Sunday, September 2, 2007


So, we went to the Herbert Hoover Presidential Museum in West Branch yesterday. I've always thought it sad that Iowa's only President was so misjudged in his four years at the helm of the United States. And it turns out I was more right than I could have known.

Born in 1874 and orphaned at the age of nine, "Bert" (as he was known then) became the quintessential American figure by overcoming adversity through the virtue of pulling himself up by his bootstraps. My fiance (an otaku if I've ever seen one) pointed out that he was the last great engineer of the golden age of engineering. He valued working hard, sound business management and modernization. These principles made him a great humanitarian when he was called upon when the world went to war for the first time. He spearheaded the effort to feed nine million Belgians in WWI. He introduced rationing to the United States, conserving one of the most valuable wartime resources. He helped feed starving people, whatever their politics or nation. He reorganized the Commerce Department. He helped clean up the disaster of the Mississippi floods of 1927. And so he gained in popularity, and was elected 31st President (with a Native American as vice-president) by a loving nation.

This is the part where most Americans cry, "But he let the stock market crash!" Sadly, they would be mistaken to think so, which is why I urge you to visit the museum. There you will see the letters he wrote, even as early as 1925, urging caution in investing in the stock market. You will see the book he wrote in 1922 promoting regulation of the stock market.

I found an interesting tidbit at the museum: the governor of New York, whom Hoover pressured to try and rein in the stock market a few months before the crash, was none other than Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Yes, the same man who claimed Hoover was personally responsible for the Great Depression and berated Hoover's policies, some of which FDR later adopted. It was later determined that even after Hoover left office, an agent of FDR was opening his outgoing and incoming mail, and his phones line was most likely tapped.
Say what you will about FDR, but he was a brilliant propagandist. Joseph Goebbels had nothing on FDR.

So our lone Iowan left the White House, never to return. The world didn't forget him, however. It desperately needed his humanitarian help after WWII, especially the children of Germany. And he gave it to them willingly, out of the goodness of his heart. He kept up the charity work, helping expand the Boys Clubs in America, and wrote a biography about another misunderstood President, Woodrow Wilson. He died in 1964, having gained the world's respect and admiration once again.

Obviously, we can draw parallels to the current administration. Bush suffers from a few of the same things that plagued Hoover: A major catastrophe happening early in his administration that he couldn't have prevented and has spent the rest of his time in office trying to prevent it from ever happening again. Vindictive sniping from presidential candidates (and those who have had their chance at the office) who can't understand why we are where we are. And a long-term vision for America that doesn't pacify those with short-sightedness.

I've been told once that I'm a "big-picture" person. I shot back that it was only natural, having been lectured by my father for years that I had to look at the big picture in regard to the Yankees ("Yeah, Dad, I see a team that has to frantically buy its way to the top, and they can't even get that right!"). But perhaps that's carried over into other areas, and the Presidents I admire are the ones with "big-picture" mentality. Herbert Hoover fits into that category, in my book.

If you want to get a full picture of what happened in 1928-32, it's well worth the $6 admission (for adults under 65) and the trip to West Branch, IA.

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