tv The Contenders Adlai E. Stevenson II CSPAN October 16, 2020 11:59am-2:02pm EDT
talk, really get to know each other. we might find a pathway to ease this thing called the cold war. it didn't happen, and i blame alan dulles in part, a separate story you'll have to read about in the book, but we missed the chance to maybe change the nature of the cold war, because the diplomacy was so successful. the two men really got along, and kruschev desperately wanted to do a deal with eisenhower, but after the third term it was impossible. >> this is not dry history. it's a delight. thank you, will. [ applause ] >> announcer: you're watching american history tv. every weekend on cspan-3, explore our nation's past. c-span3 created by american history television as a public service and brought to you by
your television provider. ladies and gentlemen of the convention, my fellow citizens, i accept your nomination and your program. [ applause ] and now, my friends, that you have made your decision, i will fight for that office with all my heart and soul. [ cheers and applause [ cheers and applause ] >> and with your help, i have no doubt that we will win. help me to do the job in this autumn of conflict and of campaign. help me to do the job in these years of darkness and doubt and crisis which stretch beyond the horizon of tonight's happy
vision, and we will justify our glorious past and the loyalty of silent millions who look to us for compassion, for understanding and for honest purpose. thus we will serve our great tradition greatly. i ask of you all you have. i will give you all i have. >> that was our contender this week, adlai stevenson, accepting the democratic nomination for president in 1952. we are joined by historian richard norton smith here in adlai stevenson's old study in libertyville, illinois. who was this one-term governor of illinois? >> well, to millions of americans, that's all he was, a one-term governor of illinois. they knew nothing more about him. they had never heard a voice like his. they did not know that in some ways a political evolution was being touched off that night and
that for the next decade, adlai stevenson would certainly be the voice of the democratic party, someone who would transform american politics, even though he was never successful in his quest for the white house. >> how did he get the nomination in 1952 and in 1956? >> he's arguably the last candidate to be drafted. he's the last candidate to require more than one ballot at a convention. he didn't want a nomination, is the short answer. especially if the republicans nominated, as they did, dwight eisenhower, who everybody thought was unbeatable and who stevenson secretly thought wouldn't be such a bad president. the fact is there was a vacuum in the republican party. harry truman was retiring. there was no obvious successor, and stevenson gave a remarkable welcoming address at the chicago convention that had the effect almost of wayne jennings
bryant's cast of gold and he delivered this speech you just heard. >> welcome to illinois and "the contenders." this is part of our series looking at the men who ran for president and changed american politics. tonight is adlai stevenson. 1900 to 1965 is his years of living. we're joined by historian richard smith. we're about 40 miles outside of chicago at the stevenson family farm. we are in adlai stevenson's old study in the house. in just a minute we'll be joined by newton minnow who knew and worked with adlai stevenson for years. we'll be joined by senator adlai stevenson iii, the son of adlai stevenson and ten-year senator of the state of illinois.
before we leave this office, there are some things sitting around that we hopefully get to learn a little more about governor stevenson. first of all, what is this hand? >> stevenson said he suffered from a bad case of hereditary politics. there are multiple generations of stevensons that are part of the story. his great-grandfather was a man named jesse fell who actually helped persuade abraham lincoln to run for president in 1860. the lincoln connection was a very powerful one with stevenson. this is a cast of lincoln's hand, one of the bulk life mast that was created in 1860. >> also on the desk here, on adlai stevenson's desk, is an address book. some of the names in this address book include eleanor roosevelt, walter and jean kerr, john steinbeck, archibal
archibald clease. >> he was a non-politician, in many ways, who was lionized by intellectuals and academics, by men and women of letters, and eventually by millions of americans who proudly declared themselves stevensonians. >> standing between us is this old office chair. >> a very historic piece. this is governor stevenson's cabinet chair. during the kennedy administration, no doubt we'll talk about this later on, he had a historic stint as american ambassador to the united nations. as such he was made a member of the cabinet. this is the chair that commemorates that somewhat difficult relationship that he had with the kennedy administration. >> now, richard smith, you referred to the stevenson political dynasty a little earlier. here on the wall are some artifacts. very quickly. >> yeah, governor stevenson's wife ellen said the stevensons
all suffered from a bad case of ancestor worship. his grandfather was under the president of the united states. >> under grover cleveland. >> yes. then he ran again unsuccessfu y unsuccessfully. this is grandfather stevenson's hat and you can see the campaign items as well. >> richard norton smith and i are going to work our way over to the stevenson barn here on the family farm. we're currently in the house in the study, but next to it is a barn. this was a semi-working farm at one point with animals, sheep and horses, et cetera, and we're going to work our way over there where there is a new display about adlai stevenson, so you'll be able to see that as well. but first we want to show you some campaign commercials so you can see some of the video of adlai stevenson. these campaign commercials are
from 1956 and 1952. in fact, one of them we're going to show you was filmed right here in this study. >> it's wonderful how sitting right here in my own library, thanks to television, i can talk to millions of people that i couldn't reach any other way. i'm not going to let this spoil me. i'm not going to stop traveling in this campaign. i can talk to you, yes, but i can't listen to you. i can't hear about your problems, about your hopes and your fears. to do that, i've got to go out and see you in person, and that's what i've been doing. for the past several years, i have traveled all over this country hundreds of thousands of miles. i've been in every state, many of them more than once. and i've met thousands of you and millions of you have seen me.
♪ >> it's adlai to you, adlai to me. ♪ i don't care how you quote it ♪ just go out and vote it. ♪ stevenson! ♪ i'd rather are a man with a hole in his shoe ♪ a hole in everything he says ♪ i'd rather have a man who knows what to do ♪ when he gets to be the pres ♪ i love, i love the governor of illinois ♪ i know the gov will bring the dove of peace and joy ♪ when in illinois the gop double crossed ♪ he was the boy who told all the crooks get lost ♪ adlai, love you madly ♪ and what you did for your own great state ♪ you're going to do for the rest of the 48 ♪ we're going to choose the gov
that we love ♪ he is the gov nobody can shove ♪ we want the gov for president of the usa ♪ old mcdonald had a farm back in '31 ♪ conditions filled him with alarm back in '31 ♪ not a chikkarangappa here -- chick-ch ay ck there. farmer mac knows what to do ♪ election day of '52 ♪ going to go out with everyone in the usa ♪ to vote for adlai stevenson ♪ to keep his farm this way ♪ with a vote vote here and a vote vote there, a vote for stevenson everywhere ♪ it's good for you and it's good for me
♪ all of america loves that farm, vote stevenson today. >> and if you should elect me your president next november, i shall be the better for having done it, i'm sure. because i know that the strength and the wisdom that i need must be drawn from you, the people. so finally i hope that the next time we meet, it will be person to person and face to face. >> i'm adlai stevenson. you and i have been hearing from our republican friends that things are so good, they couldn't be better. better for whom, i wonder? do you think that things can't be better for the small businessman like this one? small business profits are down 52%, that they can't be better for our farmers like these? farm income is down 25%.
are your schools good enough for the richest nation in history, yo your schools like this one? they need a third of a million more classrooms. what about you? are you out of debt? d do you have a comfortable backlog in the bank? do you pay less for things or more? do you think things can't be better? of course they can. working together, we can and will make them better. >> vote democratic. the rising cost of farming, lower farm income? caught in a squeeze? then vote democratic, the party for you, not just a few. vote for adlai stevenson for president and estes keifer for vice president. and we are back live at the stevenson farm in libertyville,
illinois. richard norton smith and i are now joined by newton minnow. you may know him as the former chairman of the federal communications commission. have you ever heard the phrase tv is a vast wasteland? that was newton minnow's phrase, but for our purposes tonight, he worked with and was an associate of adlai stevenson for many years. newton minnow, if you can start by telling us when did you first meet governor stevenson? >> i was a law clerk at the united states supreme court for chief justice vincent. one of our law professors, cal mcgowan, came to visit one day. he later offered my clerk a job as his assistant in springfield as assistant to the governor. it turned out howard wasn't interested, but i was. i ended up being interviewed by
governor stevenson at 7:00 a.m. for breakfast in the spring of 1952. and he said to me, if i hire you, young man, is there any reason why you wouldn't take the job? and i said, if my current boss, chief justice vincent, runs for president, and it was rumored in the press that he would be a candidate for president, if he asked me to stay with him, i would like to do that. and governor stevenson looked at me and he said, i don't think that's very likely. i then drove him to his next appointment. i went to work at the supreme court. i picked up the "new york times." it said, truman offers stevenson the presidential nomination; vincent out. this was the moment after president truman had asked adlai to run. i was hired. i reported for work and he was then nominated for president.
