Historically yours : The right man at the wrong time

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Upon his election in 1928, Herbert Hoover had the ability to become one of our greatest Presidents. He was hardworking, incorruptible and self-reliant. With the 1929 Depression, however, Hoover was simply the wrong man for the times. Hoover’s lifelong philosophy, which worked against him as President, was for people to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps and not depend upon others, including the Federal government. At age 6, with the death of his blacksmith father, Herbert was sent to live with relatives to ease the burden on his mother. At age 9, with the death of his mother, the three Hoover orphans were divided among relatives. Herbert was passed to an uncle, Dr. John Minthron, who was a stern, non-pacifist Quaker. Herbert was hired to work the nearby onion fields. At 17, he was the youngest student in Stanford’s first class 1891, majoring in geology. He worked his way through college and became a mining engineer. He married Lou Henry, who, at the time, was Stanford’s only female geology major. They sailed for China and Herbert’s new job, with Lou collaborating on her husband’s work. In China, Australia and Burma, Hoover developed vast coal deposits, highly lucrative zinc and silver mines. By 1914, he was worth an estimated $4 million. In making himself available for public service, Hoover drew world approval as head of the Commission for the Relief of Belgium following World War 1. As Director of the American Relief Administration, he distributed 34 million tons of food, clothing and supplies to needy countries. He served as Economic Advisor to Democratic President Wilson and Secretary of Commerce under Republican Harding. His administrative skills were superb.

As President, Hoover and his advisors at first failed to grasp the enormity of the Depression, expressing confidence that in a few months, the worst would be over. He refused to engage in massive programs of direct federal aid to the unemployed. When he attended a baseball game in 1931, the angry crowd pelted him with rotten tomatoes. As the crises developed, Hoover become a symbol of the Depression. The homeless huddled in cardboard dwellings. Newspaper came to be called “Hoover Blankets.” In May 1932, some 15,000 veterans descended on Washington demanding payment of 1924 bonus awards. Hoover ordered the bonus camp cleared. General Douglas MacArthur, aided by Major Dwight Eisenhower and George Patton, led troops against the veterans. They dispersed the “enemy” and set fire to their shacks. It reinforced the image of a heartless President, insensitive to the Depression’s victims. FDR’s campaign theme song, in defeating Hoover in 1932, was “Happy Days are Here Again.” People suddenly had confidence in the new president. Hoover, however, was a totally defeated man.

Sources: Wikipedia, “United States presidential election, 1932,”: Encyclopedia Britannica, “United States presidential election, 1932,”: Shmoop, “Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR): 1932 Election,”: UVA I Miller Center, “Franklin D. Roosevelt: Campaign and Elections,”: Marked by Teachers. “Why Did Roosevelt Defeat Hoover in the 1932 presidential election.”


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