Back to Index

President Herbert Hoover

     One surprising thing is that there are two institutions at either end of the country, the Hoover Institution at Stanford, a Republican stronghold, and the John F. Kennedy Library at Harvard, a Democratic stronghold. Also surprising is that, after the splendid presentations in honor of President Hoover at the Herbert Hoover Memorial Library in West Branch, Iowa, an even more impressive meeting was held, not at the Hoover Institution, but at the Kennedy Library. There was an allusion to Stanford, but it was to the Medical School: Hoover thanked Joseph Kennedy for his donation to "my alma mater, Stanford."
     The Harvard meeting, presided over by Sheldon Stern, featured as speakers four of the six directors of the West Branch library, notably the latest: Richard Norton Smith and Timothy Walch, an extraordinary host of historians. David Quigley of Boston College also spoke. All were excellent; they stressed the fact that Hoover was not the black reactionary of American folklore, but an extraordinarily kind and humane person.
     My wife is a graduate of the University of Iowa, in Iowa City, near West Branch. and with the development of the Memorial Library, it should become a center for studies of the Hoover period. In an earlier posting, I described the anti-Middle West propaganda which Easterners fed us in England. An author who gave prestige to this propaganda was Nobel laureate Sinclair Lewis, whom I read as a boy. There was an oblique reference to him in the Harvard meeting. He also taught me to scorn the Rotarians, but I later came to realize that such service clubs are an admirable manifestation of the public spiritedness exemplified by Hoover. It is regrettable that they no longer enjoy their old prestige in the me society, less interested in public service.
     The Bay Area, especially San Francisco and Berkeley, is the home of the crazy left (not to be confused with the sane left). The Haight-Ashbury district and the Beat Generation are manifestations of degeneracy, and the same may be said of a campus which makes a hero of Mario Savio. This spirit has infected Stanford. It is an embarrassment that Green Library spent a large sum to acquire Ginsburg trivia. It is an irony of history that this malignant culture should have grown up around Herbert Hoover. No wonder he left in disgust and went home to the Midwest. It was in reaction to this that the Hoover Institution developed into an ultra-conservative center. I was left with the impression that the producers of the admirable programs I have described avoided the Hoover Institution out of concern that viewers would immediately dismiss them as propaganda. Let me repeat that these observations are not a criticism of intelligent and honest left, or, as the silly Americanism now puts it, "liberals."
     One of the many books I would like to write but will not is one on Defeat, describing how throughout history noble men like Woodrow Wilson (about whom Hoover wrote a book) and Herbert Hoover struggled for an ideal and were beaten. I knew Herbert Hoover in his last years, and I have never seen a man so spiritually defeated.
     When the dying Hamlet said "The rest is silence," Horatio commented "Now cracks a noble heart. Good night, sweet prince, and flights of angels sing the to thy rest!"

Ronald Hilton - 10/10/99