>> what was he known for as governor? >> even as a student,ive worked -- i have worked on his campaign for governor as a college student in 1948. he was known to be, first of all, totally honest, which was not necessarily a prerequisite for election in illinois. but he was a different kind of candidate. he was honest, he was an intellectual, he cared deeply about good government and he brought a whole different culture and tone to the office of governor. >> richard norton smith, the u.s. in 1952. set the stage for us. >> well, politically, there is no doubt -- i think one of the reasons, and you would know much, much better than i, that entered into his hesitation, at least, about seeking the presidency was a sense that the democrats had been in power for 20 years. and even the most partisan democrat who thought they had
been 20 glorious years nevertheless thought that perhaps the party, as well as the country, would be well served by a change. but the great issue was which republican party would replace harry truman if harry truman were to leave? would it be the isolationist conservative midwestern party of bob taft, or would it be the internationalist, if you will, modern republicanism of dwight eisenhower? stevenson had to, among other things, calculate the chances of which party he might be running against. he was very reluctant to run, wasn't he? >> he did not want to run, and who could have beat dwight eisenhower? it was like running against jesus christ. it was an impossibly thing to win, and as richard said, he's
got it exactly right. if it had been robert taft as the opponent, i think adlai would have relished running because there would have been a clear difference and philosophy about their place in the world. remember, the democrats tried to draft eeisenhower. the democrats tried to get eisen hour to run as a democrat. eisenhower was both parties. >> when adlai stevenson gay tvee welcome address in chicago in 1952, was he a nationally known figure at the time? was he considered a candidate? >> he was not that well known. i remember the first time he appeared on national television was that spring. he was on "meet the press." it was the first time he was ever on national television.
he was never good a television. when you were with him personally, you walked away with a better feeling about yourself. but when you watched him on television, he was nervous, he was never himself, but the country didn't know him. >> so he gives the welcome address and he essentially gets drafted, wins on the second or third ballot, is that correct? >> that's right, and it was really unfortunate for him, because the timing was wrong. if he had run for president dwi probably could have run. >> and who does he pick for a running mate? john sparkman from alabama. it's still the solid south, and he has to worry about keeping
the south solid. >> absolutely. and it taught me a lesson also about how we pick vice presidents. john sparkman was picked at the last minute. >> did he have a relationship with john sparkman? >> no, not really. the way we do things in this country, the stage has run so successfully for a couple hundred years. >> did keith auber want to be on the ticket? >> i think he always wanted to be on the ticket. keith auber of tennessee ended up being the vice presidential candidate of '56. >> who harry truman liked to call cow fever. >> richard norton smith and then newton minnow, harry truman in 1952 and his relationship with adlai stevenson. >> truman today is regarded as a
great president, someone we all woke up to for his decisiveness, for his ability to make big decisions and to commit the united states in the cold war. but the fact is at the time he was a very unpopular president. the korean war was an unpopular war. he had fired douglas mccarthur which, again today, basically there is a consensus he did the right thing for the right reason but at great political cost. so harry truman, and harry truman had been in power seven years. and he had decided seven years was enough. he had the power to prevent cal from becoming the nominee, he probably had the power to keep stevenson from being the nominee, but with that power went the dead weight of the truman administration. my sense is that truman and
stevenson's relationship never quite recovered from that fact. >> i think it was worse than that. there was another factor. there had been a lot of corruption in the democratic party. there had been a scandal with one of president truman's assistants, and there had been -- it was not a happy thing to become the democratic candidate for president in 1952. >> especially if you had harry truman's impramater on you. >> i went to see the chief justice to say goodbye, and he was very close to president truman, chief vincent. he said to me, your guy is not going to make it. i said, what? he said, no, i was with the president last night, and he told me that he's lost patience
with adlai. he doesn't say yes, he doesn't say no. it's going to be alvin barkley. alvin barkley was then the vice president of the united states. >> age 74. >> right. and they tried -- they actually tried to get it for barkley, but everybody said, he's too old. so that opened it up again and then stevenson was drafted. >> we are live from libertyville, illinois, the stevenson family farm about 40 miles outside chicago. the phone number is on the screen because we want to hear from you as well, especially if you remember adlai stevenson as a candidate. 202-737-0002 if you live in mountain and pacific time zones. the results of 1952, by the way, that election was held 59 years ago tonight, november 4, 1952.
adlai stevenson won 27 million votes. he got 89 electoral votes and he won nine states. dwight david eisenhower, 442 electoral votes. he won 34 million votes, and he won the rest of the states which would have been 40-some at that point, 41 states. >> the one thing to keep in mind about that election is to compare it with 1948. in losing, governor stevenson got 3 million more votes than harry truman had in winning three years earlier. dwight eisenhower got 12 million more votes than thomas dewey. what you had was the largest increase in voter participation in four years since the 1820s. >> why? >> because you had two, in many ways, outstanding candidates, each in their own way, who were able to excite the electorate in
a way we hadn't seen since that period of time. >> here's a little of adlai stevenson. >> the concern of both parties is not just winning this election, but how it is won. how well we can take advantage of this great quadrennial opportunity to debate issues sensibly and soberly. i hope and pray that we democrats, win or lose, can campaign not as a crusade to exterminate the opposing party as our opponents seem to prefer, but as a great opportunity to educate and elevate a people whose destiny is leadership. let's talk since to the american people. let's tell them the truth, that there are no gains without pain, that we are now on the eve of
great decision. >> newton minnow, where were you 59 years ago tonight? >> i was in the governor's mansion, and i think one thing that really taught the american people about governor stevenson was the way he conceded defeat. he gave the most graceful, patriotic talk. he pledged to support newly elected president eisenhower and gave him every support. he ended with a story that he remembered that abraham lincoln used to tell. it was a story about a little boy who stubbed his toe in the dark. and he said -- >> it hurts? >> -- it hurts too much to laugh, but i'm not old enough to cry. too old to cry.
