Herbert Hoover's final visit to Iowa
The premiere episode of From the Archives features a recording from 1962, when President Herbert Hoover returned to his hometown of West Branch, Iowa on his 88th birthday for the dedication of the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum. The event was broadcast live over WSUI. During his speech, Hoover cautions against allowing the spread of communism across the world.
Historian Tim Walch, the director emeritus of the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum, joins the episode to offer context for Hoover's remarks.
From the Archives was made possible through a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
The following is a transcript of President Herbert Hoover’s speech on August 10, 1962. The transcript was produced using AI transcription software and edited by an IPR producer, and it may contain errors. Please listen to the corresponding audio before quoting in print.
Within this library are thrilling records of supreme action by the American people: their devotion and sacrifice to their ideals. Santayana rightly said “those who do not remember their past are condemned to relive it again.”
Now these institutions are the repositories of such experience, and they are to be handed hot off the griddle. In these records there are, no doubt, many unfavorable remarks made by a political opponent, as well as the expressions of appreciation and affection by our friends. We may hope that future students will rely upon our friends for consultation. In any event, when students become sleepy, they may be awakened by the lightning flashes of American political humor in these archives.
Now it is exactly 88 years since I first came to Iowa. Since that visit, I have seen much of people, of governments, of their institutions, and of human woe. I can count 50 nations with which I have had something important to do. I was not a tourist — I worked with their people. In my professional years, I brought to them American technology, with all of its train of greater productivity and better living. In two wars, I served again amidst famine. And in the war-shattered aftermath, I've directed the reconstruction of scores of nations.
Now I've worked with great spiritual leaders and with great statesmen. I have lived under governments of free men, of kings, of dictators, and under fascists, and under communists. But uppermost in the minds, and prayers, of all of the plain people everywhere, is that war should cease, and that peace should come to the world. They treasured a confidence that America would maintain freedom, and that we would cooperate to bring peace to all mankind.
Now during my long years, I have participated in many world negotiations, which we hoped would promote peace. But we have no peace in America. From all this experience, and now as the shadows gather around me, I may be permitted to make an observation to you and to offer a course of action. Leaders of mankind for centuries have sought some form of organization, which would assure lasting peace. The last of these many efforts is the United Nations. The time has come in our national life when we must take a new appraisal of that institution. But first, let me say that I have, in all my official life, believed in world organization to maintain peace. I supported the League of Nations when it was unpopular. I went down to the defeat when I was president. I urged the Senate to join the world court. I urged the ratification of the United Nations Charter by the Senate. But I stated at that time, the American people should be under no illusions that this charter ensures lasting peace.
But now we must realize that the United Nations has failed to give us even a remote hope of lasting peace. Instead, it has added to the dangers of wars, which now surround us. The disintegrating force in the United Nations are the communist nations, who are its membership. The Communist leaders for 40 years have repeatedly asserted that no peace can come to the world until they have overcome the free nations. One of their fundamental methods of expanding communism over the earth is to provoke conflict, hostility, hate among other nations. And one of the approaches that they have never departed from these ideas is that they have, on about 100 occasions, vetoed proposals in the Security Council of the United Nations, which would have less international conflict. In sum, they have destroyed the usefulness of the United Nations to preserve peace.
When Woodrow Wilson launched the League of Nations, he said, and I quote, 'a steadfast concert of peace can never be maintained, except by a partnership of democratic nations. No autocratic government could be trusted to keep faith within our observed its covenants.'
We forgot that more unity among free nations has been urged by President Truman, President Eisenhower and President Kennedy.
In cooperation with far-seeing statesmen and other free nations, five great regional treaties or pacts have been set up for mutual defense. And there are bilateral agreements, among other free nations to give military support to each other in case of an attack. Within these agreements are more than 40 free nations who have pledged themselves to fight against aggression.
Today, the madness of communism has become worldwide. The time is here. If the free nations are to survive, they must have a new and stronger worldwide organization to meet this menace. For purposes of this discussion, I may call it the ‘Council of Free Nations.’ It should include only those nations who are willing to stand up and fight for their freedom and their independence.
The foundations for this organization have already been laid by the 40 nations who have taken pledges in the five regional pacts, and they have obligated themselves to resist other with military forces against aggression. And there are other free nations who should join.
I do not suggest that a Council of Free Nations should replace the United Nations. When the United Nations is prevented from taking action, or if it fails to act to preserve peace, then the council I have suggested of free nations should step in.
Some may inquire where the offices and headquarters for such an organization should be. Fortunately there are ample buildings in the world's most accepted neutral nation — Geneva has been the scene of great accomplishments and peace until it was poisoned by the communist and the pests.
Although the analogy of the Council of Europe, Concert of Europe which were formed in 1814, is not perfect, yet with much less unity, much less authority, it fended off world war for a 100 years. And I say to you that some organizations of organized Council of Free Nations is the remaining hope of peace in this world.
There is another subject which lies heavily on the American mind today. Our people are deeply troubled about the turbulent world around us, but also with many internal problems which haunt our days and our nights. There are many despairing voices. There are many undertones of discouragement. The press headlines imply that corruption, crime, divorce, youthful delinquency, and Hollywood love trysts are our national preoccupation. And amid all these voices, there is a cry that the American way of life is on its way to decline and fall. I do not believe it. Perhaps amid this din of voices and headlines of gloom, I may say something about the inner forces which come the strengths of America. They assure its future and it continued service to mankind.
The mightiest assurance of our future and the intangibles are the intangible spiritual and intellectual forces in our people, which we express not by calling it the United States, but by the word, 'America.' That word America carries meanings, which lie deep in the soul of our people. It reaches far beyond the size of cities and of factories. It spreads from our religious faith, our ideals of individual freedom, and equal opportunity which have come in the centuries since we landed on these shores. It rises from our pride in the great accomplishments of our nation, and from the sacrifices and devotion of those who have passed on. It lifts us above the ugliness of the day. It has guided us through even greater crises in our past and from these forces, solutions will come again.
This representative government in its 186 years of life has lasted longer than any other great republic in history. And if you look about, you will see the steeples of tens of thousands of places of worship. Each week, 100 million people come to reaffirm their religious faith. And if you will look, you will find that The Bill of Rights is an enforced law of the land. And you will find that the dignity of man and the equality of opportunity are more nearly survived in this land than any other on Earth. If you will look, you will also find that from our educational system there comes every year a host of stimulated minds. They bring new scientific discoveries, new inventions and new ideas. It is true that they revolutionize or disturb our daily life, but we can readily adjust ourselves and our government to them without the assistance of Karl Marx.
I could go on and on reciting the mighty forces in American life, which assure its progress and its durability. Perhaps on this occasion, it would be of interest and not inappropriate for me to cite my own life as proof of what America brings to her children. I was taken from this village to the far west 78 years ago. The only material assets which I had were two dimes in my pocket, the sort of clothes that I wore, and I had some extra underpinnings provided by loving aunts. But I carried from here something much more precious. I had a certificate of the fourth or the fifth, grade, I’ve forgotten which, of higher learning from the West Branch school. I had a stern grounding of religious faith. I carried with me recollections of a joyous childhood, where the winter snow and the growing crops of Iowa were an especial provision for kids. And I carried with me the family disciplines of hard work. That included picking potato bugs at 10 cents a hundred. Now, incidentally, that money was used for the serious purpose of buying firecrackers to applaud the founding fathers on each Fourth of July.
And in conclusion may say I, may I say to the boys and girls of America, that the doors of opportunity are still open to you. Today the durability of freedom is more secure in your country than any place in the world. And may God bring you even more great blessings. Thank you.