HERBERT HOOVER: A PUBLIC LIFE
by David Burner
ISBN 978-0-945707-37-0 $35.00
434 pages including sources, notes, acknowledgements & index plus illustrations.
He was one of the extraordinary Americans of this century. Inexhaustibly energetic, a progressive and a humanitarian, he would build a society on the virtues of hard, intelligent work, voluntary cooperation, commonsensical decency, and good neighborliness. Yet for three decades after he left the presidency Herbert Hoover met with opprobrium and derision, and now his name is almost invariably associated with economic depression and inept leadership. But, as historian David Bruner argues in this compellingly readable biography, the conventional view of our thirty-first President is distorted and largely unjust.
Hoover's early years were in the classic American tradition. Born in Iowa, orphaned by the age of nine, raised by relatives in Oregon, he was in the first graduating class of Stanford University. He spent the next twenty years as a mining engineer and entrepreneur in Australia, China, and England, and quickly became a millionaire. His organizing and supervising of the massive Belgian relief operations of World War I made him an international figure, and he came home to the United States to oversee the wartime production and distribution of food. After the war he led a European relief program that saved millions of lives.
When he became President in 1929 - the first professional engineer to reach the White House - Hoover's standing was at its zenith, and he urged upon Congress a program that was the most socially adventurous proposed in America before Franklin Roosevelt's Hundred Days in 1933.
But, as Burner makes clear, there were fatal flaws in Hoover that rendered him unable to deal with the crises following the Wall Street crash of 1929. He shows Hoover as a lonely individualist traveling faithfully along on his own uncommunicative course, who understood the importance of instilling public confidence but could not bring himself to employ public relations technique to manufacture it.