Herbert Clark Hoover was born Aug. 10, 1874, in West Branch, Iowa. At the age of six, he spent eight months on the Osage Indian Reservation in Oklahoma with his Quaker uncle, who was an Indian agent. There he made many Indian friends and attended the "Indian Sunday-School." Herbert Hoover was the only U.S. president to have lived on an Indian reservation.
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His Canadian-born Quaker mother, Hulda, taught Sunday School and spoke at Friend's Meeting House. She died when he was only nine years old. In 1885, Herbert went to live with another Quaker uncle in Newberg, Oregon, where he attended Friend's Pacific Academy (George Fox University). In 1891, he was accepted into Stanford University's inaugural class, being the first student to live in the dormitory. He worked his way through school doing laundry, delivering papers, and working for the U.S. Geological Survey.
Herbert graduated from Stanford in 1895 with a degree in geology, and in 1897, he sailed across the ocean to work as a mining engineer in Western Australia. In 1898, while overseas, he cabled a marriage proposal to Miss Lou Henry, with whom he had fallen in love with at Stanford. She wired back her acceptance. They were both 24 years old when they married on Feb. 10, 1899.
Miss Lou Henry was Episcopalian and Herbert was Quaker, but as there were no Quaker Meeting Houses in Monterey, California, they married in a civil ceremony performed by Roman Catholic priest Father Ramon Mestres of the Cathedral of San Carlos Borromeo. They traveled on their honeymoon cruise to China, where Herbert worked for the Emperor as a mining consultant. Lou would be the only First Lady to speak Chinese.
On June 1, 1900, Herbert and his wife, Lou, were caught in China's Boxer Rebellion, being besieged in the city of Tientsin for over a month. Chinese Boxer fighters, which included a mob of 10,000 Muslim "Gansu Braves," relentlessly attacked in a brutal attempt to expel all foreigners, most significantly Britain, United States, Australia, India, Germany, France, Austria-Hungary, Italy and Japan. Thousands of Chinese Christians were also targeted and executed, with churches and cathedrals being burned down.
To defend against the attacks, Hoover organized the building of barricades, while under heavy fire. His wife, Lou, worked in the hospital caring for the wounded. They are credited with rescuing Chinese children caught in the crossfire.
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Returning to America, the Hoovers lived in both in California and London from 1901 to 1909. He launched his own business as an independent mining consultant in 1908, traveling worldwide with investments on every continent, and maintaining offices in Burma, San Francisco, Mandalay, London, St. Petersburg, Paris, and New York City.
Hoover lectured at Stanford and Columbia universities and published a textbook, "Principles of Mining," in 1909. He headed the American Child Health Association, and his wife, Lou, was the chair of the American Women's War Relief Fund.
In World War I, at the request of the American Consul, Hoover helped 120,000 Americans who were stranded in Europe to return home. He directed the feeding of Belgium after Kaiser Wilhelm II overran it. In gratitude, the Belgian city of Leuven named a town square after him, "Hooverplein." Working 14-hour days for two years, Hoover orchestrated the feeding nine million war victims in 21 countries of Central Europe and Russia.
He was appointed by President Wilson as director of the U.S. Food Administration. He served as Secretary of Commerce under Presidents Harding and Coolidge. In gratitude for his efforts, Washington, D.C., named its first airport "Hoover Field."
Of his time serving under President Warren G. Harding, Hoover wrote in his personal memoirs, published 1952: "(Harding) had another side which was not good. His political associates had been men of the type of Albert B. Fall (Teapot Dome Scandal) ... Harry Daugherty (bootlegging scandal) ... Charles Forbes (embezzled from veterans over $2 million). ... He enjoyed the company of these men (in) weekly White House poker parties ... the play lasted most of the night. ... It irked me to see it in the White House."
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In 1927, the Mississippi River flooded, leaving 1.5 million people displaced from their homes. With his experience coordinating large scale relief to millions, Hoover mobilized state and local authorities, militia, army engineers, the Coast Guard and the American Red Cross. He oversaw the setting up of health units which stamped out malaria, pellagra and typhoid, gaining him national appreciation.
In a landslide victory in 1928, Herbert Hoover was elected the 31st U.S. president. He refused a salary, as he did throughout his entire life, never taking payment for public service. His vice president, Charles Curtis, was the first Native American to hold that office, being a descendant of Osage chief Pawhuska.
At that time, Illinois Republican Oscar De Priest was the only African-American member of the U.S. Congress. President Hoover's wife, First Lady Lou Hoover, disregarded customs and in 1929, invited De Priest's wife, Jessie De Priest, to have tea at the White House.
