State Department headquarters named for Harry S. Truman
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The State Department's block-square downtown headquarters was named Friday for Democrat Harry S. Truman, whose forthright presidency shaped the history of the 20th century.
In presiding over the unveiling of Truman's name in silver gilt on a block of black granite, President Clinton quoted a 1946 editorial in which the London Daily Telegraph called Truman "the living, kicking symbol of what everyone likes about America."
"That's a pretty good reason for putting his name on the State Department," Clinton said in a sun-spangled ceremony in which the Navy Band played the big-band music of the Truman era.
But Clinton said the newspaper's tribute "really doesn't even get into the top 10."
"For history will credit Harry Truman for creating the architecture of postwar internationalism in politics and economics; for drawing the line against communism and for democracy, setting us squarely on the trail of freedom we continue to blaze today," Clinton said.
The naming of the State Department building for the 33rd president, a proud, vocal and successful Democrat, comes after a spate of congressionally ordered namings of Washington landmarks for Republican heroes.
In recent months a new and major federal office building and National Airport have been named for Ronald Reagan, the Executive Office Building neighboring the White House was named for President Dwight D. Eisenhower and CIA headquarters at Langley, Virginia, was named for former President George Bush, a former CIA director.
"That's one for us," presidential press secretary Joe Lockhart said last week when he talked about naming the State Department building for Truman.
At the ceremony, Truman's grand nephew, John Ross Truman, represented the Truman family. He said that when he was growing up in Missouri he knew the president of the United States simply as "Uncle Harry."
"I know he would have been very proud and humbled by the step you are taking today to immortalize his good name," John Truman said. "To me and to my family Uncle Harry was the honest, plain spoken embodiment of Uncle Sam."
Margaret Truman Daniel, Truman's daughter and biographer, was not present for the ceremony. Her son, William Wallace Daniel, died earlier this month of injuries suffered when he was struck by a car. Her husband, former New York Times managing editor Clifton Daniel, died in February. "We're thinking about her in what has been a hard year," Clinton said.
Rep. John "Ike" Skelton, D-Missouri, who introduced the legislation naming the State Department building, regretted that in a city full of memorials none honored Truman.
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who came to the United States with her family from Czechoslovakia in 1946, said Truman was special to her because "Harry S. Truman was my first American president."
"His brave words and actions mended a broken world," she said.
Truman himself spoke, in words inked on the printed program passed out to the crowd of several hundred diplomats and civil servants who filled the street in front of the State department.
"The foreign policy of the United States is based firmly on fundamental principles of righteousness and justice," he said in October 1945, just months after assuming the presidency. "In carrying out those principles we shall firmly adhere to what we believe to be right; and we hall no give our approval to any compromise with evil," he said."
"President Truman understood the importance, not just of winning the war, but of building the institutions and alliances that could maintain the peace," Clinton said.
"What a job he did," he said, citing the United Nations, NATO, the Truman Doctrine, the Berlin Airlift, Korea and the Marshall Plan.
"This is a great day and this is a good thing," Clinton said.
"But we should do more than dedicate this building to Harry Truman," he said. "We should rededicate ourselves today to fulfilling his vision in the new century."
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