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Herbert Hoover: Blamed

2017-09-25

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[00:05.52]
  • VOA Learning English presents America’s Presidents.
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  • Today we are talking about Herbert Hoover.
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  • He took office in 1929.
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  • Hoover was president for the early years of what Americans call the Great Depression.
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  • During those years, the United States economy slid into a severe recession.
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  • Many banks and businesses failed.
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  • At times, nearly one in four people in the U.S. workforce were unemployed.
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  • Millions of people lost their homes and savings.
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  • Hoover did not cause the depression.
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  • The conditions had been in place before he took office.
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  • But many Americans blamed Hoover for their suffering.
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  • They believed he permitted the economic crisis to continue – and even deepen – during his time in office.
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  • Herbert Hoover was born in a small house in the state of Iowa.
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  • His parents were Quakers.
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  • Their religion valued simplicity, hard work, equality among people, and peaceful resolution of conflict.
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  • Hoover and his brother and sister were influenced by these beliefs, even after their parents died.
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  • By the time young Herbert Hoover was nine, he was an orphan.
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  • He moved to the state of Oregon, in the Pacific Northwest, and lived with an uncle.
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  • Hoover did not thrive in that situation.
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  • Reports say that he usually kept to himself.
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  • And he did not do particularly well in school.
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  • Yet one official from Stanford University liked what he saw in the young man – hard work and a desire to learn new things.
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  • At the time, Stanford University was just getting established.
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  • It admitted Hoover into its first class.
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  • Hoover had to work hard at Stanford, both in class and to earn money to pay tuition.
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  • But the experience brought many benefits.
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  • Hoover studied geology, and went on to work as a mining engineer.
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  • The job led to positions in Australia, China and other parts of the world.
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  • He became an internationally-known expert on mining.
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  • He also wrote a leading textbook on mining.
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  • These experiences, along with good business investments, led to great wealth for Hoover.
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  • At Stanford, he also met the woman who would become his wife.
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  • Her name was Lou Henry.
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  • She was the first woman from Stanford to complete a study program with a degree in geology.
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  • The Hoovers went on to have two sons.
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  • During World War I, the Hoovers’ lives changed dramatically.
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  • The family was living in London when the war began. U.S. government officials asked Hoover to organize an evacuation effort for American tourists who were in Europe.
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  • In only a few weeks, Hoover’s committee succeeded.
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  • Later, he helped get food and supplies to people in Belgium.
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  • As a result, Hoover earned a public image as a smart, skilled humanitarian.
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  • When the United States entered World War I, President Woodrow Wilson asked Hoover to lead the government’s Food Administration.
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  • In that position, Hoover led an effort to change Americans’ behavior in order to support the war effort.
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  • He asked them to limit the kinds of food they ate and goods they bought.
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  • The effort was, for the most part, successful. Americans called their moves to limit their consumption “to Hooverize.”
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  • Hoover went on to organize programs to aid other countries, including Russia.
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  • He also helped parts of the U.S. recover after terrible flooding.
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  • And, as secretary of commerce, he pushed businesses, researchers, and government officials to work together.
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  • Hoover aimed to reduce “boom and bust” cycles and keep the U.S. economy healthy.
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  • In all his efforts, Hoover urged Americans to choose to participate.
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  • He did not believe in using government requirements to force cooperation.
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  • Instead, he supported “individualism” – the idea that Americans must protect the qualities of creativity, equal opportunity, and service to others.
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  • Hoover’s beliefs were popular with many Americans at the time – and with many Americans today.
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  • In the election of 1928, Hoover easily won the presidency.
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  • He promised to continue leading the country down the path of prosperity.
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  • When Hoover took office in 1929, he said, “I have no fears for the future of our country. It is bright with hope.”
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  • That was in March.
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  • In October, the U.S. stock market crashed. Thousands of investors lost their savings.
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  • The event was part of a sharp downturn in the economies of the United States and of many other countries.
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  • At first, Hoover believed the downturn would pass.
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  • But as time went on, the situation grew worse.
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  • Businesses could not expand their workforce.
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  • Farmers could not afford to harvest their crops.
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  • Everyday people had too little money to pay for housing costs and, in some cases, food.
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  • And then banks across the country began to fail.
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  • President Hoover worked hard to fix the problems.
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  • He tried many approaches: creating government agencies, urging private and public groups to cooperate, and working to balance the federal budget.
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  • But Hoover did not want to use federal money to provide direct aid to Americans.
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  • He worried that such actions would make people dependent on the government, and reduce people’s individual power and morale.
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  • Nor did he want to use the federal government to try to control the economy.
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  • Government intervention, he said, would lead to socialism, and eventually destroy the country’s founding beliefs.
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  • Instead, Hoover tried to support states and businesses indirectly and urged people to find ways to help one another.
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  • Yet many lawmakers and members of the public rejected Hoover’s measures as insufficient, and even cruel.
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  • Some used his name differently than they had before he took office.
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  • Now, they called the dirty shelters where hungry and homeless people lived “Hoovervilles.”
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  • And they called men’s empty pockets “Hoover flags.”
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  • Although Hoover tried to persuade Americans that he was protecting their interests in the long run, voters refused to elect him for a second term.
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  • Instead, they overwhelming chose a president who promised an activist federal government and a hopeful “new deal” for Americans.
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  • After they left the White House, the Hoovers retired to their home in Palo Alto, California.
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  • Lou Henry Hoover died in 1944.
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  • But Hoover lived 20 more years, many of them working for the public good.
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  • He helped international relief efforts, advised the U.S. government, and led committees to reform the presidency.
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  • Hoover also commented on later presidents and their policy decisions.
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  • He was especially critical of government programs set up to provide aid and intervention in Americans’ lives.
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  • Until his death from cancer at the age of 90, Hoover remained committed to his beliefs.
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  • He spoke for limiting the power of the federal government and for supporting freedom of opportunity for individuals.
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  • But in the eyes of many Americans, Hoover is linked to the failure of the federal government to lessen the Great Depression.
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  • I’m Kelly Jean Kelly.
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