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Setting the Stage

Shortly before Herbert Hoover (1874-1964) was inaugurated in 1929 as the 31st president of the United States, he made the following prophetic statement:

My friends have made the American people think me a sort of superman, able to cope successfully with the most difficult and complicated problems....They expect the impossible of me and should there arise conditions with which the political machinery is unable to cope, I will be the one to suffer.1

Later that year the stock market crashed, plunging the nation into a depression that rocked not only the United States, but the entire world. The political machinery was unable to cope with the Great Depression, and for some years Hoover's reputation suffered. One newspaper called him "President Reject"; a textbook called him "the man with ice water in his veins." In 1932, however, one commentator prophesied, "Hoover will be known as the greatest innocent bystander in history...full of courage and patriotism, undaunted to the last...a brave man fighting valiantly, futilely to the end."

1 Richard Norton Smith, An Uncommon Man: The Triumph of Herbert Hoover (Worland, Wyo.: High Plains Publishing Company, Inc., 1984), 103.




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