with that i think people saw his character, that he was a patriot who loved his country and was willing to support a new president despite the fact that he lost. >> let's take some calls. the first call we have up tonight is paul in davenport, iowa. paul, adlai stevenson is our contender tonight. please go ahead. >> caller: hello. i want to first thank c-span for doing this. this is really a great series. my question is this. i have recently finished reading conrad, black, richardson and nixon. in it he paints a negative view for stevenson as president. he claims he attacked richard nixon as president rather than the vice president and says it was a blemish on a very stellar career. my question is this. do you think the 1953 campaign
was a low point of stevenson's political career? did he spend too much time attacking nixon? in 1956, what could he have focused on besides vice president nixon to make the election closer? should he have focused on farm issues more or should he have focused on the suez issues and such things? >> thank you, paul. let's start with newton minnow. 1956 campaign. >> the 1956 campaign, in my opinion, was not as stellar as the 1952 campaign. the reason for the emphasis on nixon in '56 was the fact that president eisenhower had suffered a bad heart attack. he had some bad health problems. there was great concern in the country of what would happen if president eisenhower was re-elected but that he died during the second term and that nixon became president. so there was a very good reason
to go after nixon because nixon would not, as it turned out later, sadly, did not have the character to be president. >> i would actually say i think the 1956 camcampaign, i underst stylistically where you're coming from. the 1956 campaign laid the groundwork for the economy. stev stevenson endorsed an amendment so 18-year-olds could vote. in terms of shadowing policy to come, 1956 ended up being a fountainhead of ideas. you're right, the last speech on election eve where he said that
basically the medical evidence suggested a real possibility in the next four years that richard nixon would become president. remember, that's something tom dewey had done in '44 under somewhat similar circumstances when fdr's health was -- you didn't go there, and i think in some ways he paid a price for that. >> you're right. the nuclear trust ban which was a very unpopular point of view to take in 1956, but he took it very courageously because he believed in it deeply, and i remember he said -- someone asked what the weapons would be in world war iv, and he said there would be sticks and stones. he made his point. >> newton minnow, between 1952 and 1956, was adlai stevenson
a angling to get the nomination again? >> i would have to answer that with a yes and a no. he hoped he might someday be president, but he also knew if he ran against president eisenhower again that the odds were very much against him. i was one of the few people around him who urged him not to run in 1956, but he felt an obligation to the democratic party. >> here's a little bit of adlai stevenson at the 1956 convention also held in chicago. >> i come here on a solemn mission. i accept your nomination and your program. [ cheers and applause ] >> and i pledge to you with
every strength that i possess to make your deed today a good one for our country and for our pocket. four years ago, i stood in this same place and uttered those same words to you. but four years ago, i did not seek the honor that you bestowed upon me. this time, as you may have noticed, it was not entirely unsolicited. [ applause ] >> and there's another big difference. that time we lost, this time we will win. [ cheers and applause ]
>> newton minnow, you started laughing when you were listening to ta video. >> when he said it was unsolicited, it reminded me, in 1955, governor stevenson gave a speech at the university of texas, and i was asked to go with him. and it was right after president eisenhower had suffered his heart attack. lyndon johnson, majority leader of the senate, had also suffered a heart attack. and we were to spend the night at lyndon's ranch. and we drove in the car with sam rayburn, speaker of the house. got there late. mrs. johnson was very upset because the doctor had told her that lyndon should be sleeping and here he had waited up until very late in the night, about 2:00 in the morning for us, and on the way home, just the two of us were traveling.
adlai said to me, sam and lyndon say that if i want the nomination next year, i'll have to run in the primaries. i said, they're right. i said, if president eisenhower, because of his health, doesn't run, every democrat is going to want the nomination, and you'll have to fight for it. if president eisenhower does run, you ought to forget about it. he said, well, i'm not going to run those primaries. i'm not going to be a candidate like i'm running for sheriff, running around shopping centers shaking hands, i'm not going to do it. of course, he ended up doing it because that's the way the system operated, and he eventually won the nomination after winning a couple of the primaries. >> joe in los angeles, we're talking about adlai stevenson tonight on "the contenders." go ahead and make your comment. >> i wondered what you thought
the relationship with the kennedys, jack and bobby, was. i know he then ran for nomination, and because of that there was ill feelings with john kennedy and he wasn't made secretary of state. what would have happened if adlai had been made secretary of state, and would the situation in vietnam have been different? >> that's a very wide subject. i know we have some material later on. we talked about this with senator stevenson, who was there. it was certainly true that there was not a warm relationship between the kennedys and governor stevenson. in 1956, stevenson had done something no one else had done. he had thrown the nomination for the vice presidency open. he let the convention decide. and jack kennedy came within an eyebrow of winning that nomination.
and in the end, estes kefoffer, probably to his regret, managed to eke out a victory. he later said not being on the ticket was probably the best thing that happened to him. it paved his way for the campaign in 1960. it is also safe to say, i would defer to newt on this, the way that governor stevenson flirted with the draft in 1960 and held back -- in fact, one of the distinguished visitors who came to this house one day was jack kennedy who very much wanted adlai stevenson's endorsement, who didn't get it, who did not go away with his admiration of the governor enhanced. if he was ever going to be secretary of state, i think that possibility probably went down the drain right then. >> and we will talk a little bit
later about the kennedy relationship and his years as u.n. ambassador, but the results in 1956, adlai stevenson won 73 electoral votes, he won seven states in 1956, he won nine in 1952, he got 26 billion votes, about 1 million less than he got four years earlier. dwight eisenhower, 457 electoral votes. he won 41 states, which was the last election where there are only 48 states in the nation, and dwight eyes enmauer won about 35 million votes, about a million more than he had won four years previous. our next call, akron, ohio. kurt, you're on "the contenders." >> caller: thank you, and it's a great honor to be watching your show.
richard norton smith stole my thunder about the 1956 election and jack kennedy, but one of my favorite comments about stevenson was something harry truman said about adlai stevenson, that he spent more time thinking about what he was going to do rather than doing it, and he said he spent a lot more time talking to college plts thpl presidents than he did the cab drivers, and we have a hell of a lot more cab drivers than college presidents. anyway, in 1956, richard norton smith made comment to adlai stevenson doing something unprecedented which is picking a vice presidential nominee, jack kennedy being one and estes kefoffer being the other one. but people don't know, unless they studied this, there were two others up for contention. my question, then, is, seeing as how jack kennedy was out of it
and estes kefoffer became the nominee for vice president, would that ticket have been a little bit better had it been al gore sr. and estes kefoffer? and, also, would -- well, i guess what i was going to say -- >> let's leave it there, kurt. that's a lot of question, and we're going to let newton minnow who was actively involved in the 1956 adlai stevenson campaign answer it. mr. minnow? >> certainly kefoffer didn't help. i don't know who would have helped given the fact that, again, president eisenhower was at the top of the ticket. but i think what richard said about kennedy was exactly correct. the opportunity to be at the convention and be seen as a vice presidential possibility introduced jack kennedy to the
country. and i remember a few years later i saw him at a dinner, and i said, you know -- we called him jack then. i said, jack, if you're still interested, you can get the nomination for vice president next time. he looked at me and said, vice president? vice president? he said, i'm going to run for president. he was only 39 years old. but he had made up his mind. >> can i ask you, the caller raises a point that i'm sure governor stevenson heard many times during his lifetime, this notion that he talked over the heads of people. what was his reaction to that, what's your reaction to that? >> i think he did not talk over the heads of the people. they used to call him an egghead, and they called his followers eggheads, and he used to make fun of that. he would say, eggheads of the world unite. you have nothing to lose but your yolks. and i think he reached people. he had a great sense of humor.
one time he gave a speech -- i was with him in san francisco, and a woman came up to him after the speech and said, governor stevenson, after that speech, every thinking american is going to vote for you. and he said rk, well, thank you madam. unfortunately, i need a majority. so he knew what the situation was. >> next call for our guest comes from nashville, tennessee. hi, martin, you're on "the contenders." >> caller: thank you, great show. i was going to touch on this intellectual thing because my father was an academic and i grew up in washington, d.c. as a child of the '60s and i remember my father talking about how great adlai stevenson, what an intellectual and how great it would be for the country. of course, he never won. but i was stuck on that election map and it seems like adlai
stevenson won since i got all those states, but he didn't get his own state, illinois. that reminds me of al gore in 2000. >> richard norton smith. >> newt would know better. i think it certainly pained him that in neither of those presidential elections he won illinois. remember, he had been elected governor of illinois in 1948 by the largest margin in the history of the state. what was that, a conservative isolationist state elected this liberal democrat. it was not surprising that i assume he thought he counted on winning it in '52. >> he did, and if, for example, he had run for governor in 1952 instead of president, even with president eisenhower running on the republican ticket, he would have won the governorship again by a larger margin than he won in '48.
