Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Who was Harold Stassen?

     Harold E Stassen, born April 13, 1907on a farm in West St. Paul, Minnesota, was the middle son of William and Elsbeth (Mueller) Stassen.  His father, William, was a not only a truck farmer but was also elected as Mayor in 1921, serving three terms, on the Board of Education for many years and over 30 years on the police commission.  Needless to say, public service was no stranger to Harold.

     Harold graduated from Humboldt High School when he was 15 years old. He went to the University of Minnesota by day and worked many a part-time job by night.  He was elected All-Class President of the University in 1925, a debater and orator and captain of the rifle team, where he joined the MN R.O.T.C. and scored a perfect 400 at the rifle match in 1925.  He completed law school in three years and was admitted to the Minnesota Bar at age 21.

     The following year he married my great aunt Esther Glewwe and soon after was elected Dakota County Attorney.  Prohibition was underway and South St Paul was known for its "shady" characters and get-away cars due to the high number of "dry" bars and proximity of the stock yards and plenty of money exchanging hands.  This gave many opportunities to County Attorney Stassen to bring about justice in the courts.  He successfully argued his first case in front of the U.S. Supreme Court when he was 26. 
            "'Turmoil' is too weak a word to describe the political situation in Minnesota in 1938.
           Labor strikes and retaliatory lockouts produced killings in the streets; thugs and gangsters
       controlled the powerful Teamsters Union; angry mobs marched on the capitol building in
       St Paul and took over the Senate and House in a "sit in"; waste and political favoritism in
       government reached scandalous proportions. . . .
           Harold Stassen, then president of the Minnesota Young Republicans, formed an organization
       that startled not only the state but the nation by electing him governor in 1938, at the age of
       thirty-one.  His "Diaper Brigade" included a lieutenant governor even younger - twenty eight
       years - and the speaker of the lower house of the state legislature just under thirty years." 1

Their legislative record:
  •        Minnesota's first civil service law "to raise the standards of public service";
  •        New state purchasing system to eliminate political graft and reduce costs;
  •        A program to develop low grade iron ore;
  •        A law "to curb the small-loan sharks";
  •        A single tax commissioner to equalize tax assessments and make tax collection uniform;
  •       A balanced state budget
  •       A Labor Conciliation Law that provides for a "cooling off" period.

I Want To Be With Them

         With the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 by the Japanese brought more change to Harold's career.  When he ran for reelection as governor in 1942, he announced in a radio broadcast from the Governor's Office on March 27, "The offensive drive for victory against the totalitarian forces that threaten the future of free men will be conducted in the main by the young men of my generation.  I want to be with them." 2 He won reelection.
         True to his word,  he would serve until the end of the legislature session and on April 27, 1943 would resign and leave the next day for active duty in the United States Navy.  Harold was assigned as Assistant Chief of Staff to Admiral William (Bull) Halsey, Commander of the Third Fleet in the Pacific. 

    The United Nations

              "The nations of the world must not merely agree that they wish to live together in peace;
    they must establish a mechanism of government to achieve that end." 3

         In February of 1945, President Roosevelt, named Stassen as part of the American delegation to the Founding Conference of the United Nations.  Two months later, with the death of President Roosevelt, the new President, Harry Truman, reappointed the original UN team and their negotiations began in late April.  At the end of the conference, Stassen was voted as one of two delegates who made the most effective contributions to the development of the UN Charter.  After signing the United Nations Charter, Stassen rejoined Admiral Halsey's staff aboard the Missouri.

    The End of World War II

         Harold Stassen was on morning watch on the bridge of the USS Missouri on August 12, 1945 when news came that Japan had surrendered.  He wrote in the Admiral's official log book "So closes the watch we have been looking forward to.  Unconditional surrender of Japan - with Admiral Halsey at sea in command of the greatest combined fighting fleet of all history.  There is a gleam in his eye on the bridge that is unmistakable!"   H.E. Stassen  4

         Before the formal surrender ceremony was to take place in September, Harold Stassen and Commodore Roger Simpson were given a special assignment, to supervise "Operation Benevolence" and rescue 14,000 American prisoners from a Japanese war camp.  Although Japan had surrendered, the war camp had not received official notice to release their prisoners and the fear was that the prisoners would all be killed before being released.  Family lore tells how Harold pulled up to the gates of the prison camp in a jeep, jumped out and said his orders were for the release of all prisoners.  The Japanese said they had no such order from their commanders and and by whose orders were these given.  Harold unholstered his gun and said by these orders and all of the men were released.

