Herbert Hoover: Elder Statesman on the Move, November 1954

President Dwight Eisenhower, First Lady Mamie and former president Herbert Hoover, singing at the Republican Lincoln Dinner - 02/05/1954.
President Dwight Eisenhower, First Lady Mamie and former president Herbert Hoover, singing at the Republican Lincoln Dinner – 02/05/1954.

Traveling to Germany at President Eisenhower’s behest, Hoover gave three speeches in three days to German audiences.  Hoover was eighty years old at the time, yet he did not hesitate.  When his President called, Hoover answered.  He wrote three major policy speeches, edited them en route to Germany, and delivered them to three distinct audiences.

Speaking first to the German International Press Association on November 24th, Hoover hailed West Germany as a bulwark against Soviet expansion in these difficult times of ‘peaceful coexistence.’  The scare quotes are Hoover’s—the only time I’ve ever seen him use this device.  West Germany was the keystone in defense of Western Civilization.  Hoover rang the tocsin: ‘We must keep hope that free nations who believe in God will mobilize in unity against red atheism and human slavery.’

Speaking the next day at Eberhard Karls University in Tubingen, Hoover recalled previous visits to Germany. He went to Germany while translating Agricola’s De Re Metallica before World War I.  During World War I, Hoover traveled to Germany to negotiate safe passage of food relief to Belgium. After the war, he gathered archival sources for the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace.  All led him to appreciate the contributions of German universities to Western Civilization. Universities continue to train men in science, art, medicine and leadership.  Most importantly they inculcate rigor of thought and freedom.

Hoover’s third major speech was to the Municipal Senate of Berlin. Hoover opined: ‘The city of Berlin in on the front line of the Cold War.  You are combat soldiers in that war.’  He then linked their efforts to rebuild a strong nation to religious morality, freedom of men, increased productivity and rising standards of living. Hoover closed with this exhortation: ‘You face an enemy who lives just across the street.  You have seen your duty and performed it well…. You can, like the men of ancient Athens, hold your heads high and say—I am a Berliner!’

Having delegated this duty to Hoover, I wondered what pressing issues occupied President Eisenhower for these three days in November.  Eisenhower spent the morning of Wednesday, November 24th, meeting with his national security advisers.  After lunching with the Prime Ministers of the three Scandinavian nations, he flew to Augusta, Georgia. He spent the evening and night at his cabin at the Augusta National Golf Club.  The next day was Thanksgiving.  Eisenhower spent the morning at the practice tee before playing 18 holes in the afternoon with Augusta chairman Clifford Roberts, club pro Ed Dudley, and Ellis Slater, president of Frankfort Distillers.  Friday, November 26th saw a repeat performance.  Eisenhower hit the practice tee in the morning, then played a round in the afternoon.

A wise administrator, Eisenhower knew when to delegate and when to work on his short game.

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