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WHY A FREEDOM TRAIN ?

The 1947 - 1949 Freedom Train was conceived as an opportunity to reflect on the meaning of American citizenship at a time when the nation was finding a new and central role in world affairs. Americans had experienced a decade of pre-war economic Depression. They made sacrifices in foreign lands throughout World War II. They were entering an age of post-war prosperity with opportunities unknown in all of human history. And they were unsure of the reassurances at the sudden dawn of the nuclear age and Soviet expansion into countries just liberated from fascist oppression in Europe and Asia.

With President Harry Truman in the lead, some in the national government believed Americans should pause and reflect, to experience a "rededication" to the principles that founded their country.

President Truman loved trains, and his use of the "whistle stop" campaign train still epitomizes this icon of the electoral process. Attorney General Tom Clark and his staff proposed a train that would travel to communities in every state of the nation, taking with it dozens of "documents of liberty."

The result, they hoped, would enable Americans to rediscover for themselves just how hard-won their freedoms were. Clearly, they hoped to enable personal reconciliations with the still-fresh sacrifices and human costs of war, and to impart a sense of meaning and worth to those sacrifices.

Text by Mr. Larry Wines.

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