          Following their successful rescue mission, Harold returned to the USS Missouri and stood on deck with General Douglas MacArthur on September 2, 1945 for the signing of surrender from the Japanese and the end of WWII.  Harold was promoted to Captain and received the Legion of Honor, the Bronze Star and many other commendations and ribbons.  He returned to civilian life in 1946.

      Presidential Candidate 

            "Government of free men is the most difficult form to operate which man has ever devised.  It requires a high caliber of administration.  But the fruits are
     worth the labor."  5

         Harold Stassen took his first run for President in 1948.  Doing well in the primaries and garnering delegates, Stassen went to the Republican National Convention confident that he would do well.  But behind the scenes, wheelings and dealings put the Dewey-Warren ticket together and Harold's time was over.  He returned to Minnesota and in August of 1948 was invited to become president of the University of Pennsylvania.  He accepted at the urging of fellow president of Columbia University and close friend, Dwight D Eisenhower.   He stayed in this position until 1953. 

    Special Assistant to the President

              "General, you should be the next president of the United States. 
    It would be best for future world peace, and best for the
    national security and economic prosperity of the United States." 6

          Meanwhile, in 1951, Eisenhower left the States to take over as NATO Supreme Commander in Europe.  Stassen was determined that Eisenhower should run for the nomination of President in 1952, but Eisenhower was currently living overseas.  A committee sent Harold overseas to convince Eisenhower to return and run for President.  While waiting for Eisenhower to return to the states and retire from the Army, Harold Stassen, in an effort to keep the nomination from Robert Taft, mounted a second campaign for President.  At the National Convention in July of 1948, during the first ballot, Stassen had all of his delegates switch their votes to Eisenhower, guaranteeing him the nomination and the "I Like Ike" campaign was underway.

         After Eisenhower's win as President, Harold Stassen was called to Washington D.C. to take on a new role, as Director of Mutual Security, in charge of all foreign operations - foreign aid, foreign relief, all foreign operations except covert ones run by the CIA.  It was a Cabinet rank and he would also sit on the National Security Council.  Stassen was also named as Special Assistant to the President.  He was instrumental in helping the President write his remarks given at the Geneva Convention in 1949, when Eisenhower insisted that all embrace the "Open Skies" procedures allowing for arial photography of military facilities.  Stassen butted heads many times during the years with Secretary of State John Dulles, and after many years of travel and world peace efforts, Harold resigned from the Cabinet on February 15, 1958.

         He returned to Philadelphia and established a private law firm specializing in international law.  For the next twenty years he wrote many a paper expounding ways to bring peace to the world.  He ran for President a number of times.  He remarked when asked about those campaigns, "Certainly, I never suffered any delusions that lightening would suddenly strike and I would be nominated.  1948 gave me my one real chance; but each time, when I announced that I would run for President, I got a temporary forum to expound my views on economic policies, foreign actions, and on the UN.  Future world peace continues to be my most compelling interest." 7

         In 1978, Harold and Esther moved back to Minnesota and Sunfish Lake.  He set up his law practice in the Stassen building, which was in the original pasture of his father's farm. Harold, as the only original signer of the UN Charter still living, worked tirelessly on his views about the United Nations and the need for a new charter.  He published a draft charter that was published in October of 1985.  My father recalls the many times at family gatherings when all the men would gather around Harold and listen to his stories of international intrigue and the "who's who" of family and friends.  Harold was a gracious man, always listening and always listened to. 

         The family held a party for Harold Stassen on his 90th birthday, at the Radisson St. Paul Hotel overlooking the Mississippi River. Stassen received tributes from Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, the members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and the current president at the time, Bill Clinton awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom. 8  Always the statesman, Harold also handed out copies of his book "Eisenhower, Turning the World Toward Peace." 

         A few years later in 2000, the State of Minnesota dedicated a new building the Harold E Stassen Building which now houses the MN Department of Revenue.

