Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined Congressional Leadership, Members of the Missouri Congressional Delegation and Chairman Clifton Truman Daniel of the Truman Library Institute for the Congressional statue dedication and unveiling ceremony in honor of President Harry S. Truman. Below are the Speaker’s remarks:
Speaker Pelosi. As Speaker of the House, it is my privilege to welcome you to the United States Capitol, as we celebrate one of our nation’s finest presidents, President Harry Truman.
It is only fitting that this son of Independence, Missouri, takes his rightful place here in the Rotunda of our Temple of Democracy in the United States Capitol. Now at this time, please rise as you are able for the Presentation of the Colors and for the National Anthem.
Speaker Pelosi. Now this is what you all came for. Now it is my special honor to invite forward President Truman’s grandsons: Clifton Truman Daniel – and his wife, Polly – and Thomas Washington Daniel. Alex Burden and Dr. Kirk Graham of the Truman Library Institute, Members of the Missouri Congressional Delegation, both House and Senate – and I might add, current and past – and Leaders McCarthy and McConnell. And together, we will unveil the spectacular statue.
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you to our speakers for your beautiful remarks. I associate myself with all of them. I’m not completely sure about Mr. Cleaver’s, but most of them. I just didn’t hear the last sentence, so I want to be precise.
Isn’t it wonderful for all of us to be here in the Rotunda, under the Dome, celebrating this great President of the United States? Because, and this is special to us, as Senator Blunt referenced, the President was, as we know, a Member of the United States Senate. But we feel very close to him in the House of Representatives. As the story was told by Senator Blunt, there’s something called the Board of Education Room. At the end of the day, Sam Rayburn and some of his colleagues – Steny, you know the story very well – would go to a room. And so they didn’t say, ‘We’re going to go play cards and have some refreshments.’ They said, ‘We’re going to the Board of Education.’ And that was a room in the Capitol, which is a very beautiful place.
While the President, Vice President then, was in the room, he received a call from the White House [to meet with] Eleanor Roosevelt. And that was the call that made all the difference in the world. It was a call to the White House, and it would be – as Senator Blunt said, and others – not to see the President, but to become the President of the United States. So we feel very close. We still call it the Board of Education. We don’t play cards there, have refreshments anymore, but it is a place of history for us.
Again, what an honor it is to be with the Truman family, who keep alive the noble spirit of our nation’s 33rd President. I thank you, Clifton. Thank you, Thomas. Thank you, Polly.
And a special thanks to Congressman Russ Carnahan and Senator Jean Carnahan, who worked from day one to help make this occasion possible. And, as Mr. Cleaver said, so many people for a long time.
Today, we gather to celebrate Harry Truman and the greatest gift he gave to our nation: his unyielding commitment to democracy. It was this fervent belief that drove him to don our nation’s uniform to fight in France during the First World War, to defend the people’s interest for a decade here in these hallowed halls and to champion freedom and justice here at home and across the world. He brought his Midwest values to the Congress and the White House. Son of a farmer and himself a small business owner, Truman knew firsthand the promise of the American Dream and the power of democracy to support those aspirations.
That’s why, in his 1949 State of the Union address, he pledged that every individual has a right to expect from our government a Fair Deal. And he made this declaration his mission, putting forth a shining, inclusive vision of prosperity and security for every family.
Indeed, President Truman’s moral leadership on civil rights – including historic orders others have mentioned, including the Chaplain, to desegregate the Armed Forces and the federal workforce – forged important progress in the fight for equal justice under the law.
President Truman also deserves great credit for his visionary, visionary leadership on health care. His impassioned advocacy placed the goal of universal health care to the forefront of our national agenda. That is why, when President Johnson – the Medicare bill passed – he traveled to Independence to, in President Truman’s presence, sign the Medicare law and to sign up President Truman as the first Medicare beneficiary. Then, seconds later – I said – he signed him as the first – a fitting tribute to the leader who honored this truth: health care is a right, not a privilege.
I’m going to speak personally for a moment, because it’s an honor for me to join in unveiling this statue, because I had the privilege of meeting President Truman many years ago. He came to Baltimore to support his friend, my father, with whom he served in the Congress when President Truman was Vice President and President. He came to campaign for my father.
We had this wonderful conversation. I was intimidated to meet the President of the United States, but he was very inviting and charming. And Clifton and Thomas, he talked about your mother, Margaret. He said, ‘I’m telling you what I told Margaret. Education. Education. It’s really important. You can never get too much education.’ Always a focus on education in that conversation. I didn’t know whether we were going to talk about – I didn’t know what we were going to talk about. I was just in awe of him. But that was his focus in that conversation.
He knew the best investment we could make as a nation was in our children’s education, because that is how we ensure that all can participate and thrive in our democracy. And this promise is furthered today by the Truman Scholars initiative, which supports students interested in public service.
Indeed, President Truman’s commitment to democracy did not cease at the water’s edge. He knew that a threat to democracy anywhere was a threat to democracy everywhere. That’s why he worked to rebuild Europe into a bulwark against totalitarianism. That’s why he extended America’s helping hand, including with the Berlin Airlift. That’s why he forged strong alliances with friends of freedom across the globe, especially with the formation of NATO, as has been referenced. This alliance has not only endured, but is stronger today than ever.
We continue to look to his leadership for guidance today as we defend democracy against autocracy, especially in Ukraine. Upon signing the North Atlantic Treaty, President Truman offered an inspiring vision. ‘We believe that it’s possible for nations to achieve unity on the great principles of human freedom and justice,’ he said.
May this magnificent statue – and doesn’t it just look like him? You’re all too young, but he had a reputation for walking, going for a walk, and the press would follow him. So we see that the statue is Truman – President Truman – walking. May this magnificent statue, which will stand here at the heart of the Capitol, serve as a constant symbol of our commitment to democracy.
Thank you, Tom Corbin, for this beautiful statue, which fits among many of our heroes, comfortably, here in the Rotunda of the Capitol, under the great Dome.
Thank you all for being with us today to celebrate God’s blessing to America: the leadership of President Harry S. Truman. Thank you.
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