>> newton minnow, today we talk about taxes, spending, social program, social security as some of the presidential issues we look at yduring campaigns. 1952, 1956. what were the two main issues talked about on this campaign and that adlai stevenson stressed? >> '52, i think the big issue was north korea. we were bogged down in a war there. president eisenhower said, i have a plan. i will go to korea. the country thought that meant he'll end the war in korea, which he did. that was important. the other big issues were really the same issues we've got today. we haven't solved the same issues that divided the country back in the '50s, the role of education, the economy was better then than it is now.
i think there was less unemployment. but i think this country is equally divided. if you look at the last ten presidential elections, with a single exception, i think, of johnson and goldwater in 1964, without exception they've all been decided by a few points. the country is basically equally divided. >> in 1956, here is a little bit of adlai stevenson talking about the democratic platform. >> we are on the fletles thresh another great era. it has brought us, i devoutly believe, to the threshold of a new america, the america of the great ideals and noble visions. i mean a new america where
poverty is abolished and our abundance is used to enrich the lives of everyone. i mean, my friends, a new america where freedom is made real for all without regard to race or belief or economic condition. [ applause ] >> i mean a new america which everlastingly attacks the ancient idea that men can solve their differences by killing each other. [ applause ] >> these are the things i believe in. these are the things i will work for with every resource i
possess. >> and we are live in libertyville, illinois at the adlai stevenson farm. boston, you're on the air. go ahead, dick. >> caller: hi, how are you? hello? >> we're listening. please give a question or comment. >> caller: i was very young during the era of president kennedy and adlai stevenson, and i want to share with you an emotional thing that i will probably take to my grave. in 1960, a couple of weeks before his assassination, meaning kennedy, adlai stevenson went to texas where he was in a convention mood, probably the wrong convictions, because they threw oranges to him from the balcony. and he called president kennedy and told him not to come to
texas. at least get a bulletproof car, which he didn't do. on the other side of the equation, i believe president kennedy and his brother just had, from football days had a little too much ego, and if adlai stevenson knew that, then he would probably have treated his demeanor coming down to jack's demeanor, and i think there would have been more listening to save his life. >> we're going to get an answer from both our guests because they both started nodding their heads. richard norton smith. >> i think it was a united nations day in dallas that he spoke to and afterward was struck by protesters with signs. i think he was actually spat upon at a classic stevenson rejoinder after they said, are you going to prosecute these people? he said, i don't want to prosecute them, i want to
educate them. >> newton minnow? >> i think he was very aware of the dangers, but i don't think you could go so far as the questi questioner did about him. i think president kennedy had made that commitment and he wanted to keep it. i do remember talking about the relationship of adlai and president kennedy. during the '60 campaign, norman vincent peele, a leading protestant clergyman, had organized a group of other clergymen, and they said that jack kennedy was unqualified to be president because of his religion. and adlai was asked about it. and he compared peele to st. paul, and he said, i find st. paul appealing, and norman
vincent peele appalling. and he could always make a joke or good humor out of it. politics today has no humor. with the exception of bob dole, i don't see any politician today, either party, who has really got a great sense of humor. >> do you think in some way it worked against stevenson? some people thought he wasn't a serious person because he always had these wonderful quips? >> well, and his answer to that was abraham lincoln went around telling stories all the time. i don't think it hurt him, i think people liked to have someone who has a sense of humor. >> next call on adlai stevenson here on c-span's "contenders." poughkeepsie, new york. nick, good evening. >> caller: hi. i'd like to know when stevenson was a child, what was -- like,
was his incident where he accidentally shot his friend, how did that influence his presidential campaign in the future? >> newton minow, did he ever talk to you about that? could you give us a brief history of what the caller is referring to. >> there was a tragic accident in childhood when there was a loose gun in the family, and adlai accidentally shot and killed another child. i never heard him say a word about it, i never saw any evidence that it affected him, but i'm not -- who knows. >> he was 12 years old at the time, but one did get the sense that the family kind of moved on, that it was not something that they dwelled on. i think years later, he was surprised -- he expressed astonishment that his wife knew about the incident, which suggests he really kept it very
close to his vest. >> who was his wife? >> well, his wife was a woman who came from a very fine upper class family. she was not very interested in politics. in fact, disliked politics. and when adlai went into politics, i don't think she was very happy about it, and sadly, they came to a parting of the ways. >> and that was in 1949 after he had run for governor. >> he had been elected before the divorce. >> right. and then divorced. did that hurt him in the 1952 and 1956 presidential campaigns, being a divorced man? >> it's curious, i was talking about this with my wife. years ago people thought a divorced man could never be elected president. now president reagan was divorced. today we have public officials
living without marriage with someone else. nobody raises a fuss about it. i think there's been a vast cultural change here. >> is that one more instance of stevenson >> well, we are live from libertyville, illinois, about 10, 20 miles from where we are is north brook, illinois. theodore is on the line. please, go ahead with your question or comment. >> caller: hello, i appreciate the program very much. i am a senior in a nearby senior retirement community, and participating in a writer memoir group in which we've been asked to write what good thing from the '50s should be carried into the 21st century. i happen to have been present at his 1952 election where he voted in vernon township, in a little township building next to a
congregational church, and i chose that as the icon. my question is, what significance do you place to that icon of the whole in hole in adlai's shoe, and how would you summarize what good thing from adlai stevenson could be brought into the 21st century in our own time? >> let's start with richard norton smith. >> i'm just -- again, stevenson, whenever you think of his politics, stevenson was a man who flattered our intelligence, he spoke up to us. he didn't speak down to us. he is, arguably, the last national politician, i think you could actually say this of barry goldwater, who believed that a presidential campaign was, first and foremost, an educational exercise. >> what do you mean by that, richard?
>> he literally believed -- for example, his idea of television, he was forever running out of time. you know, they would cut him off in the middle of a speech. he couldn't believe that people wouldn't take a sufficient amount of time to educate themselves, to listen to thoughtful, sober, substantiative issue-oriented appeals from candidates on both sides. that's how he approached running for office. that's how he approached governing illinois. >> he once -- i've heard him say more than once that a campaign was an educational exercise not only for the public, but also for the candidate. that it was an opportunity for the candidate to educate himself or herself about the country and about the people. and he believed that. i also heard him say something i don't hear any politician say today, there are worse things that can happen to someone than
losing an election. >> richard norton smith, what is a stevensonian? >> oh, a stevensonian is an egghead, probably entertaining a certain nostalgia for a level of political discourse, of civility, urbanity, a whit, self deprecatory, someone who has very little patience with the political claptrap that handlers and spin doctors have foisted upon us. i cannot imagine adlai stevenson being handled by any such individuals. >> it would never happen. i once was a member of an american delegation to a conference in japan. in our delegation was don rumsfeld who then was a member of congress. and we were having dinner, and i
said why did you go into politics? and he said, it was all because of a speech given to my graduating class at princeton. i said were you in the class of 1954? he looked at me, how do you know that? i said i know the speech, it was the best speech adlai stevenson ever gave in his life. it was a speech about why everyone should devote some of their life to public service. don stood up and gave me a paragraph by memory, verbatim of the speech. he then pulled out his wallet and he took out a torn, tattered copy of the speech he carries around in his wallet. i said that's why you went into politics? he said that's why i went into public service. and if you read his new book that he -- he starts off by quoting from that speech.
so adlai, i'd say his big guege contribution was making politics respectable and honorable. jack kennedy used to say politics is an honorable profession. i think he got that from adlai stevenson. >> adlai and ella stephenson had three sons, adlai iii, borden, john fell. adlai iii was a marine in 1952, but here's a little bit of a newsreel. >> governor stevenson takes time out from his strenuous campaign to attend the graduation of his son, adlai iii from marine officer school at quantico. he presents his son with a sheaf of commissions for the entire platoon. it is a proud father and an equally proud son on an occasion important to both. >> and now live on your screen is senator adlai stevenson iii, he is in his father's study here on the stevenson farm in libertyville, illinois.