         Harold E Stassen, passed away on March 4, 2001, five months after his beloved wife Esther.  They are both buried at Acacia Cemetery in Mendota Heights, Minnesota.

    Happy 105 Birthday
    Great Uncle Harold!

    1. "Eisenhower, Turning the World Toward Peace", Harold Stassen and Marshall Houts, Merrill/Magnus Publishing Company, St Paul, 1990, viii.
    2. "Man Was Meant to Be Free, Selected Statements of Governor Harold E Stassen, 1940-1951", Edited by Amos J Peaslee, Doubleday & Company, Inc., Garden City, New York, 1951, p.25
    3. "Man Was Meant to Be Free", Peaslee, p45
    4. "Eisenhower, Turning the World Toward Peace", Stassen, pxiii
    5. "Man Was Meant to Be Free", Peaselee, p179
    6. "Eisenhower", Stassen, p1
    7. Ibed. p viii
    8. http://npaphistory.wikispaces.com
    Other excerpts are from "A Moment is History on the occassion of his 90th Birthday", Lois Glewwe 1997

    Sunday, April 15, 2012

    Harold E Stassen's Keynote (continued)

         The last post was the opening remarks that Minnesota Governor Harold Stassen made as the keynote speaker at the Republican National Convention in 1940.  His remarks as still valid today as we continue:

                As we face the future we see plainly that if this nation is to fulfill its high destiny, if we are to make America strong, and our way of life secure, whether the next years be years of peace or of conflict, we must advance with a decisive and determined step upon four major fronts:
                     The front of National Preparedness.
                     The front of Fifth Column Defense.
                     The front of Domestic Economic Welfare. 
                     The front of Governmental Effectiveness and Integrity.        

    (I will only repost two of these fronts, the domestic and governmental effectiveness)

      Domestic Economic Welfare

         What of our advance upon the front of Domestic Economic Welfare?  First, let us make clear the general features of this advance.  No one shall suffer for want of food, shelter, or clothing.  The needs of that portion of our population who have no other means of livelihood shall be met by society as a whole acting through its government.  But it must be equally clear that this is not the answer to our problem.  After meeting the immediate need, the great challenge before the nation shall be to furnish more real jobs for the unemployed in private industry.  We must recognize that in a free economy, government, in meeting the need of its people who are unemployed, is not solving a problem, but is only temporarily easing the consequences of an unsolved problem.
         We must recognize that the answer to all of our problems of a domestic nature is not to shrug our shoulders and say "Let the government do it."  The role of government must be that of an aid to private enterprise, and not of a substitute for it.  More and better jobs, better housing and improved living conditions can best be secured through recognition of this principle.
         There has been talk to the nation of a more abundant life.  In a vain attempt to secure it the government has gone from a greedy contest over the division of past accumulations of production to an irresponsible squandering of mortgages on the future.
         We must exercise to the least possible degree the powers of government to meet definite abuses, rather than using abuses as an excuse for the government to reach out and grab all the power in the name of regulation.  Those powers which government takes must be clearly divided as to legislative, executive, and judicial.  There is hardly any greater deterrent to private capital, in its desire to develop more jobs, than the morass of uncertainty which exists when great autocratic powers to be rule maker and investigator, witness and prosecutor, judge and jury are all lodged in the same bureaucratic hands.
         We must recognize further, on the domestic front, that the farmers are the very backbone of America.  The maintenance of millions of free farm families living on soil that they can call their own is one of the greatest bulwarks for future freedom.
         Aids must not be looked upon as a solution to the agricultural problem, but only as a temporary expedient to ease the maladjustment that exists.  We must seek real solutions in keeping with the natural economic forces that are involved in our system.
         Through development of more jobs and more purchasing power for consuming public, we must expand the domestic market.  We must advance in research and discovery of new uses for agricultural products.  We must furnish new jobs for the excess population upon our lands, so that instead of being a burden upon agriculture they become productive portions of our population and new units of consumption.  We must preserve, as far as it is economically sound to do so, our own markets for our own farmers.
         The great productive processes of a free people under a system of individual enterprise has made this nation the great power that it is.  It has given to our people the highest standard of living in the world.  This system has been and will be subject to its depressions and its recessions, its maladjustments and readjustments as the years roll by.  We must recognize that we gain together and we lose together.  We must continually work to readjust and correct injustices and inequalities that are present and that will arise.  Then we can have faith that this system will rise again and make ever greater progress in the interest of all of our people.      

