On April 12, 1945, Harry S. Truman became president of the United States. The following day, President Truman told reporters that he “felt like the moon, the stars, and all the planets had fallen on me.”
President Truman’s first 100 days in office were a whirlwind of activity, including the end of the war in Europe, planning for the postwar world with other world leaders gathering at Potsdam, the successful testing of the first atomic bomb, the establishment of the United Nations, and planning for the end of the war in the Pacific. No small feat for a man who had only met with President Roosevelt twice during his 82 days as vice president, and didn’t even know about the existence of the bomb.
In addition to overseeing and planning the end of a two-front war and planning the peace, Truman also issued 52 executive orders, delivered 10 proclamations, held 14 press conferences, and received one honorary degree. In order to maintain the incredible pace of the presidency and be prepared for the decisions he had to make as Commander in Chief, Truman spent every night reading countless memos and files in his private study in the White House. No wonder Harry Truman said that “Being president is like riding a tiger. You have to keep riding or be swallowed.”
Read on for some TRU-firsts from the president’s first 100 days.
DAY 1 | TRUMAN’S FIRST EXECUTIVE ORDERS & PROCLAMATION
On April 13th, President Truman issued Executive Orders 9538 and 9539—the first of 907 he issued while president. What did the executive orders cover? Learn more by clicking the links below:
President Truman also delivered his first proclamation, which announced the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt, on his first full day as president.
“But though his voice is silent, his courage is not spent, his faith is not extinguished. The courage of great men outlives them to become the courage of their people and the peoples of the world. It lives beyond them and upholds their purposes and brings their hopes to pass.”
Read the Proclamation in its entirety HERE.
DAY 4 | TRUMAN’S FIRST ADDRESS TO CONGRESS
On his fourth day in office, President Truman he addressed a joint session of Congress. In his speech, he mourned President Franklin D. Roosevelt and called for citizens to unite in an effort to win the war… and the peace:
“Tragic fate has thrust upon us grave responsibilities. We must carry on. Our departed leader never looked backward. He looked forward and moved forward. That is what he would want us to do. That is what America will do.
So much blood has already been shed for the ideals which we cherish, and for which Franklin Delano Roosevelt lived and died, that we dare not permit even a momentary pause in the hard fight for victory.
Today, the entire world is looking to America for enlightened leadership to peace and progress. Such a leadership requires vision, courage and tolerance. It can be provided only by a united nation deeply devoted to the highest ideals.
With great humility I call upon all Americans to help me keep our nation united in defense of those ideals which have been so eloquently proclaimed by Franklin Roosevelt.”
Read the full draft President Truman’s first address to Congress HERE.
DAY 5 | TRUMAN’S FIRST PRESS CONFERENCE
President Truman held his first formal press conference on his fifth day as president. He discussed staffing, pending legislation, the United Nations, his press conference schedule, and whether Mrs. Truman would have press conferences. He also read a letter from Eleanor Roosevelt. But what was the first item he covered? Find out by reading the transcript of the press conference HERE.
DAY 77 | TRUMAN’S FIRST HONORARY DEGREE
Harry Truman is the last president not to hold a college degree. But, on his 77th day in office, he received his first honorary degree. The University of Kansas City (now University of Missouri-Kansas City) conferred an honorary degree on the university’s hometown president on June 28, 1945. When accepting the degree, President Truman spoke of the “tremendous task” he faced as president:
“I have a tremendous–a tremendous task, one that I dare not look at too closely, for the simple
reason that it is one that no man can do by himself. I must have the wholehearted–the unqualified
support of the country, to win the Japanese war, and then to win a peace.
And there is one thing we must learn. It has been a most difficult task for us to learn it; and that is
that it is absolutely necessary for the greatest Republic that the sun has ever shone upon to live
with the world as a whole, and not by itself.”
Read President Truman’s remarks in their entirety, including the challenges related to returning to his home county—Jackson Co., MO—as president, HERE.
DAY 100 | FIRST 100th DAY
Harry Truman spent his 100th day in office meeting with Stalin, Attlee, and other Allied leaders at the Potsdam Conference. He also issued three Executive Orders. Read more about Truman’s 100th day in office HERE.
To learn more about Truman’s first 100 days—as well as the many other significant and world-shaping decisions he made in the following 2,741 days he served as president—PLAN YOUR VISIT to the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum.
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