senator stevenson, first of all, thank you for opening up this facility for us. secondly, what was your role in the '52 and '56 campaigns? >> '52 campaign, as your remarks indicate, i was in the marine corps, i didn't know it, but en route to korea, so i did not have a role in that campaign. we were involved in the '56 campaign and i was a driver in the '48 campaign, which was sort of the beginning of my introduction to politics. >> now, what role did korea play in your father's campaigning in 1952? what was his position on korea with you over there? >> well, as newt -- i think it was newt mentioned, korea became an issue, though i don't think it really was an issue, but it adversely affected my father's campaign.
he was advised to say if elected president, i will go to korea. that's exactly what general eisenhower said. my father refused to do that because he felt that if he made that commitment to go there and settle the, you know, arrange a truce, that he'd be weakened. and, in fact, the eisenhower administration was weakened by this commitment of eisenhower to end the war. i don't think it -- my involvement didn't have any effect at all, but his integrity had an adverse effect on his campaign because of korea. >> adlai stevenson iii served in the u.s. senate from 1970 until 1981 for the state of illinois. he voluntarily stepped down in 1980. ran for governor twice for this state. senator stevenson, what made you enter the family business? >> well, i was just born with an
incurable, hereditary case of politics, if by business you mean my career. we never really thought of it as a business. i'm, by the way, paraphrasing my father, because he was asked the same question. >> and, of course, the first adlai stevenson served as vice president. the second as secretary of state here for the state of illinois, then, of course, we had adlai stevenson the governor and now we are joined by senator stevenson, who is adlai iii. he is in his father's study in the home, in the stevenson family home here in libertyville. we are over in what used to be the barn, and it's right next door. it is now set up with an exhibit. senator stevenson, what is going on here, what is being set up where we are? >> yes, this home, which really became our base over the years as we served in washington,
london, springfield, everywhere, is now the home of the adlai stevenson center on democracy where we try to bring people together from all parts of the world to address systemic weaknesses in democratic systems of government and continue the stevenson legacy. this was the home, but it really became a base from which we, my father ranged the world, not only to serve in springfield and so on, as i mentioned, but also to study the world. the travels, the study of the world from on the ground and within it were incessant. never stopped trying to learn about the world from within it. in the marketplaces and slums in the monuments and ruins, as well as the universities and ministries, trying to see the world from within it, and the united states from without it,
and i think that lifetime of on the ground study of the world with a perspective from no ivory tower really helped to create the record and make him an electrifying figure, not only at home, but in the world. which ultimately led, of course, to president kennedy's appointment to him as the ambassador to the united nations. where he represented the united states effectively. >> we've got one hour left this evening in "the contenders." this is our ninth in our 14-week series. adlai stevenson is our focus. our guests, senator adlai stevenson iii, newton minow who worked for years with and for adlai stevenson, and was former federal communications commission chairman under jfk, and, of course, well-known author and historian richard norton smith.
we're going to take this call from sally in chicago. hi, sally. >> caller: hi, let me correct something, i was born and raised in chicago, but i live in california. and i'm calling because i -- adlai stevenson's 1952 election was my first presidential -- in other words, when i was eligible to vote. so i went door to door and did whatever i could. i was crushed that he didn't win. but on retrospect, i thought he would contribute so much more on the world stage as a statesman. and, in a way, he did. but i will never forget how disappointed we were.
one other thing, being a chicagoan, i worked at the "tribune" tower when the dewey-truman election results -- you never saw such panic in your life as was in the "chicago tribune." i will let you go and get your response on air. thank you. >> i think we could talk -- i think we could talk to sally all night, but senator stevenson, if we could start with you, you heard the emotion in her voice, could you talk about his campaign style a little bit? >> i'd like to amplify. i think richard and newt have done a very perceptive job, but getting back to '52, he was also reluctant to run for president because he had been elected governor of a state which we loved and were deeply indebted
to, and it succeeded a corrupt republican administration. he reached out and he recruited the best qualified professionals that he could find. it wasn't pay to play in those days, it was sacrifice to serve. they were reforming state government, and he wanted to finish the job. newt and richard are right, he was also reluctant because eisenhower, the returning war hero, would be very hard to defeat, and i think secretly, not so secretly at home, he wasn't convinced that, perhaps, it was time for a change. now, remember, he started that '52 campaign. he was drafted. he started that campaign at the convention with absolutely no program, no money, no staff, and it went on to electrify the world. for him, and this is -- i may be repeating, but for him,
democracy was not a device, not a system for acquiring power. it was a system for informing the people so that they could make a sound judgment. he said trust the people with the truth, all the truth. what wins is more important than who wins. so, in response to another suggestion, the '56 campaign was really more substantive because he'd had more time than the '52 campaign. but he used the campaigns and the interim as leader of the party -- we don't leaders of the party anymore, and advisory councils to lay what was called the programmatic foundations for the new frontier and the great society.
i heard arthur schlesinger once call -- the late, great historian -- we always called jack, jack. john f. kennedy. the executor of the stevenson revolution. but those campaigns were aimed not only at the american people -- and they were substantive, he used half-hour blocks of time for eloquent, substantive speeches. they were also aimed at the world, and it listened. >> senator stevenson, you talked about the '52 and '56 campaigns. your father lost about a million or so votes between those and a couple more states. what did he not do as well in '56 or what do you think, did he make mistakes? >> i think -- first of all, eisenhower's enormously popular. remember, these were years of economic prosperity and growth. ike was popular, the war was getting -- i can't remember when
exactly, but ended -- no, that would come later in korea. no, what happened -- one of the things that happened, i think eisenhower would have gotten reelected probably anyway, was the uprising in hungary and the invasion of suez by france, britain, and israel. these international crises rallied the country, as they always do, behind the president, and, you know, from then on, there just really wasn't much doubt about the outcome. >> richard norton smith? >> well, i just want to go back to the '52 campaign, and senator stevenson's point, which, of course, is absolutely accurate, that he started out with nothing. in fact, there was a debate over where to have a political headquarters, whether, you know, truman expected it to be in washington, well, no, it was in springfield. but the story is told, and you
can tell me if it's true or not, the story is told that he didn't expect it to be publicized, which again is revealing, that one night very shortly after the convention, he came back to springfield and conscious of these crushing responsibilities that had just been handed to him, he left the executive mansion one night, by himself, without guard or entourage, and walked to the lincoln home on 8th street, walked to the door. knocked. of course, the custodian recognized him, it was not then a national historic site, let him in, and he sat all by himself in the lincoln parlor for some period reflecting, meditating on a man who had confronted even greater responsibilities 100 years earlier. but the interesting thing about that story is not only that it happened, but that stevenson didn't publicize it.
he didn't expect anyone to know about that story. is that accurate? >> it's true. in fact, he didn't -- none of us knew about it until later. years later, i said i read this, is this true, and he said yes. but he didn't talk about it. >> you have to understand, this story, the family's involvement goes back to jesse phil, five generations. i've tried to record it, american politics in history as we knew it in the black book. it begins with jessy fell who was lincoln's patron. lincoln was a constant presence in this family, right here is little evidence. lincoln was an inspiration. woodrow wilson, former president of princeton, my father was a graduate of princeton in 1922. wilson was an influence also. the enlightened internationalism of wilson heavily influenced my father, but lincoln, who might
never have been president without jesse fell, the citizen who, among other things, proposed the lincoln/douglas debates. lincoln was an inspiration and forever a presence in this family. >> and our next call for our three guests talking about adlai stevenson comes from oak island, north carolina. jimmy, please, go ahead. >> caller: thanks for taking my call. i am a world war ii veteran, and, of course, it was part of the eisenhower army, but i didn't feel like, at the time -- i'm from north carolina, which you see was one of the blue states that voted for adlai both times, and we felt that adlai was a politician and more able
to handle the political things and general eisenhower was more of a military person. and you would know times were good. i was wondering what do y'all think, how would the united states have changed in that eight years if adlai stevenson had been president rather than dwight eisenhower? >> senator stevenson, let's start with you. >> you know, dwight d. eisenhower has been quoted first by headley donovan of "time life" and recently by a member of his family, as saying that if he'd have known stevenson was to be the democratic candidate, he would not have run for president. i think on the large international issues there was probably not a great deal of difference between them.