In his inaugural address, March 4, 1929, President Herbert Hoover stated: "I assume this trust in the humility of knowledge that only through the guidance of Almighty Providence can I hope to discharge its ever-increasing burdens. ... Ill-considered remedies for our faults brings only penalties after them. But if we hold the faith of the men in our mighty past who created these ideals, we shall leave them heightened and strengthened for our children. ... I beg your tolerance, your aid, and your cooperation. I ask the help of Almighty God in this service to my country to which you have called me."
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Explaining his views on the Constitution, Herbert Hoover stated at an event in San Diego, Sept. 17, 1935, the same year the Hoover Dam was dedicated: "Our Constitution ... is based upon certain inalienable freedoms and protections which in no event the government may infringe. ... It does not require a lawyer to interpret those provisions. They are as clear as the Ten Commandments. ... Behind them is the conception which is the highest development of the Christian faith – the conception of individual freedom with brotherhood."
Hoover encouraged the nation: "Freedom is an open window through which pours the sunlight of the human spirit and of human dignity. With the preservation of these moral and spiritual qualities and with God's grace will come further greatness for our country."
Hoover championed individual hard work and independence, rather than dependence on government, as he wrote in "The Challenge of Liberty," 1934: "While I can make no claim for having introduced the term, 'rugged individualism,' I should be proud to have invented it. It has been used ... in eulogy of those God-fearing men and women of honesty whose stamina and character and fearless assertion of rights led them to make their own way in life."
During the "roaring twenties," there was irresponsible market speculation, stock manipulation, and banks that were over-leveraged with debt, in addition to growing domestic and international conditions. Inheriting these problems, the stock market crashed just eight months into Hoover's term in office.
At the onset of the Depression, President Hoover stated at the Gridiron Club, April 27, 1931: "If, by the grace of God, we have passed the worst of this storm, the future months will be easy. If we shall be called upon to endure more of this period, we must gird ourselves for even greater effort, for today we are writing the introduction to the future history of civilization in America. ... The question is whether that history shall be written in terms of individual responsibility, and the capacity of the Nation for voluntary cooperative action, or whether it shall be written in terms of futile attempt to cure poverty by the enactment of law, instead of the maintained and protected initiative of our people. ... If we can maintain this courage and resolution we shall have written this new chapter in national life in terms to which our whole idealism has aspired. May God grant to us the spirit and strength to carry through to the end."
In a Memorial Day address at Valley Forge, May 30, 1931, President Hoover stated: "If, by the grace of God, we stand steadfast in our great traditions through this time of stress, we shall insure that we and our sons and daughters shall see these fruits increased many fold. ... If those few thousand men endured that long winter of privation and suffering ... held their countrymen to the faith, and by that holding held fast the freedom of America, what right have we to be of little faith?"
On Oct. 18, 1931, in an address which began a nation-wide drive to aid the private relief agencies, President Herbert Hoover stated: "This civilization ... which we call American life, is builded and can alone survive upon the translation into individual action of that fundamental philosophy announced by the Savior nineteen centuries ago."
On Sept. 15, 1932, to leaders of the "national drive" committee for voluntary relief agencies, President Herbert Hoover stated: "We maintain the spiritual impulses in our people for generous giving and generous service – in the spirit that each is his brother's keeper."
Hoover was implementing a recovery plan based on volunteerism, aid through the states and mobilizing private relief agencies. He stated Feb. 3, 1931: "The American people are doing their job today. They should be given a chance to show whether they wish to preserve the principles of individual and local responsibility and mutual self-help before they embark on what I believe to be a disastrous system."
Unfortunately, political opposition by those wanting to expand the federal government's power prolonged and thwarted his recovery efforts, thereby sabotaging Hoover's reelection. Hoover warned in a campaign speech at Madison Square Garden, New York, Oct. 31, 1932, against the collectivist "New Deal" plans of his Democrat opponent, Franklin Roosevelt, as the government would effectively take control of private business and restrict individual freedom: "To enter upon a series of deep changes ... would be to undermine and destroy our American system. ... No man who has not occupied my position in Washington can fully realize the constant battle which must be carried on against incompetence, corruption, tyranny of government expanded into business activities. ... Free speech does not live many hours after free industry and free commerce die."
Hoover lost the election in 1932 to Franklin Roosevelt, who succeeded in having himself reelected three more times. Under Roosevelt, the Great Depression continued, being compounded by the Dust Bowl, which devastated 100 million acres. It was not until the United States entered World War II that the U.S. economy improved.
During WWII, Herbert Hoover signed a joint statement with the widows of Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Coolidge, Taft, Harrison and Cleveland, which stated: "Menaced by collectivist trends, we must seek revival of our strength in the spiritual foundations which are the bedrock of our republic. Democracy is the outgrowth of the religious conviction of the sacredness of every human life. On the religious side, its highest embodiment is the Bible; on the political side, the Constitution."
