WEST BRANCH, Iowa — It is a testimony to the promise of our country to stand inside the home of young Herbert Hoover. The scope of where the Hoover family began, lived and ended each day can be observed in the blink of an eye.
One room served as a bedroom for the future president, his parents and his two siblings; the other room was their living room, dining room and kitchen. The rooms are literally side by side.
They had little. Soon after, they had less. Yet Hoover persisted.
“This cottage where I was born is physical proof of the unbounded opportunity of American life,” Hoover once wrote.
And he was right.
Few today know much about the poor little Quaker boy who was orphaned at age 9, separated from his siblings and sent off to Oregon to be raised by an uncle. Most students learn that he was America’s president when the stock market crashed in 1929, and that he failed to right the country as it slipped and fell into the Great Depression.
It was a dark time in our history: In one day, some people lost entire fortunes, homes, livelihoods and the promise of a better life. There was 25 percent unemployment and instant poverty; there were soup lines and low wages. Vacant lots soon became an assembly of makeshift homes built with bolts of cloth, cardboard boxes and castoff wood. Built by the newly homeless, they were called “Hoovervilles.”
No one will dispute that this is what happened, yet there is so much more to this man that is important for us to know — today and tomorrow. Why? Because what happened before us guides us to what may happen to us again and serves as an instruction on how not to repeat our worst mistakes.
Forgetting history is shameful for any people. Omitting, ignoring or destroying history is worse. In truth, it is the highest moral and intellectual sin that a country’s people can commit.
Hoover never finished high school, failed his college entrance exam and, once admitted to college, wasn’t exactly the best of students. But he found a way to…