Herbert Hoover. That’s a name that for too many years has gotten a bad rap. He had been President less than eight months when the stock market crashed and we were thrown into the Great Depression. Hey, it happened on his watch, so it must be his fault.

No historian blames President Hoover. A lot of negative factors were already in play that had nothing to do with who was in the Oval Office. Speculation on the stock market and a drop in consumer spending were just two factors at play. But Hoover did make efforts to turn things around, but again due to no fault of his, the depression would continue to … well, depress. His efforts didn’t matter to those feeling the harshness of the times. Hoover was in office, so he was blamed.

  • Hoovervilles were the homeless encampments that began to appear in cities.
  • Hoover leather was the cardboard used to cover holes in shoes.
  • Hoover blankets were newspapers used by the down and out to keep out the cold.

This bleak period was hard on most Americans and it undeservedly killed Hoover’s reputation. But this Saturday, August 10, is his birthday, and I’d like to use the occasion to remind America of his greatest accomplishments—which had nothing to do with his presidency.

Herbert Hoover was quite intelligent. He was one of the first to graduate from Stanford University. With a degree in geology, he became a successful mining engineer and a multimillionaire living in London. But when World War I broke, his life changed. 

As World War hit continental Europe, Americans fled the continent for England, but when they arrived, they discovered they were unable to cash their credit. They couldn’t get food, lodging, or tickets back to America. Hoover stepped in and organized relief for his fellow citizens.

His efforts gained attention, and soon Hoover was enlisted to fight the mass starvation affecting Belgium. Hoover founded the Commission for Relief in Belgium, which purchased foods from all over the world and saw that the food was rationed properly and going to the people who needed it. They provided food relief to 11 million people in war-torn Europe—no small undertaking. 

When the war ended, Hoover continued his humantariain efforts as head of the American Relief Administration. His famine relief efforts helped stabilize much of Europe. Over 500,000 children were fed daily from the meals provided by the ARA.

Again, Hoover’s efforts did not go unnoticed. One public figure said, ““He is certainly a wonder and I wish we could make him President of the United States. There could not be a better one.”

That public figure was Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Yet within ten years, it seems everyone forgot the incredible good Hoover accomplished. Instead, he was vilified for economic woes that were not his doing.

One man did not forget. As World War II came to an end, President Harry Truman remembered the humanitarian efforts of Hoover. He enlisted Hoover to do it again in Europe which once again faced massive destruction. Here was a Democrat seeking help from a Republican. Imagine that.

Hoover did not let the past deter him from helping. He was raised in a strong Quaker family that valued peace, integrity, and service to others. History may remember Herbert Hoover more as our 31st president, but I prefer to remember him as a man whose service and efforts kept untold thousands alive.

Our culture is drawn to people of fame and prominence. We are celebrity-driven. (I have yet to figure out why Kim Kardashian is a celebrity.) Consider those who are the “hot names” at the moment. What have they really done that’s made a difference?

It’s human nature to crave notice and attention, but the accomplishments that really matter are those that God takes note of. You may not do the kind of things that garner attention from the world, but the “small” things—those born out of love and service—are the ones that matter. In the end, it won’t be the applause of the crowd that means anything, but you will forever relish the words from Jesus Christ: “Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Matt. 25:23).

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