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#202: Truman Wins the Election of 1948

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President Harry Truman holds up a newspaper that, based on early results, mistakenly announced "Dewey Defeats Truman"
President Harry Truman holds up a newspaper that, based on early results, mistakenly announced "Dewey Defeats Truman"

STEVE EMBER: Welcome to THE MAKING OF A NATION - American history in VOA Special English. I'm Steve Ember

HARRY TRUMAN: "I want to say to you, for the next four years, there'll be a Democrat in the White House, and you're looking at him."

(MUSIC)

Presidential elections are exciting events in American politics. Few elections for the White House have been as exciting as the one in nineteen forty-eight. And few have had such surprising results.

ANNOUNCER: "This is NBC Television." SENATOR J. HOWARD McGRATH: "We have obtained the results from the state of Ohio which assures victory for President Truman and Senator Barkley. With Ohio's twenty-five electoral votes, President Truman and Senator Barkley will have a total of two hundred and sixty-six votes in the Electoral College.  This is the minimum figure necessary for victory."

(MUSIC)

Four candidates were nominated for president in the nineteen forty-eight election. One was the man already in the White House, the candidate of the Democratic Party, President Harry S. Truman.

Truman had been the party's vice presidential candidate with Franklin Roosevelt in nineteen forty-four. When Roosevelt died a year later, Truman became president. He was the one who made the decision to drop atomic bombs on Japan to end World War Two.

But Truman did not do well during his first few months in office. He made several serious mistakes. He had trouble with the economy and organized labor. His party lost control of the Senate and the House of Representatives in the congressional elections of nineteen forty-six.

Most Americans had little faith in Truman's ability as a leader. They expected that he would lose the presidential election in nineteen forty-eight if he chose to be a candidate.

President Truman did choose to run. He took several strong steps to show his leadership in the months following the Democratic defeat in the congressional elections.

Truman called on Congress to pass a number of laws to help black people. He took firm actions in his foreign policy toward the Soviet Union. These included the Marshall Plan and the Berlin Airlift, as we discussed in our last two programs. And he began to speak out with much more strength to the American people.

(MUSIC)

Truman succeeded in winning the presidential nomination of the Democratic Party. He chose Alben Barkley, a senator from Alabama, for vice president. "Senator Barkley and I will win this election and make these Republicans like it -- don't you forget that!" Truman declared in accepting the nomination.

Thomas Dewey, center, at a campaign event in 1948
Thomas Dewey, center, at a campaign event in 1948

The Republicans nominated New York State Governor Thomas Dewey.

Dewey was a wise and courageous man. He was also very serious. Truman campaigned by telling the voters that Dewey did not understand the needs of the average American. He called Dewey a candidate of rich people.

One day, Dewey got angry at a railroad engineer because his campaign train was late for a speech. Truman said this proved that Dewey did not understand the problems of railroad engineers and other working Americans. He tried to make the election a choice between hard-working Democrats and rich Republicans.

Two other men also were candidates for the presidency. Both were from newly created parties.

One was Strom Thurmond from South Carolina. He was the candidate of the States Rights Democratic Party, also known as the Dixiecrat Party. Most of his supporters were white people from the southeastern part of the country. They opposed giving full rights to black people.

The other candidate was Henry Wallace of the Progressive Party. His supporters believed that Truman had turned away from the progressive ideas of Franklin Roosevelt.

Both Thurmond and Wallace had broken away from the Democratic Party. Most political experts believed these two candidates would take votes away from President Truman. They believed the Republican Dewey would surely win the election. President Truman did not have strong public support.

But Harry Truman was a fighter. He did not believe the election was lost. He took his campaign to the American people.

HARRY TRUMAN: "On Election Day, the president, the Congress, the governor, the mayor all cease as the government. You are the government, because then you decide what sort of government you want. And when you do like you did in nineteen forty-six, when two-thirds of you stayed at home, you get just what you deserve -- you got that good for nothing Eightieth Congress."

He said he had always campaigned by going around talking to people and meeting them. Running for president was no different, he said.  He just got on a train and started across the country to tell people what was going on. He wanted to talk to them face to face. When you stand there in front of them and talk to them, he said, the people can tell whether you are telling them the facts or not.

HARRY TRUMAN: "If you give the Republicans complete control of this government, you might just as well turn it over to the special interests, and we'll start on a boom-and-bust cycle and try to go through just what we did in the twenties and end up with a crash, which in the long run will do nobody any good but the communists."

Truman campaigned with great energy.

(SOUND: Truman's campaign train)

He made hundreds of speeches as his train crossed the country. It became known as the "whistle stop" campaign, because it stopped at some of the smallest towns and villages in the country. Truman gave speeches from the back of his campaign train, the Ferdinand Magellan. He spoke to farmers in Iowa. He visited a children's home in Texas. And he discussed issues with small groups of people who came to visit his train when it stopped in rural areas of Montana and Idaho.

Dewey and the Republicans laughed at Truman's campaign. They said it showed that Truman needed votes so badly that he had to spend his time looking for them in small villages. Truman said the criticism proved that Republicans did not care for the average American.

