TV’s First Presidential Speech


On this day in 1947, Americans saw their first presidential speech on television. The president was Harry Truman. The address came from the White House. Truman asked Americans to cut back on their use of grain in order to help starving Europeans. At the time of Truman’s food-conservation speech, Europe was still recovering from World War II and suffering great famine.

Truman, the 33rd commander-in-chief, worried that if the United States didn’t provide food aid, his administration’s Marshall Plan for European economic recovery would fall apart. He asked farmers and distillers to reduce grain use and requested that the public voluntarily forgo meat on Tuesdays, eggs and poultry on Thursdays, and save a slice of bread each day. The food program was short-lived, as ultimately the Marshall Plan succeeded in helping to spur economic revitalization and growth in Europe.

Last week, 84 million Americans tuned in to watch our next president, in a classic debate. In a few days, they will square off again. It’s amazing to note how things have changed.

Today, candidates promise everything from tax breaks to free college. Back in Truman’s day, the president went on the air, not to promise blessings, but to ask for sacrifice.

Yesterday’s president called on us to give from hearts of love and sacrifice. Today’s candidates are full of insults and they promise the moon. And we call this “progress.”


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