one thing my father really, you know, felt strongly about, richard nixon -- richard nixon was loathed by just about everybody in washington. his strength was at the grassroots, and, you know, after the checker speech and that incident and eisenhower's retention of nixon on the ticket, i think that, you know, caused some doubts in his mind about eisenhower. he respected eisenhower and my father was such a figure in the world that john foster dulles, perhaps reluctantly made him a roving official ambassador of the eisenhower administration, so that in his travels throughout the world he could officially represent the united states. if there had been a difference and the real differences then, i think, were between the democrat
and the eisenhower wing of the republican party with the taft wing. eisenhower's problems were with taft. and the conservative wing of the republican party. if my father had been a president you would probably have the new frontier, federal aid to education and other such programs might have taken effect earlier. as it was, much of it didn't take effect until after the assassination of kennedy when johnson very shrewdly, i remember him consulting my father, he said, what do i do now? you adlai should be in these shoes, but you're not. so what's your advice? my father said, i guess you take some time now and put your program and administration together and he said, no, this is my moment. within a hundred days the program was all through congress. you know, he knew timing. he was a real politician.
but that program had been developing over, you know, since the '52 campaign and might have been accelerated, you know, had my father won in '52 or '56. >> newton minow? >> i think adlai got it exactly right. i would add one thing, because adlai was so committed to getting rid of nuclear war i think we might have had faster progress than actually occurred later in dealing with the russians and in dealing with nuclear disarmament, i think that was such a passionate belief that i think he would have given much more attention and persuasion to it than what occurred and i think, also, that the -- we would have had more friends throughout the world
than we ended up with at that time. >> richard? >> you know, it's interesting. it's hard to imagine -- of course, that's what we're doing is imagining. but it's hard to imagine president stevenson sending that u2 plane in may of 1960 on the eve of a great summit. one quick thing, i do think they had real respect for each other, i think also had as most political adversaries learned to discover the weaknesses of one another. i suspect eisenhower, over time, grew rather resentful of the implication that stevenson was the only word smith, the only great eloquent persuader in american politics. he once said if words were all that mattered, the american people could vote for ernest hemingway for presidency.
ily the it was a vaeiled criticism of stevenson. our next call comes from portland, oregon, hi, joe >> caller: howdy, and thanks for taking my call. in '52, i was in a high school living in a republican household. in '56, i spent the summer as an intern, i remember well in '56, there was a disappointment at the convention because there wasn't really a contest as there had been in '52. can you elaborate on how the decision was made to throw it open to the convention, whether it was really just so everybody could have a good time or was it at least in part to dodge the animosity of all of the candidates who didn't get it? >> newton minnow if you can start. and then, senator stevenson, we want to hear about your role. >> i think adlai felt that he had seen firsthand how the vice
president was picked in '52. it was so casually done. he realized it needed much more attention. he also was under a lot of pressure -- he was fond of hubert humphrey. he didn't like keith olber, even though he had been in the primaries. he thought jack kennedy was very promising but was too young and too inexperienced. and so, he decided -- also decided it would give a lot of excitement to the convention, which had been pretty much prearranged as to his own nomination. so, he decided to open it up and i think it turned out to be as he predicted. it turned out to be an exciting contest and it introduced jack kennedy to the country. so, there was a lot of good things with it.
>> newt has it right. the outcome of the presidential balloting was a foregone conclusion. so to create some excitement and interest, he decided to throw open the balloting for vice president. and quietly, we were all rooting for john f. kennedy, though we had a great deal -- my father adored hubert humphrey and senior senator al gore, were great public servants. but i remember at the convention when the balloting was seesawing for vice president and kenny was ahead, running downstairs to kenne kennedy's suite, where sergeant shriver's brother-in-law was guarding the door, running in,
jack kennedy was pulling up his trousers, shook his hand and congratulated him. by the time i got back up to my father's suite, i saw him lose. we all of us were rooting for jack kennedy. but newt is absolutely right, this brought kennedy to the nation's attention and also spared him involvement in a failed campaign for president and vice president. >> let's move four years ahead to the 1960 democratic convention in los angeles. senator stevenson, how would you describe the relationship between your father and jack kennedy in 1960? >> well, i think -- i think the relationship between my father and jack kennedy was close. i know my father respected kennedy and i believe it was mutual. but there was, and newt was closer, really, a circle -- a very pro techive circle around john f. kennedy, which was also fearful and resentful and in
this case concerned that stevenson was a threat. people were pouring in from across the country. literally hammering on the doors and in some cases knocking down the doors of that convention to demand another nomination for their candidate. eleanor roosevelt was there. and jim mccarthy gave a brilliant nominating address for stevenson and this caused a little anxiety in the kennedy camp and it probably caused a little interest or thought on my father's part, maybe if things deadlocked, he could still win the nomination. he had felt that if the leader of the party and out of loyalty to eleanor roosevelt and other supporters that he should be neutral and he was neutral. if he had a chance neutrality was the best way to get there. the former secretary of labor, also involved in state administration told me -- he was in my father's suite on the eve
of the balloting and my father said, when bobby kennedy calls, tell him i've gone to bed and left instructions not to be woken. sure enough bobby kennedy called. he said, tell him this is his last chance and he better talk to me or he won't be secretary of state. and he responded, i'm sorry he's instructed me to tell you that he has gone to bed. so, that was the end of any chances for secretary of state. but it signifies something about the relationship -- not with jack kennedy, but this very, very protective circle around jack kennedy. it would come back to create other problems, like during the cuban missile crisis, when my father was vilified.
