On October 5, 1947 the first presidential address ever televised from the White House was delivered by Harry Truman, concerning the struggle against hunger in Europe and food conservation. At that time Europe was struggling in its recovery from World War II. Rebuilding from the devastation was difficult enough but a harsh winter followed by a drought during 1947 ruined crops. Food shortages were rampant and Europe needed food to survive and rebuild.
President Truman said of Europe, "Their most urgent need is food. If the peace should be lost because we failed to share our food with hungry people there would be no more tragic example in all history of a peace needlessly lost." Food from the United States helped Europe get through the winter of 1947-1948 and helped set the foundation for the Marshall Plan.
In addition to President Truman, other speakers for the program included Secretary of State George C. Marshall, Secretary of Agriculture Clinton P. Anderson, Secretary of Commerce W. Averell Harriman, and Charles Luckman, who was the Chairman of the Citizens Food Committee.
Much can be learned from this episode in history and applied to today's struggles in countries like Afghanistan, Sudan, and Iraq. Food is absolutely critical for peace and reconstruction.
Leadership from the highest levels of government is also needed in the fight against hunger. We saw this recently from Secretary Hillary Clinton at a recent food summit. This is a welcome start but much more needs to be done including Congress passing the Roadmap to End Global Hunger legislation. The situation is urgent, with the United Nations World Food Programme reporting a three billion dollar shortfall in funding.
Read the full text of President Truman's October 5, 1947 statement.
Listen to George Marshall's remarks on October 5, 1947.