Near the end of World War II, in declining health, President Roosevelt gave away half of Europe to Stalin's communist Soviet Union at the Yalta Conference. Roosevelt then wrote a letter to the Saudi King, Abdul Aziz, April 5, 1945, promising that he would not let the United States recognize a Jewish State. A week later, the ailing Roosevelt finally died, April 12, 1945.
The next president, Harry S Truman, immediately took steps to recognize the State of Israel. Truman appointed Herbert Hoover as Chairman of the Hoover Commission, as Eisenhower did later.
Hoover proposed a solution to the Middle East crisis, as reported by Scripps-Howard Press, Nov. 19, 1945: "In ancient times the irrigation of the Tigris and Euphrates Valleys supported probably 10 million people in the kingdoms of Babylon and Nineveh. The deterioration and destruction of their irrigation works by the Mongol invasion centuries ago, and their neglect for ages, are responsible for the shrinkage of the population to about 3,500,000 people in modern Iraq. ... Some 30 years ago, Sir William Willcocks, an eminent British engineer, completed a study of the restoration of the old irrigation system. He estimated that about 2,800,000 acres of the most fertile land in the world could be recovered at a cost of under $150,000,000. ... Some progress has been made under the Iraq government but their lack of financial resources and the delay of war have retarded the work greatly. ... My own suggestion is that Iraq might be financed to complete this great land development on the consideration that it be made the scene of resettlement of the Arabs from Palestine. ..."
Hoover continued: "This would clear Palestine completely for a large Jewish emigration and colonization. A suggestion of transfer of the Arab people of Palestine was made by the British Labor Party in December, 1944, but no adequate plan was proposed as to where or how they were to go. ..."
Hoover added: "There is room for many more Arabs in such a development in Iraq than the total Arabs in Palestine. The soil is more fertile. They would be among their own race which is Arab-speaking and Mohammedan. The Arab population of Palestine would be the gainer from better lands in exchange for their present holdings. Iraq would be the gainer for it badly needs agricultural population. ... Today millions of people are being moved from one land to another. If the lands were organized and homes provided, this particular movement could be made the model migration of history. It would be a solution by engineering instead of by conflict. I realize that the plan offers a challenge both to the statesmanship of the Great Powers as well as to the goodwill of all parties concerned. However, I submit it and it does offer a method of settlement with both honor and wisdom."
Five years after the United Nations was established, Herbert Hoover proposed reorganizing it to exclude Communist countries, as recorded by the American Newspaper Publishers Association, April 27, 1950: "What the world needs today is a definite, spiritual mobilization of the nations who believe in God against this tide of Red agnosticism. It needs a moral mobilization against the hideous ideas of the police state and human slavery. ... I suggest that the United Nations should be reorganized without the Communist nations in it. If that is impractical, then a definite New United Front should be organized of those peoples who disavow communism, who stand for morals and religion, and who love freedom. ..."
Hoover continued: "It is a proposal based solely upon moral, spiritual and defense foundations. It is a proposal to redeem the concept of the United Nations to the high purpose for which it was created. It is a proposal for moral and spiritual cooperation of God-fearing free nations. And in rejecting an atheistic other world, I am confident that the Almighty God will be with us."
Herbert Clark Hoover died Oct. 20, 1964.
A few years earlier, he spoke at a reception on his 80th birthday in West Branch, Iowa, Aug. 10, 1954, warning: "I have witnessed on the ground in 20 nations the workings of the philosophy of that anti-Christ, Karl Marx. There rises constantly in my mind the forces which make for progress and those which may corrode away the safeguards of freedom in America. ... I want to say something ... not in the tones of Jeremiah but in the spirit of Saint Paul. ... Our Founding Fathers did not invent the priceless boon of individual freedom and respect for the dignity of men. That great gift to mankind sprang from the Creator and not from governments. ... Today the Socialist virus and poison gas generated by Karl Marx and Friedreich Engels have spread into every nation on the earth. ... Their dogma is absolute materialism which defies truth and religious faith. ..."
Hoover continued: "A nation is strong or weak, it thrives or perishes upon what it believes to be true. If our youth are rightly instructed in the faith of our fathers ... then our power will be stronger. ... To this whole gamut of Socialist infections, I say to you ... God has blessed us with another wonderful word – 'heritage.' The great documents of that heritage are not from Karl Marx. They are from the Bible, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States. Within them alone can the safeguards of freedom survive."
Hoover, who was a member of the Society of Friends (Quakers), stated: "The whole inspiration of our civilization springs from the teachings of Christ and the lessons of the prophets. To read the Bible for these fundamentals is a necessity of American life."
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