    Governmental Effectiveness and Integrity

         Events at home and abroad bring forcefully to our attention the challenge to democracy to make itself more efficient and effective without surrendering it own basic principles.  The delays and confusion of yards and yards of red tape, the waste and inefficiency of overlapping stumbling boards, bureaus, departments, divisions, and agencies, the lack of effective lines of executive authority, the intermingling of powers that are legislative, executive, and judicial -- and the proper performance of none, the incessant conflict between governments of different levels, federal, state and local -- these are the things by which Lilliputians are restraining the slumbering giant of democracy and free enterprise and making him ineffective.

         The inefficiency of our government is a travesty in a land that has developed such magnificent efficiency in private endeavor.  There is need of a sweeping, decisive reorganization of our government -- a real reorganization that streamlines our government, simplifies our procedures, consolidates and eliminates useless and overlapping boards, bureaus, and agencies, establishes simple and effective lines of executive responsibility and separates the powers that are legislative, executive and judicial.  We need in public office servants of the people selected for their merit instead of corporals of a political army enlisted at a patronage pie counter.

         It is a sad commentary that we have given the aid of our inventive genius, of our raw materials, and of our productive ability to those with philosophies foreign to ours as well as to those with philosophies similar to ours.  We have thus aided the manufacture of the implements of destruction that Russia used upon Finland, that Germany used against the Allies, that Japan uses against China, that Italy uses against France.

         It is the responsibility of government in its foreign policy to endeavor in every honorable way to create and nurture a world environment in which its people can proceed along life's path in peace, expanding their material well-being and developing their way of life.  It is thus also clear that our interests lie with the encouragement of freedom and progress for all mankind and the development of order among nations based upon eternal moral and spiritual laws, rather that upon lawless force of economic strangulation.  Failing in the creation of that environment, it is the clear duty of government to make its people strong in their own defense, to so prepare them that other portions of the world may not stamp out their way of life and may not encroach upon their well-being.

         The great need for our future foreign policy is a leadership that is frank and fair with people.  The people must have confidence that their leaders place the nation's welfare above their own political future.  the people must know that their leaders, while resolute in support of these basic policies, nevertheless have the earnest hope to keep this nation out of war.

         Have we been too harsh in our judgement?  No.  In fact, we have not even referred to the strong self-indictment of the obvious effort to break down one of our bulwarks of freedom by violating the third-term tradition.  Cleverly and surreptitiously this administration has strengthened the iron-hand control of the President over the Democratic party.  Building upon the corrupt political machines of Kelly and Nash and Hague and their kind, it has erected as a superstructure a political machine such as this country has never before seen.  Democracy within the Democratic party has been destroyed.
         Let us fully recognize that this very situation is an added challenge to our party.  We must furnish the leadership for the men and women of all parties.  To do so we must make our party truly representative of the people, independent of domination by any group, and fair to all.

         Fellow delegates, if we could reverse the magic of radio tonight, if we could turn the millions of radio receiving sets throughout this land into microphones, and if we could turn our microphone here in this great convention hall into a receiving set, we would hear an overwhelming message sweeping in upon us.  It would be a cry for statesmanlike leadership to make America strong and our way of life secure.  Shall we rise to meet this challenge?  Let us proceed with our deliberations.

         Let us present to the people of this nation a program worthy of their support.  Let us nominate a man to carry out that program, a man the people will elect the next President of these United States.

         Let us remember the words George Washington spoke in this very city:  "If to please the people we offer what we ourselves disapprove, how can we afterwards defend our work?  Let us raise a standard to which the wise and honest can repair.  The event is in the hands of God."

    Peaslee, Amos J., Man Was Meant To Be Free, Selected statements of Governor Harold E Stassen 1940-1951, Doubleday & Company, Inc., Garden City, New York, 1951, pp 7, 9-13

    Wednesday, April 11, 2012

    Harold E Stassen - A Man for All Seasons

         Harold Edward Stassen, the husband of my great aunt Esther Glewwe, was a man ahead of his times.  To better understand who he was and what role he played, I'm going to include some of the speeches that he gave throughout his lifetime. 

