The Magazine

The Greatest Ex

Herbert Hoover and his post-presidential triumph.

Jun 9, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 37 • By ARAM BAKSHIAN JR.
Widget tooltip
Audio version Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

Unlike Dewey, Hoover never thought he had all the answers: Besides defending timeless liberties, he was always on the lookout for better ways of doing things, from serving suffering humanity to snaring the biggest fish in the trout stream. It kept him going and kept him young for 90 productive years, and it is best summed up by a vignette Nash includes here. A few weeks before his death, Hoover was visited by a young lady he had befriended. Although he was frail and confined to a wheelchair,

his mind and formidable will were unbowed. As he and his guest drank tea together, he suddenly asked her: “Tell me, child, what do you really want in life?” After pausing for a moment, the young woman replied that she liked her life just as it was and wanted it to go on without change: “I have a nice husband, I have a nice apartment, so the answer is I want a status quo.” Hoover looked at his young visitor with horror: “How can you say a thing like that,” he exclaimed, “because I want more. I want to write a better book, I want to have more friends—I just want more—and I think you should never sit back and say, ‘I want the status quo.’ ”

Had Hoover lived a few years longer, The Crusade Years might have evolved into that “better book.” As it now stands, it serves as an impressive codicil to the legacy of a great American—an absorbing, and occasionally inspiring, read.

Aram Bakshian Jr., who served as an aide to Presidents Nixon, Ford, and Reagan, lives in Washington.