to celebrate our Christmas this year in a land of plenty, we would be heartless indeed if we were indifferent to the plight of less fortunate peoples overseas.
In extending aid to our less fortunate brothers we are developing in their hearts the return of “hope.” Because of our forts, the people of other lands see the advent of a new day in which they can lead lives free from the harrowing fear of starvation and want.
With the return of hope to these peoples will come renewed faith—faith in the dignity of the individual and the brotherhood of man.
The world grows old but the spirit of Christmas is ever young.
Happily for all mankind, the spirit of Christmas survives travail and suffering because it fills us with hope of better things to come. Let us then put our trust in the unerring Star which guided the Wise Men to the Manger of Bethlehem. Let us hearken again to the Angel Choir singing: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
With hope for the future and with faith in God, I wish all my countrymen a very Merry Christmas.
December 24, 1948
I am speaking to you from our family living room. As I came up the street in the gathering dusk, I saw a hundred commonplace things that are hallowed to me on this Christmas Eve–hallowed because of their associations with the sanctuary of home.
I saw the lighted windows in the homes of my neighbors, the gaily decked Christmas trees, and the friendly lawns and gardens. The branches of the trees were bare and stark but somehow they looked familiar and friendly. I looked at all these familiar things–the same things that you all will see tonight as you go toward home.
These are the thoughts–simple, commonplace, everyday thoughts–that we all share tonight.
They are the thoughts that bind us together, one to another. They make up the great American epic–the epic of the home.
Yes, America is a big, friendly community. Maybe that is why we realize that we are a part of the whole world.
We have had difficult problems, and that is why we can understand the problems of other peoples.
Our own struggle fostered this feeling of good will. And good will, after all, is the very essence of Christmas: peace and friendship to men of good will.
I want to say once more, with all the emphasis that I can command, that I am working for peace. I shall continue to work for peace. What could be more appropriate than for all of us to dedicate ourselves to the cause of peace on this Holy Night.
December 24, 1949
Sitting here in my own home, so like other homes all over America, I have been thinking about some families in other once happy lands. We must not forget that there are thousands and thousands of families homeless, hopeless, destitute, and torn with despair on this Christmas Eve. For them as for the Holy Family on the first Christmas, there is no room in the inn. Among these families—broken with the tragedy of homelessness—are myriads of little children who have never known what it was to have a home or a country that they or their parents or their brothers and sisters could call their own.
Let us not on this Christmas, in our enjoyment of the abundance with which Providence has endowed us, forget those who, because of the cruelty of war, have no shelter–those multitudes for whom, in the phrase of historic irony, there is no room in the inn.
We miss the spirit of Christmas if we consider the Incarnation as an indistinct and doubtful, far-off event unrelated to our present problems. We miss the purport of Christ’s birth if we do not accept it as a living link which joins us together in spirit as children of the ever-living and true God. In love alone—the love of God and the love of man—will be found the solution of all the ills which afflict the world today. Slowly, sometimes painfully, but always with increasing purpose, emerges the great message of Christianity: only with wisdom comes joy, and with greatness comes love.
In the spirit of the Christ Child—as little children with joy in our hearts and peace in our souls—let us, as a nation, dedicate ourselves anew to the love of our fellowmen. In such a dedication we shall find the message of the Child of Bethlehem, the real meaning of Christmas.
Read the entire address here.
December 24, 1950
Democracy’s most powerful weapon is not a gun, tank, or bomb. It is faith—faith in the brotherhood and dignity of man under God.
Let us pray at this Christmastime for the wisdom, the humility, and the courage to carry on in this faith.
Read the entire address here.
December 24, 1951
Let us ask God to bless our efforts and redeem our faults. Let us resolve to follow his commandments—to carry the gospel to the poor; heal the brokenhearted; preach deliverance to the captive; give freedom to the slave. Let us try to do all things in that spirit of brotherly love that was revealed to mankind at Bethlehem on the first Christmas day.
The victory we seek is the victory of peace. That victory is promised to us. It was promised to us long ago, in the words of the angel choir that sang over Bethlehem: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
To all my countrymen: Merry Christmas.
December 24, 1952
As we pray for our loved ones far from home—as we pray for our men and women in Korea, and all our service men and women wherever they are—let us also pray for our enemies. Let us pray that the spirit of God shall enter their lives and prevail in their lands. Let us pray for a fulfillment of the brotherhood of man.
Through Jesus Christ the world will yet be a better and a fairer place. This faith sustains us today as it has sustained mankind for centuries past. This is why the Christmas story, with the bright stars shining and the angels singing, moves us to wonder and stirs our hearts to praise.
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