we'll get to that in just a minute, but we're going to play two pieces of video here, we'll start at the 1960 convention. adlai stevenson at the podium. here it is. >> i won't attempt to tell you how grateful i am. for this moving welcome. the 1960 democratic convention. i have, however, an observation, after getting in and out of the biltmore hotel, in this hall, i decided i know who you will nominate. it will be the last survivor. >> details of my participation have not been worked out, but i
told senator kennedy i would gladly campaign where he wanted me to and i suspect that will be in the north and the east and possibly in between. >> do you think you can persuade all the stevenson followers to vote for senator kennedy? >> i hope so. >> what will you do about it? how will you go about it? >> i hope by the participation in the company i haven't had much down that they would support the ticket. and i hope they'll support it vigorously in the same manner that i do. >> i hope they'll follow you as vigorously as they did in los angeles, governor. >> i hope they'll follow you as vigorously as they followed me in los angeles. >> that's my goal. >> we saw a little bit from the con vings -- convention and then we saw a little bit at the press conference after jfk got the nomination. minow?little bit at the press
conference after jfk got the nomination. minow? >> i had the most extraordinary experience i had involving both adlai stevenson and jack kennedy was on may 29th, 1960, it was jack kennedy's birthday, it was the day after the last primary in oregon. and jack kennedy was flying from oregon to hyannis for a family birthday party, and bill blair, our law partner, had suggested that he stop in chicago and bill and i would pick him up and drive him here to the farm and he would have lunch with adlai and we were hoping, because bill and i had both concluded that it was impossible for adlai to be nominated again, we were hoping that they would come to some terms and adlai would support kennedy. so we got in the car, we drove out here. in the course of it, bill was driving, jack was in
the front seat, i was in the backseat, jack kennedy said, do you think i should talk to him about secretary of state? and bill was smarter than i am, he didn't say anything. there was silence. i couldn't stand the silence. i said i wouldn't do that if i were you. and he looked at me and he said, why? i said, adlai would be offended. and second, you ought to decide yourself who you want if you're elected. came out here, adlai and nancy were -- adlai iii and nancy were -- they managed to get the two of them alone into adlai's study. and the minute they came out i had seen it hadn't gone well and we're getting back in the car to go back. and i was dying of curiosity, i said, jack, did you say something about secretary of state? he looked at me with those
steely eyes and he said, you told me not to. i thought, what have i done? soon as i got home, i called adlai and told him the entire thing from beginning to end. he said, you did the right thing. he said, i would have been very offended. beside he should decide who he wants. i decided i better tell the kennedys. i called hyannis, jack hadn't arrived yet. i told bob exactly what i told adlai. i felt i had a clean conscience. i had not screwed it up. >> can i ask you a question, we saw the clip from the '60 convention, that joke stevenson made from the podium in a moment of maximum suspense. theodore wright wrote describing that scene, it was stevenson's moment and he threw it away, that he was in a position with the right remarks to have taken
that convention away. is that unrealistic? was that convention jack kennedy's no matter what happened? or can you see if -- can you see a scenario in which stevenson at the peak of his form might have in fact, have set something on fire? >> i think he knew it wasn't going to happen. he talked to richard j. daley, who told him the illinois delegates were going to vote for kennedy. he knew -- i think he knew at that point -- we'll see what adlai says, if he agrees with me. one other thing, adlai, i have always thought that gene mccarthy's speech was insincere, i felt he was working for lyndon johnson, because he had never been that close to governor stevenson and i just finished reading jackie kennedy's tapes, and she said
jack kennedy said the same thing. so there's two people who thought that gene mccarthy was making that -- >> let's let senator stevenson get in here. go ahead. >> i don't think i want to attribute that motive to gene mccarthy. the gossip, which i hate to repeat, at the time was gene was just jealous of jack because it was that catholic instead of this catholic getting the nomination. i think that's unworthy of gene mccarthy. number one, newt minow's advice was absolutely right. my father would have resented it. i don't think there was a chance at that convention of his winning the nomination. he had encouraged everybody to go out and support the candidates of their choice including richard j. daley of illinois. the illinois delegation was pledged to john f. kennedy. you make a pledge you don't break it. the nomination was sewed up. yet there was a lot of tension and a lot of fear and a lot of
din dynamism in the works. after the convention, my father campaigned strenuously all over the country for john f. kennedy and bobby kennedy's first stop on the campaign trail was right here. at the home where we had a great rally out on the lawn for bobby kennedy. >> now, newton minow referred to jackie kennedy's new book put out by carolyn kennedy called" historic conversations on life with jfk". were some audiotapes attached to that, and she talked -- >> shortly after the assassination. >> correct, and they were just released. here's jackie kennedy talking about adlai stevenson and john f. kennedy. >> and the big thing with governor stevenson wanting to
stay, telling him he would have to have the u.n., i remember jack telling me about that. >> how did that -- did that give him a lot of difficulty? or was he amused by it all? >> you know, it was unpleasant. i mean, he didn't like it having to do it or anything but he wasn't going to give him the state department. i remember the earliest times we spoke of it, you knew that governor stevenson would get the u.n. not state, which he wanted. but it's sort of unpleasant to have to tell someone that. i remember their conference on the doorstep was rather vague where stevenson said he didn't have anything to say. something funny. >> why do you suppose he decided against stevenson for state? >> stevenson had never lifted one finger to help him. but yet it wasn't just bitterness or that. because look at all the people jack took who had been against him.
he thought that man had a real disease of being unable to make up his mind. and stevenson irritated him. i don't think he could have borne to have him around coming in every day as secretary of state. it would have been an awfully difficult relationship. >> senator stevenson, could we get your reaction. >> well, unfortunately, i really couldn't hear it. i knew jackie kennedy and i can in fact, she was a very artistic woman, intellectual, who used to leave washington on weekends, which were sometimes spent at bobby's home playing football, she wasn't athletic, she would go to new york to the theater with my father. from all i could see they had a very good relationship and he gave her, you know, kind of an escape from washington.
i've heard about these -- i've heard these comments not just these, but all of her comments that they are critical of just about everybody. so i don't know what to -- you know, kind of credibility to place on that. but from what i could see, her relationship with my father was very good and, in some ways, closer than to some of the kennedys maybe. >> newton minow, a short comment. could you hear the audio tape of jackie kennedy? >> yeah. i think -- i was with adlai and jackie not often but several times. i think they had a very, very good relationship. >> what about jfk and adlai stevenson? >> jfk and adlai -- i had a very important experience about that. i had a very minor role in the cuban missile crisis, but i was involved a little bit.
and when it was over, there was an article in the saturday evening post, written by stewart olsup and charlie bartlett, and in it there were some critical comments, not attributed to any single person about what adlai had proposed, which was actually what the united states did. it was -- we closed our missile headquarters in turkey and greece in exchange for the bargain that was reached about cuba. but, it was critical and i knew that adlai was upset by it and early in the morning one day, president kennedy called me at home and he said, will you tell your leader -- he always would refer, when he talked to me about adlai, tell your leader that i did not leak that story.
there's a rumor around that i'm the one who leaked it. tell him, i did not leak it. i called the governor and i had his number and i got him on the phone in five seconds, he picked up the phone in the embassy in new york, and he said i can't talk to you now i'm on the way to the "today" show to be interviewed. i said give me one second, the president just called me and told me to tell you he did not leak that story to the saturday evening post. the governor didn't say anything. 15 minutes later i turned on the "today" show and he gave jfk holy hell about the episode. and got it off his chest. later, jfk wrote him a letter apologizing, saying he didn't do it, but made it clear what adlai had contributed to the cuban missile crisis solution was indispensab
indispensable. >> we have about 25 minutes left and our callers have been patient. bill, go a ahead with your question or comment about adlai stevenson. >> caller: can you elaborate on the influence of richard j. daley, of course, as you have referred to him as the mayor of chicago, the influence he had on stevenson's rise in illinois politics? >> senator stevenson, can we start with you, sir? >> it's the other way around. my father got richard j. daley started in politics. as i mentioned earlier, my father recruited these extraordinary professionals from and they came with, you know, without the endorsements of political leaders and campaign contributors. but there was one partial exception and that was richard j. daley who was state senator and maybe did have the
endorsement of the cook county chairman. and he served with great distinguished in my father's cabinet as director of the department of revenue, he's really a first-rate cabinet officer. and then later, my father supported richard j. daley when he contested for mayor of chicago against an incumbent mayor of that city. this is incredible, the governor of the state siding with the challenger to the incumbent governor. so my father was -- had a lot to do with the rise of richard j. daley. it wasn't the other way around at all. >> washington, d.c., go ahead. dave. we're talking about adlai stevenson here on "the contenders." >> caller: hi, peter. >> hi, congressman. how are you, sir? >> caller: good. >> everyone know congressman obey, former congressman. >> caller: i just wanted to tell
a story about adlai stevenson in madison, wisconsin in the '60 campaign. i was a student at the university of wisconsin, and adlai had come to madison to give a speech to the civil war roundtable, and afterwards he was scheduled to appear with then governor gaylord nelson at the old park hotel. and we had a large crowd of democrats gathered. they were all over an hour late and the crowd was very restless. finally, the two walked in. gaylord ushered adlai stevenson up to the front of the room and gaylord grabbed the mic and said, folks, i'm sorry we're so late. there's a lot of questions at the civil war roundtable so he said i've got to get the governor over to the mansion and get him to bed. he's got a long day tomorrow, and then he said, i'll give one
of my typically short speeches and add lay butted in and said i'll give up of my typically long ones and nelson said you do and i'll leave without you. and adlai says, go ahead. see who the crowd follows and the crowd erupted in laughter, and i think that just shows how quick adlai was on his feet and how clever he could be in making the audience feel good about it. he was -- he was my hero. >> congressman obey, a lot of talk about the fact that adlai stevenson was the architect of the later great society. would you agree with that? >> i think he certainly defined in the '56 campaign what most of the issues later became that the democratic party ran on and stood for for years. he really set the agenda for the coming decade in that campaign. >> that was congressman dave obey. we did not know he was going to call. longtime congressman from wisconsin. and democrat. thanks for calling in, sir. and watching. richard from seattle. hello.
