Thursday, August 20, 2009

Until Hell Freezes Over

My most recent historical idol is Adlai Stevenson, former presidential candidate, governor of Illinois, and US Ambassador to the UN. Known for his inimitable wit and down-home disposition, Stevenson was the kind of politician I have always craved to see: honest, compassionate, intellectual, and not afraid to lose votes over certain issues. (The latter usually excludes these people from getting elected.)

One of my favorite stories about Stevenson is that when he was campaigning for the presidency, an enthusiastic supporter came up to him and said that he would "get the vote of every thinking man."
Stevenson, right on target, replied, "Thank you, but I need a majority to win."


Here is a clip from the movie Thirteen Days, where we see Stevenson go into the UN and basically diplomatically bitch-slap Soviet Ambassador Zorin over the Cuban Missle Crisis.

He has earned his place in my future portrait gallery in my fantasy-study, right next to Lafayette, Hemingway, and Rick Reed.

Historical sidenote: Within a few days of Stevenson's sudden death in 1965, Zorin called his office to express his personal condolences.

ps. His genius and humility is expressed best, I feel, in the following quote:
"I think that one of our most important tasks is to convince others that there's nothing to fear in difference; that difference, in fact, is one of the healthiest and most invigorating of human characteristics without which life would become meaningless. Here lies the power of the liberal way: not in making the whole world Unitarian [Universalist], but in helping ourselves and others to see some of the possibilities inherent in viewpoints other than one's own; in encouraging the free interchange of ideas; in welcoming fresh approaches to the problems of life; in urging the fullest, most vigorous use of critical self-examination."

1 comment:

Ray Errol Fox said...

Thank you for your astute comment, which I just came across.

Read your blog with interest and applaud your high moral standard.

Re Adlai Stevenson: one of my favorite political photos is from the 1952 campaign, when a photographer spotted a hole in the sole of Stevenson's shoe. Do you know it? And a favorite quote is a comment he made about publishers, roughly that a publisher is someone who separates the wheat from the chaff, and then publishes the chaff.

We need one or two more men (I'd settle for one more right now) like him.