The First French President to Formally Visit the United States
As French President Francois Hollande begins his visit to the United States today, our colleagues at the State Department’s historyatstate tumblr take us back to the first formal visit by a President of France in 1951.
(Find more photos from President Vincent Auriol’s 1951 visit in our online catalog.)
The first formal visit by the President of a French Republic to the United States was Vincent Auriol in Spring 1951. The trip sought to convince U.S. lawmakers and the public that France was steadily recovering from wartime destruction, thanks to Marshall Plan aid, and reinforce the Fourth Republic’s commitment to the transatlantic alliance.
President Auriol took daily English lessons to prepare for his visit because, according to the New York Times, he wanted to “speak at least a few words of English in each of the many talks he expects to make in the United States, notably in an address he will make before a joint session of Congress.”1 In March 1951, Auriol sailed for New York from Le Havre aboard the Ile de France with his wife, son, and Robert Schuman, French Foreign Minister, among others.2 The French presidential party landed in New York then took a train to Washington D.C.’s Union Station on March 28.
Auriol made another notable “first” when he became the first French head of state to address a joint session of the U.S. Congress on April 2. He was also awarded the Legion of Merit, Degree of Chief-Commander, by President Harry Truman. Returning to New York on April 2, Auriol received an honorary doctorate from Columbia University. On Wednesday, April 4, the Auriols visited Eleanor Roosevelt in Hyde Park, NY, and presented her with the Order of Commander of the Legion of Honor before sailing for France that evening.
View the video retrospective of French presidential visits to the United States via France’s Institut National Audovisuel (INA).
LBJ Signs the Medicare Bill
On July 30, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed Medicare into law. The event took place at the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and LBJ told the nation that Medicare “all started with the man from Independence.”
Truman was the first president to publicly endorse a national health insurance program.
As a Senator, Truman had become alarmed at the number of draftees who had failed their induction physicals during World War II. For Truman these rejections meant that the average citizen could not afford visiting a doctor to maintain health. He stated “that is all wrong in my book. I am trying to fix it so the people in the middle-income bracket can live as long as the very rich and the very poor.”
Truman’s first proposal in 1945 provided for physician and hospital insurance for working-aged Americans and their families. A federal health board was to administer the program with the government retaining the right to fix fees for service, and doctors could choose whether or not to participate. This proposal was defeated after, among many factors, the American Medical Association labeled the president’s plan “socialized medicine” taking advantage of the public’s concern over communism in Russia.
Even though he was never able to create a national health care program, Truman was able to draw attention to the country’s health needs, have funds legislated to construct hospitals, expand medical aid to the needy, and provide for expanded medical research.
In honor of his continued advocacy for national health insurance, LBJ presented Truman and his wife Bess with Medicare cards number one and two in 1966.
Image: Harry S. Truman’s Medicare Card #1.
Photo: President Lyndon B. Johnson shakes hands with former President Harry S. Truman at the signing of the Medicare Bill. LBJ Library #34897-14.
“…it is essential that there be maintained in the armed services of the United States the highest standards of democracy, with equality of treatment and opportunity for all those who serve in our country’s defense..”
Executive Order 9981, July 26, 1948, in which President Harry S. Truman bans the segregation of the Armed Forces
As one of several actions taken to meet the recommendations of the President’s Commission on Civil Rights, President Harry S. Truman issued an executive order on July 26, 1948, abolishing segregation in the armed forces and ordering full integration of all the services. Executive Order 9981 stated that “there shall be equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed forces without regard to race, color, religion, or national origin.” The order also established an advisory committee to examine the rules, practices, and procedures of the armed services and recommend ways to make desegregation a reality. There was considerable resistance to the executive order from the military, but by the end of the Korean conflict, almost all the military was integrated.
via Our Documents
Sometimes an “S” is just an “S”
When Harry S. Truman was born on May 8, 1884, his parents decided to name him Harry, after his mother’s brother Harrison Young. But what about a middle name? Should it be Shipp, in honor of his paternal grandfather, Anderson Shipp Truman? Or should it be Solomon, in honor of his maternal grandfather, Solomon Young?
In the end, they entered his middle name as simply S, which led to a never-ending controversy about Harry S. Truman’s middle name. Read more.
Here’s President Truman behind his Oval Office desk sign - “The Buck Stops Here.”
Seventy years ago today on April 13, 1943, the Jefferson Memorial was dedicated in Washington, DC, on the 200th anniversary of Thomas Jefferson’s birth (4/13/1743).
Truman to MacArthur: “You’re Fired”
Proposed Orders and Statement on Dismissal of General Douglas MacArthur.
On April 11, 1951, President Truman dismissed General Douglas MacArthur as commander of United Nations forces in Korea due to insubordination, following several incidents in which MacArthur publicly criticized the Commander-in-Chief.
Formerly classified “Top Secret,” this document consists of orders from President Truman relieving General MacArthur of his commands and designating General Matthew Ridgway as his successor, along with a statement explaining MacArthur’s dismissal.
Read more at Prologue: You’re Fired
Harry S. Truman at a Surprise Poker Party
Photo: Surprise poker party at the home of A. J. & Mildred Granoff, on the occasion of A. J. Granoff’s 60th birthday. Seated at the poker table in the lower left hand corner are: Frank Rope, A. D. “Doc” Jacobson, former President Harry S. Truman, Hy Vile (standing), A. J. Granoff, and Harry Small. 2/22/56.
-from the Truman Library
Happy Presidents Day! This quiz about various U.S. Presidents was sent to Truman by one of his friends, Max Lowenthal, who was on a cruise to Europe on the RMS Queen Mary in 1964. He thought Mr. Truman might be interested in it. Mr. Truman wrote him back, saying he thought most of them were “catch” questions, and rather insignificant. How many can you get right without looking up the answers?
Inauguration Fact: Presidents do not need to be inaugurated. In case of the death of a President, the oath of office can be administered by a nearby official.
Vice Presidents John Tyler, Millard Fillmore, Andrew Johnson, and Chester A. Arthur were all sworn in after the death of a President (and none of them were reelected).
Theodore Roosevelt took the oath in Buffalo, NY, after the assassination of William McKinley. In 1923, Calvin Coolidge was at home in Vermont when Warren Harding died and had to be sworn in by his father, a notary public and justice of the peace. Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn in on board Air Force One after President Kennedy’s death.
And Gerald Ford took the oath of office in the East Room of the White House after President Nixon resigned.
Image: Harry S. Truman taking the oath of office as President of the United States in the Cabinet Room of the White House, following the death of President Franklin Roosevelt, 04/12/1945 (ARC 199062), Truman Presidential Library.
Photograph of President Truman with Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes and others, standing inside the Jefferson Memorial looking up at a statue of Thomas Jefferson., 01/14/1946
“On the eighth day of Archives an archivist brought to me:
Eight Navy officers
seven of Mrs. Hicks’s eight children,
six tiny thorn carvings,
five sisters from Alaska,
four boys hanging out at the Fletcher aircraft school,
three happy girls at a West Virginian celebration,
two San Francisco children painting,
and one astronaut in space.”
Image: Photograph of President Truman posing on the White House lawn with officers from eight U.S. Navy aircraft carriers that received Presidential Unit Citations for heroic service during World War II., 07/16/1946, ARC Identifier 199399
Menorah with small removable pitcher to pour oil into the lamps for each night - President Harry S. Truman received this menorah from Brotherhood Temple Ohabei Shalom in Brookline, Massachusetts in 1949.
This is one of several menorahs that are in the museum collection of the Truman Presidential Library.
-from the Truman Library