         Harold Stassen, known as the "boy governor", became the Governor of Minnesota in 1938 at the age of 31, the youngest man ever elected to this position in the state. The world went to war in 1939 when Germany invaded Poland.  In May of 1940, Winston Churchill gave his famous speech of "blood, sweat, and tears."  The evacuation of Dunkirk had begun.  By June, the Germans entered Paris.  A week later, on June 24, 1940, Harold Stassen gave this keynote address before the Republican National Convention at Philadelphia.  It is as timely today as it was 72 years ago.

         "Our forefathers erected here a great lighthouse of liberty.

         They showed a new way for men to live.  At last men and women could stand erect.  They were free-free to think for themselves, to speak and to work and to worship for themselves.  Free to use their hands and their brains to build homes for themselves.  And free to choose from among themselves their own rulers.

         When those founders of our nation met in this historic city a century and a half ago,  the dark shadow of despotic government covered most of the earth.  The wealth, the traditions, and the power of the Old World were all arrayed against them.

         Yet they succeeded.  The framework for a government of free men which they drafted here became a beacon of liberty and progress for the entire world.  The people of thirteen struggling states adopted their work, and made of it the living Constitution of these United States.  The people took from their number a great leader and made of him, George Washington, their first President.

         Their task was well done.  Let us strive to do as well in this our time of crisis.

         For once again the black shadow of despotism falls over the world.  Fellow Republican delegates, even as we meet, lights are going out in Europe.  Blackouts of dictators take the place of lighthouses of free men.  It is our grave responsibility to keep burning brightly the light of liberty.

          The challenge of the hour clearly calls for our Republican party to rise above narrow partisanship.  Ours is the high duty to place the future of this nation above all other considerations, including our own desire to win.

         Let us face, with calm courage, the task that is before us.

         Let us announce here and now that we have faith in the future of this nation and its way of life.

         It is for us realistically to take inventory, to draw heavily from the lessons of the past, and resolutely to turn our eyes to the future.  Our first task is to cut through the clouds of confusion and of petty superficial political issues, and present to the people, crystal-clear, the great underlying problems and principles upon which our real future progress must be made.  We must brush aside the brambles of prejudice, bitterness, and hatred and lead through to national unity based upon understanding, tolerance, and confidence.

         Every citizen of this nation, regardless of his station in life, his political party, his nationality background, his creed or his race, faces two great responsibilities during these next months.

         First he faces the responsibility of supporting his government, as now constituted, in every measure for the public good.  So long as the now President of these United States is in the White House, so long as the now senators and representatives are in the Capitol they are our President and our Congress, and when they together take action of vital public concern they are entitled to have and they will have the support of all men and women, including in full measure the support of the Republicans of this nation.

         But there is a second and even greater responsibility facing every man and woman in this country.  That is the duty of deciding quietly and calmly who shall exercise the leadership of this nation in the next four years of its existence.  Then, in keeping with that decision, each citizen should go to his ballot box next November and cast his precious vote.

          These two responsibilities are both of major importance, and each is distinct and separate.  He who would confuse them and would withhold support of such action now because of the conviction that there should be a change on November is guilty of a disservice to the future of this country.  And he who seeks to claim that support now must carry with it surrender of the right to change in November is equally guilty of a disservice to the future of this nation.

         It is not a pleasant task to criticize those in positions of government authority.  Yet it is absolutely essential to the functioning of democracy.  It was not easy for the people of England to criticize their prewar government, yet how essential--in fact how belated--was their change.  It was not easy for the people of France to criticize their prewar government or their prewar generals, yet how necessary and how fatally delayed was their change.  When democracies face a crisis, their first step must be an extremely frank and fair analysis of their leadership as they prepare to meet their hours of peril.

    To be continued.......

    Peaslee, Amos J., Man Was Meant To Be Free, Selected statements of Governor Harold E Stassen 1940-1951,  Doubleday & Company, Inc., Garden City, New York, 1951, pp5-7

    Picture from Minnesota Historical Society Collection, mnhs.org