Dewey also campaigned across the country by train. But he showed little of the fire and emotion in his speeches that made Truman's campaign so exciting. Dewey's speeches were "safe." One reporter wrote that Dewey was acting like a man who had already been elected and was only passing time, waiting to take office.

Dewey had good reasons to feel so sure of being elected. Almost every political expert in the country said Truman had no chance to win. The Wall Street Journal, for example, printed a story about what Dewey would do in the White House after the election. And the New York Times said that Dewey would win the election by a large majority.

Truman refused to accept these views. Instead, he spoke with more and more emotion against Dewey. Most Americans still believed that Truman would lose. But they liked his courage in fighting until the end. One supporter shouted "Give 'em hell, Harry!" -- "them" being the Republicans. Soon supporters across the country were shouting "Give 'em hell, Harry!"

Truman made special appeals to working people, Jews, blacks, Catholics and other traditional supporters of the Democratic Party. In his final radio speech before the election, he promised to work for peace and a government that would help all people. Then he went to his home in the state of Missouri to wait with the rest of the country for the election results.

Republicans across the country greeted Election Day happily. They were sure that this was the day that the people would choose to send a Republican back to the White House after sixteen years.

Some of the early voting results from the northeastern states showed Truman winning. But few Republicans worried. They were sure Dewey would be the winner when all the votes were counted.

The Chicago Tribune was also sure who the next president would be, declaring in a huge headline "Dewey Defeats Truman."

But the newspaper was wrong. Everyone was wrong. Everyone, that is, except Harry Truman and the Americans who gave him their votes. Truman went to bed on election night before all the votes were counted. He told his assistant that he would win.

He awoke early the next morning to learn that he was right. Not only did he defeat Dewey, as he thought he would, but he won by a good number of votes. And he helped many Democratic congressional candidates win as well. The Democrats captured both houses of Congress.

After the results were announced, as heard in this old recording Truman showed his sense of humor by joking about the predictions of his defeat.

HARRY TRUMAN: "I had on the National Broadcasting Company and [commentator HV] Kaltenborn was saying 'While the president is a million votes ahead in the popular vote, we have yet to hear from [words drowned out by applause], and we are very sure that when the country votes come in, Mr. Truman will be defeated by an overwhelming majority.' And I went back to bed and went to sleep."

(MUSIC)

Harry Truman would make many difficult decisions as America moved into the second half of the twentieth century.

Truman would send American troops to help the United Nations defend South Korea against aggression from the North. He would join other Western leaders in establishing a new alliance, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. They established NATO to provide for the joint defense of Europe and North America.

Truman and later presidents would make decisions to send large amounts of economic and military aid to countries around the world.

Many of these decisions were necessary because of America's new responsibilities after World War Two as leader of the Western world.

(MUSIC)

You can find our series online with transcripts, MP3s, podcasts and pictures at www.unsv.com. And you can follow us on Facebook and Twitter at VOA Learning English. I'm Steve Ember, inviting you to join us again next week for THE MAKING OF A NATION -- American history in VOA Special English.

___

Contributing: David Jarmul

This was program #202. For earlier programs, type "Making of a Nation" in quotation marks in the search box at the top of the page.

在美国,总统大选从来都是政治生活中振奋人心的事件。然而,美国历史上没有几次大选像1948年那次一样令人激动,也没有几次大选的结果更为出人意料。

1948年共有四位总统候选人,其中包括现任总统、代表民主党参选的杜鲁门。在1944年的上届选举中,杜鲁门是副总统候选人、富兰克林.罗斯福的搭档。谁知,当选一年后,罗斯福不幸去世,杜鲁门继任总统,做出了向日本投掷原子弹的决定。

杜鲁门在继任总统的最初几个月里,犯了好几个严重错误。经济搞不好,跟工会关系又很僵,杜鲁门所在的民主党还在1946年举行的中期选举中失去了国会参众两院的多数席位。

大多数美国人对杜鲁门的领袖才干缺乏信心,在他们看来,如果杜鲁门决定参加1948年的总统大选,必输无疑。

民主党在中期选举中失利后,杜鲁门采取强有力的措施,证明自己的领导才干,而且决定参加1948年的总统大选。

杜鲁门要求国会通过了好几项帮助黑人的法律,在对苏联的外交上采取强硬立场,包括推行马歇尔计划和采取柏林空运行动,在向美国人民的讲话中也表现得更为有力。

杜鲁门成功获得民主党总统提名,他选择阿拉巴马州参议员巴克利做自己的副总统竞选搭档。杜鲁门在接受党内提名的时候宣布:"巴克利参议员和我一定会赢得大选,共和党人不喜欢也得喜欢,你们不要忘记我说的话。"

