Study Guide

President Harry S. Truman in On the Adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

By Eleanor Roosevelt

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President Harry S. Truman

When Harry S. Truman ran for vice president in 1944, he didn't plan on jumping into the hot seat a mere 82 days later. But that's exactly what happened when FDR died in office.

But while FDR was definitely a fan favorite in terms of his actions during World War II, Truman had him beat when it came to relatability. He never went to college, and he did lots of odd jobs up until he served in the Missouri National Guard toward the end of World War I.

Then, in 1943, he was elected to the Senate, where he supported FDR's New Deal programs and served on the Senate Appropriations Committee. Those were the guys with the cash, so he was actually able to get some things done.

That's probably what drew FDR to Truman when he had to choose a new VP for the 1944 presidential election. Give 'Em Hell Harry had developed quite the reputation for being good with money—not to mention he had fulfilled the classic American Dream, moving from humble beginnings all the way to the U.S. Senate.

Remember that relatability factor we mentioned earlier? It worked—Truman took the oath of office to become VP on January 20th, 1945.

All was well and good for the first few months, but when FDR had a massive stroke in April 1945, Truman was suddenly president of the United States. And not only that, he was president during a world war. And not only that, he was president during a world war and had literally zero foreign policy experience.

Talk about being thrown in the deep end. Without arm floaties.

But Truman pulled on his big-boy pants and got to work. Within the first six months of his presidency, he was able to announce the release of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the end of World War II, and the ratification of the United Nations.

That's where he fits into our story.

When World War II was coming to an end, the Allies agreed there needed to be some sort of international organization to broker peace and keep another power-hungry dictator from doing such horrible stuff. But it needed to be more successful than the League of Nations, which had tried to do both those things at the end of World War I.

So, the Allies came up with the idea of the United Nations, and President Truman signed the U.N. Charter on August 8th, 1945—the same day the United States dropped the second atomic bomb on Nagasaki, officially ending World War II.

It was a significant move on a number of levels. Truman believed spreading the philosophies of democracy was key to world peace, and the United Nations had similar ideas—most notably social and economic development and promoting human rights.

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