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Adlai Stevenson (5 Feb. 1900 -14 July 1965) A Voice of Reason in Troubled Times Adlai Stevenson (5 Feb. 1900 -14 July 1965) A Voice of Reason in Troubled Times
by Rene Wadlow
2019-02-05 12:07:32
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Let us suppose that certain individuals resolve that they will consistently oppose
to power the force of example;to authority, exhortation, to insult, friendly reasoning, totrickery, simple honor.
They would be preparing the future. Who can fail to see the positively dazzling realism of such behavior.
Albert Camus

It is hard today, when listening to the troubling sounds coming from Washington, D.C? - the sounds of doors closing on important treaties and whole institutions such as the U.N. Human Rights Council - to recall that there  were other periods of troubling sounds as the Cold War  structures were being put into place, and a nuclear war was not an impossibility.

adila001_400In the early 1950s as the war in Korea highlighted what might be a broader war in Asia, one that might spread to Europe, there were  few U.S. voices urging calm and the possibilities of negotiations in good faith with the Soviet Union.  Stalin was alive, if not well, in Moscow, and he still controlled with an iron hand.  Mao had come to power in China.  His aims were not clear.  However, for the "Old China Hands" setting policy toward China in the U.S. whatever Mao might do, it would be had for the U.S.A.

In the U.S.A., anti-Communism had become an article of faith, and the idea that the U.S.A; had "lost China" because of bad advice of pro-Communists in the Sate Department or in academic institutes working on Asia was wide spread.  Although he was far from being an isolated voice, Senator Joseph McCarthy became for some years, the symbol of finding pro-Communists in U.S. institutions.  McCarthy had begun his U.S. Senate post by suggesting that U.S. soldiers had also committed war crimes during the Second World War and thus should have been tried.  This was not a particularly popular theme, and he dropped it in favor of "Communists in the State Department" which made newspaper headlines and drew wide interest.  Thus began what has been called the "McCarthyism  period" of charges of Communist infiltration of key U.S. institutions.  It was only when McCarthy attacked the U.S. Army for promoting Communists that the Establishment fought back and broke McCarthy's influence.

Yet at the height of McCarthy's power, there was a clear voice of reason: that of Adlai Stevenson.  Stevenson came from a long-established Illinois family and had been elected governor in 1948 (1).  Yet he was no ordinary politician.  He neither looked nor sounded the part.  He had convictions without dogmas, and eloquence without demagoguery.

Stevenson today is considered a minor figure of what is usually called the "Eisenhower Years".  Stevenson opposed Eisenhower in the two presidential elections of 1952 and 1956.  Eisenhower was seen as a war hero and the person who put NATO, considered a defensive alliance, into place.  As a leader of a coalition that had triumphed in war, he emerged from the war with a strong belief in a coalition to preserve peace.

Eisenhower, once President, had a long-range vision of an economically strong U.S. allied to a Western Europe which had recovered from the destruction of the war.  The world beyond Western Europe for Eisenhower only consisted of the Soviet Union.  Eisenhower was little interested in day-to-day domestic affairs.  He chose fairly strong people as cabinet members, nearly all successful in business or law.

Thus, it was left to Stevenson, head of the "Loyal Opposition" to try to deal with the fears of the population dealing with a workl in ferment. Stevenson stressed his belief in "the collective reason of properly informed people.  After his first defeat for president, he traveled extensively, especially to Asia which he had not visited before, in order to develop an informed opinion on foreign policy.  He set out his views in a series of lectures at Harvard University  speaking as a defender of the free mind, challenging  but free of passions. (2) His was a fight to keep free minds with issues clear and ideals sharp: virtues needed today!


(1) For his family background and efforts in the negotiations which led to the creation of the U.N. see (link to 2016,05,02)
(2) Adlai Stevenson. Call to Greatness (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1954)

You can also read Rene Wadlow's: Adlai Stevenson: Reducing Strife Without Eliminating Variety HERE!


Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens

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