President of Kansas City University, Clarence R. Decker, conferred an honorary degree on President Truman at a ceremony that was held at the Municipal Auditorium at 8:30 in the evening.
The president delivered a formal speech in response which reflected where the world was on June 28, 1945. World War II still raged on in the Pacific as the United States and its allies were still at war with Japan. The speech reflected this and it also discussed the role that the United States needed to play in world affairs after the war comes to a close.
Truman told the evening crowd:
"I can't tell you how very much I appreciate this first honorary degree that you have conferred. I appreciate it more than I can tell you. I have been overwhelmed, since I have been back in Jackson County, to find out just what kind of fellow I am. You have been exceedingly kind to me. You have absolutely disproved that maxim, that a prophet is not without honor save in his own country. You certainly have honored me with everything possible. I hope I can deserve it."
"I have a tremendous--a tremendous task, one that I dare not look at too closely, for the simple reason that it is one that no man can do by himself. I must have the wholehearted--the unqualified support of the country, to win the Japanese war, and then to win the peace."
"And there is one thing we must learn. It has been a most difficult task for us to learn it; and that is that it is absolutely necessary for the greatest Republic that the sun has ever shone upon to live with the world as a whole, and not by itself."
The president then reflected back on his personal history to put into perspective the rapid change that he had seen in his lifetime when his grandfather, Solomon Young, had freighted goods from Missouri to Salt Lake City, Utah.
"The night before last, I arrived in Salt Lake City, Utah, at 10 p.m. from San Francisco, which I had left on the same time schedule at 8 p.m. I left Salt Lake City the next morning after breakfast--....and arrived in Kansas City, Missouri, in exactly three hours and a half."
"My grandfather made that trip time and again from 1846 to 1854, and again from 1864 to 1870, and when he made that trip it took him exactly 3 months to go, and 3 months to come back."
"That is the age in which we live. The time is coming when that trip, in my opinion, will be made in one hour and a half, instead of three hours and a half. The time is coming when we will be transporting the freight of the world, and the express of the world, and the mail of the world on a schedule that will be almost up with the travel of the earth in its turn on its axis."
"We must become adjusted to that situation....I am anxious to bring home to you that the world is no longer county size, no longer state-size, no longer nation-size. It is one world, as [Wendell] Willkie said. It is a world in which we must all get along."
He concluded his remarks by telling the crowd:
"When I come to Jackson County, I can't realize that I am President of the United States. I feel like I am just one of your fellow citizens. I see the same faces, and I try to talk to the same people. But, you know, there is one thing that I have found it impossible to do, and that is to shake hands with and talk to five hundred thousand people in 3 days. I just can't do it, much to my regret. I wish I could shake hands with everybody here tonight, and listen to your tales of woe, if you have one, as I used to do; but this is impossible. I just can't do it."