By Matthew Schaefer
Just as spring follows winter and Mother’s day follows Easter, every June brings graduation ceremonies. This particular rite of passage is familiar to all. Those about to graduate don the requisite cap and gown. Friends and family convene to mark the occasion. Speakers gather up their most sonorous pearls of wisdom to dispense to an inattentive audience. Everyone hopes that the ceremony will finish quickly, so that folks can get on with their life.
Even sons of the President and First Lady are not immune to this particular life passage. In mid-June 1929, Allan Hoover, second son of Herbert and Lou Henry Hoover, stood ready to graduate from Stanford. For Allan Hoover, Stanford was familiar terrain. Not only had both of his parents and his older brother graduated from Stanford, Allan had spent most of his life in the shadow of the campus. Even the scheduled commencement speaker, Ray Lyman Wilbur was a close family friend [as well as President of Stanford and Secretary of the Interior].
Perhaps all these factors played a part in Herbert and Lou Hoover’s decisions not to attend Allan’s graduation ceremony. Perhaps the elder Hoovers were compelled by the press of business to stay in Washington DC. In any event, they communicated their congratulations from a distance. Lou’s June 11th telegram read: ‘The very best good luck in the world to you on your last working day in the old diggings STOP I am distressed beyond words that I have demanding duties here which prevent my actually seeing you walk the plank…’ President Hoover’s letter of June 13th read: ‘Congratulations and best wishes. I wish we were all going to be there to give three cheers, because you certainly deserve them. However we will do what we can for you when you come to see us. In the meantime, enclosed is a check for $500 for your household accounts.’
Allan Hoover’s replies to his parents’ missives are not extant. On June 13th, Lou sent another telegram: ‘Been trying to get you two nights hope you were off celebrating STOP Will try again tonight… Would like to give you my half of the mutual car fully paid up for graduating present.’ Once again, Allan Hoover’s reply is not part of the collections here. One can readily surmise that Allan may have spent two days celebrating and very likely looked forward to full ownership of an automobile.
On June 17th 1929, Allan Hoover graduated from Stanford. Each of his parents wrote a touching note: ‘May you commence today a life as satisfying as your past has been to your parents-Dad.’ ‘Buy yourself a bouquet and lots of candy from us. The days’ trip won’t be long nor very trying; phone me as soon as its over-most love ever-Mum’
It is good to be reminded that POTUS and FLOTUS have lives outside the public sphere. It is important to remember that parents, whatever their station, are fiercely proud of their children.