共和党总统候选人是纽约州州长托马斯.杜威。杜威足智多谋,敢做敢为,而且十分严肃。杜鲁门在竞选中告诉选民,说杜威不理解普通民众的需要,说他是代表富人的候选人。

有一次,列车误点,让杜威参加演讲迟到了,杜威为此对铁路机械师大发脾气。杜鲁门说,这就证明,杜威根本不了解铁路机械师等美国工薪阶层面对的问题,杜鲁门设法将这次选举描绘成一场辛勤的民主党人和有钱的共和党人之间的选战。

参加1948年大选的另外两位候选人来自新成立的政党,一个是南卡罗来纳州代表州权民主党的斯特罗姆.瑟蒙德,他的大部分支持者是美国东南部的白人,这些人反对让黑人享受白人享受的所有权利。

另一位候选人是代表进步党的亨利.华莱士。他的支持者们认为,杜鲁门已经背离了富兰克林.罗斯福的进步理念。

瑟蒙德和华莱士都是从民主党分裂出去的。大多数政治问题专家都认为,这两个人会分散杜鲁门原本可能得到的选票,这样一来,共和党候选人杜威就赢定了。

虽然杜鲁门缺少民众支持,但他意志坚定,不相信选举大势已去,并积极争取民众支持。杜鲁门在一次讲话中说:"选举日那天,总统、国会、州长和市长都不再是政府的化身,政府掌握在你们手中,你们要决定自己想要的政府,如果你们像1946年选举那样,三分之二的人都待在家里的话,那选举结果就是你们活该得到的,就像这个没用的第80届国会。"

杜鲁门说,他参加竞选,向来都是走到民众中去,跟大家见面,选总统也没什么两样,他坐着火车,横贯美国,跟民众面对面接触。杜鲁门说,如果你站在他们眼前,他们就会知道你说的是不是事实。

杜鲁门说:"如果你们让共和党人彻底控制政府,还不如索性把政府交给特殊利益集团,我们会再次经历繁荣和破灭的经济周期,就像20年代一样,最终对谁都没有好处,除了共产党人以外。"

杜鲁门全力以赴参加1948年总统大选。他坐着火车横穿美国,沿途发表了数百次讲话,其中包括一些没什么人知道的城镇和乡村,后人称他这次选战为 whistle stop campaign,"乡间小镇"的选战。

杜鲁门站在专列的车尾发表演讲。他的听众包括爱奥华的农民、德克萨斯孤儿院的孩子、蒙塔那和爱达荷州的乡村居民。

杜威和共和党人笑话杜鲁门,说他迫不得已,连小乡村里的选票也不放过。杜鲁门则反驳说,这一批评恰恰证明,共和党人根本没把普通民众放在眼里。

杜威也乘坐火车到全国各地去争取支持,但是他的讲话不疼不痒,远没有杜鲁门的演讲那么令人热血沸腾。当时的一个记者说,杜威表现得好像一位已经当选的总统,在宣誓就职前打发时间。

杜威的这种表现并不奇怪,因为美国几乎所有政治问题专家都认为,杜鲁门没有任何获胜的机会。华尔街日报的一篇报导,说的就是杜威入主白宫后将会采取的行动,纽约时报也说杜威可能会大获全胜。

杜鲁门拒绝认输,相反的,他加倍努力。大多数美国人虽然认为杜鲁门会输,但同时又对他斗到底的精神很佩服,他的一个支持者就曾高喊,"哈里,给他们点颜色看看!"这里的他们指的是共和党人。没过多久,全国各地支持杜鲁门的人都开始高呼,"哈里,给他们点颜色看看!"

杜鲁门极力争取工薪阶层、犹太人、黑人和天主教徒等一贯支持民主党的选民。在大选日前的最后一次广播讲话中,杜鲁门保证要维持和平,保证领导一个努力帮助人民的政府。他随后返回密苏里的家中,等待选举结果。

美国各地的共和党人兴高采烈地迎接选举日的来临。他们十分肯定,16年后,共和党人终于可以重返白宫了。来自美国东北部几个州的选举初步结果显示,杜鲁门暂时领先,但是共和党人并不担心。他们坚信,最后的计票结果一定是杜威当选。

芝加哥论坛报更是早早就登出了"杜威击败杜鲁门"的头版头条。但是芝加哥论坛报错了,所有的人都错了,除了杜鲁门和把票投给他的人以外。选举日当天晚上,票还没有清点完毕,杜鲁门就上床睡觉了,他告诉自己的助手说,他赢了。

第二天早上起床后,杜鲁门发现,他真地当选连任了。杜鲁门不仅击败了杜威,而且选票还相当悬殊,很多国会民主党候选人也沾了杜鲁门的光,民主党人一举夺回了国会参众两院的多数席位。

杜鲁门领导美国进入二十世纪下半叶,做出了很多艰难的决定,其中包括派遣美军帮助韩国抵御朝鲜的进攻,跟其他西方领导人一起建立北大西洋公约组织,保卫欧洲和北美国家的安全。杜鲁门和他之后的美国总统还决定向世界其他地区的国家提供大笔的经济和军事援助。第二次世界大战结束后,美国成为西方民主国家的领袖,自然要承担起新的责任。

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