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Herbert Hoover Wartime Address Highlights: 7 Quotes from Speech

By    |   Friday, 22 May 2015 09:16 AM

Herbert Hoover, who as a successful American businessman lived in London during wartime, drew praise for his efforts at humanitarian relief to Belgians during and after World War I. As president, he led the United States during its efforts to put brakes on the naval arms race that dominated the inter-war years.

Here are seven quotes from his speeches during wartime:

1. In his inaugural address, Hoover noted the economic strength with which the United States emerged from the war and the use to which that strength was put in war-torn areas. “We have emerged from the losses of the Great War and the reconstruction following it with increased virility and strength. From this strength we have contributed to the recovery and progress of the world. What America has done has given renewed hope and courage to all who have faith in government by the people.” – Inaugural address, March 4, 1929

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2. Later in the inaugural speech, Hoover hailed the recent Kellogg-Briand Pact renouncing war as both a first step and a challenge: “Its acceptance should pave the way to greater limitation of armament, the offer of which we sincerely extend to the world. But its full realization also implies a greater and greater perfection in the instrumentalities for pacific settlement of controversies between nations.”

3. However, Hoover echoed but attempted to qualify the isolationist thinking that sprung up after World War I: “Our people have determined that we should make no political engagements such as membership in the League of Nations, which may commit us in advance as a nation to become involved in the settlements of controversies between other countries. They adhere to the belief that the independence of America from such obligations increases its ability and availability for service in all fields of human progress.”

4. Responding to press inquiries, Hoover expressed confidence in the Geneva conference on reduction of the naval arms race: “All of the principal naval powers have expressed adherence to the principles suggested by the American delegation, which include the conception of reduction instead of limitation of naval strength.” – Statement on Geneva conference, May 7, 1929

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5. Hoover’s optimism was short-lived.
He used a Memorial Day speech at Arlington National Cemetery to raise the specter of growing, mechanized warfare even as the world continued to recover from the World War: “And while this progress is being made in the development of the science of warfare, the serious question arises -- are we making equal progress in devising ways and means to avoid those frightful fruits of men's failures that have blotted with blood so many chapters of the world's history?” – Speech, May 30, 1929, quoted by the Presidency Project.

6. Later in the Arlington speech, Hoover reflected on the backfiring of naval arms limitation talks:
“The idea of limitation of arms has served a useful purpose. It made possible conferences in which the facts about national aspirations could be discussed frankly in an atmosphere of friendliness and conciliation ... But still the net result has been the building of more fighting ships.”

7. Instead, Hoover said at Arlington, the emphasis should be on actual reduction, not limitation of growth of arms:
“The smaller the armed force of the world, the less will armed force be left in the minds of men as an instrument of national policy. The smaller the armed forces of the world, the less will be the number of men withdrawn from the creative and productive labors. Thus we shall relieve the toilers of the nations of the deadening burden of unproductive expenditures, and above all, we shall deliver them from … the greatest of human calamities–fear.”

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Herbert Hoover, who as a successful American businessman lived in London during wartime, drew praise for his efforts at humanitarian relief to Belgians during and after World War I.
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