Joshua Mather, a doctoral student in history who is advised by Mike Ruddy, Ph.D., has been named the recipient of a Truman Library Institute Dissertation Fellowship. The award covers the living expenses of a graduate student whose project examines the career or legacy of Harry S. Truman.
Mather's dissertation, titled "Citizens of Compassion: Relief, Development and State-Private Cooperation in U.S. Foreign Relations, 1939-73," examines when, how, why and to what effect the U.S. government and private voluntary organizations partnered together to fight overseas hunger, disease, and poverty.
President Truman played a pivotal role in the history of state-private humanitarianism through several initiatives, most notably the Point Four foreign assistance program targeting what he called mankind's "ancient enemies" of hunger, disease and poverty.
Truman's Point Four program helped convince voluntary agency leaders that their humanitarian priorities overlapped with the objectives of U.S. foreign policy. Thus, because Truman played a pivotal role in the longer history of government and private sector collaboration in U.S. foreign policy, his presidency functions as a useful portal for examining the emergence of state-private humanitarianism in the United States' rise to global power.
Mather has researched at the Truman Library in preparing his dissertation. His work shows that between World War II and the passage of the 1973 Foreign Assistance Act, federal officials and voluntary agency leaders fashioned a policy framework and public discourse of "state-private humanitarianism" that centered on American responsibility for helping foreigners in crisis — while at the same time seeking to cement the United States' global influence in a changing world.
In light of ongoing state-private cooperation in U.S. foreign policy today, as well as contemporary interest in guarding against overseas aid initiatives that do more harm than good, this dissertation sheds light on the origins of a highly relevant and complicated aspect of America's 20th-century engagements with the broader world.