Widening Boundaries of National Interest

Truman's inaugural address, 1949.

IN A few paragraphs, the fourth point of President Truman's inaugural address in January 1949 phrased a concept that sparked an electric response along the great circuit that links the minds and imaginations of human beings throughout the world. The concept was basically simple. It declared that:

1. Mankind for the first time in history possesses the knowledge and skills to make his environment yield an adequate and progressively improving return to all peoples.

2. Despite this knowledge, more than half of the world's people still live under economic systems which provide less than minimum needs of food, clothing and shelter, and lack the promise of betterment.

3. Since the security and continued prosperity of the United States and other relatively industrialized nations can be maintained only if there is complementary progress in the economically backward areas, we should assume the leadership in a concerted productive effort which will promote both their interests and ours.

4. Basic to the accomplishment of this purpose is a flow of investment capital, carrying with it technical and managerial skills, to create and harness mechanical power and production tools and equipment so that they supplement the work of human muscles. Our policy should focus on creating conditions that permit and encourage such transfers, under procedures that avoid imperialism or any form of exploitation on either side, and are founded upon mutual respect and recognition of a mutual interest.

5. "Democracy alone can supply the vitalizing force to stir the peoples of the world into triumphant action, not only against their human oppressors, but also against their ancient enemies--hunger, misery and despair."

The wide and extraordinarily warm response invoked everywhere outside of the Communist world by this formulation of a new phase of American foreign policy merits examination. Seemingly, it stemmed in part from a recognition that we were thereby taking a further step away from our traditional isolationism. Our acceptance of a common interest between United States and Western Europe had been attested by our participation in two world wars and

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