richard? from seattle. >> caller: i'm the author of a book about eleanor roosevelt and adlai stevenson just published last year, and i would like to just relay the anecdotes from the campaign trail that was a favorite of the campaign team and then give you a little comment from david lilianthal about adlai and the incident is about a club woman who came up to him after a speech and said, oh, mr. stevenson, your speech was positively superfluous to which he replied, thank you, madame, i've been thinking about having it published posthumously. to which she replied, that would
be nice. the sooner the better. >> senator stevenson, i know you're in your dad's office over there, and there's a set of books of his speeches, and they were actually best-sellers, correct. >> yes. incidentally my own book is here, little black book, which i try to record american politics as we knew it over those five generations, including the humor which enriched our politics and could be used to really very good effect, too. you could, for example, use it to denigrate an opponent without being mean-spirited, but the memories, the experience i try to record over these five generations starting with lincoln and ending when china and epilogue on the life cycle of nations and empires is aimed to recall what we're doing tonight, the values that created this country and contrast them with those which i'm afraid are undermining it today. >> and we've talked a little bit about this, and richard norton smith, i want to get your reaction.
the cuban missile crisis, adlai stevenson was u.s. ambassador to the united nations. >> yeah, but remember, of course, it didn't happen in a vacuum. a year earlier, you talk about the strained relationship with the white house. the kennedy administration in effect had put its ambassador in a humiliating position at the time of the bay of pigs, and so a year later, year and a half later in the fall of 1962 you have a situation in which we have irrefutable evidence that the soviets are in fact installing offensive nuclear missiles on castro's cuba, and what transpires, the great paradox. i cannot think of a less soundbite political figure than adlai stevenson and if you go on youtube today he's immortalized
today by one of the great sound bytes of the 20th century. >> we're going to listen to it right now. >> let me ask you one simple question. do you, ambassador zoran, deny that the ussr has placed and is placing immediate and intermediate range missiles and sites in cuba, yes or no? don't wait for the translation. yes or no. >> i should like to say -- >> mr. stevenson, would be you continue your statement, please. you will receive the answer in due course, do not worry. >> i'm prepared to wait for my answer until hell freezes over if that's your decision.
>> richard norton smith. >> until hell freezes over. one of the great soundbites of the 20th century and afterwards, one of the kennedys, maybe it was the president or bobby, i'm not sure who alleged was to have said, i didn't know adlai had it in him. >> that's true. >> well, you know, you mentioned the bay of pigs earlier. he was fed a great deal of misinformation which he relayed to the security council and it came out, of course, that this information was false. he felt very embarrassed but it was the kennedy administration that was embarrassed. nobody doubted my father's integrity. and newt eluded to the bay of pigs earlier. the bay of pigs proposal by the kennedy administration was exactly what my father had proposed, namely trading off obsolete bases in turkey for withdrawal of the missiles, but the kennedy administration insisted on keeping the deal secret.
my father didn't want it to be secret because he did not want to embarrass the khrushchev. he wanted to give him an opportunity to retreat, and that didn't happen and, of course, khrushchev was embarrassed just as my father feared. he fell. he was succeeded by a group from which emerged brezhnev and the hardliners and -- and the cold war escalated because the kennedy administration had to be tough instead of compromising and giving khrushchev an easy way out. >> well, one of the goals of "the contenders" is to figure out how the contenders changed their respective parties, and how they changed american politics, and after we take this call we're going to move into that topic area, but rootstown, ohio, duncan, please go ahead with your question on adlai stevenson. >> caller: thanks for having me. i was just curious as to whether or not you've ever heard of an organization called bilderberg and if adlai stevenson had ever
attended the bilderberg conference before? >> thank you for your call. go ahead, senator stevenson. this adlai stevenson has been to a bilderberg conference. i don't know about my father and i don't know how far back those goes and what the implications are, but i can guess. bilderberg conferences are meetings of very senior officials have around the world in which they got together to discuss the problems facing the wor world. absolutely nothing sinister about them. this adlai stevenson has been to a couple. i don't know that my father ever was or if they even existed in his time. >> we're here in the stevenson barn. while senator stevenson is over in his father's study. in the stevenson barn there's a new exhibit about adlai stevenson and there's a photograph. richard norton smith, you and i went over and looked at this before it started. this is in 1945, the u.n. formation. do you remember that photograph over there around the table?
you were commenting on the different players in the photograph. >> well, yeah. i do. i haven't got it in front of me so i'm not sure. it's a remarkable group of people. you've got john foster dulles. you have, of course, governor stevenson, adlai stevenson. this is before the governorship. >> and nelson rockefeller was there. >> yeah, a young nelson rockefeller. harold stassen, before he was a joke, when he was taken seriously as an architect of disarmament, the secretary of state at the time ed tinus who was about to be fired. >> so what was adlai stevenson's role in the founding of the u.n.? >> do you want to take that? >> it had to do with the preparatory conference as i understand.
>> he was also a delegate to the conference in san francisco, and then he was -- at which the united nations was adopted or approved, but by late 1945 we were living in london where he was the u.s. delegate to the preparatory commission as newt was about to suggest of which -- which laid the foundation. i mean, actually it started putting the building blocks together, including the location in new york. he represented the united states at that commission where great men from all over europe and canada, andre gromiko were there. they used to assemble at our home at night because we had access to the commissary, extraordinary group of people, so he was in on the birth of the united nations, and incidentally he died 20 years later just a couple of blocks from our home in london in 1945. that was 65, still serving the united nations and this country. >> we wanted to talk about adlai
stevenson and his affect on the democratic party. here he is in 1952 talking about the democratic party. >> i have been hardened by the conduct of this convention. you have argued and disagreed because as democrats you care and you care deeply, but you have disagreed and argued without calling each other liars and thieves, without despoiling our best tradition. [ applause ] you have not spoiled our best traditions in any naked struggles for power. and you have written a platform that neither equivocates, contradicts nor evades. you have restated our party's record, its principles and its purposes in language that none can mistake. nor am i afraid that the democratic party is old and fat and indolent. after 150 years it has been old
for a long time, and it will never be indolent as long as it looks forward and not back, as long as it commands the allegiance of the young and the hopeful who dream the dreams and see the visions of a better america and a better world. you will hear many sincere and thoughtful people express concern about the continuation of one party in power for 20 years. i don't belittle this attitude, but change for the sake of change has no absolute merit in itself. the people are wise, wiser than the republicans think, and the democratic party is the people's party, not the labor party, not the farmer's party, not the employer's party. it is the party of no one because it is the party of everyone. [ applause ]
>> newton minow? >> i think adlai's contribution to the country was to -- he hoped campaigns would educate people, and he succeeded. he succeeded in teaching all of us that politics was something all of us should be involved in. i recently met the governor of indiana. >> mitch daniels? >> mitch daniels, and i said i'm sorry you're not running for presidency, and he said why do you say that? i know you're a democrat. i said i learned from my boss, adlai stevenson, that the best people in both parties should run, not the worst people, and i believe that, and i think adlai taught that to all of us, and i think that's a legacy to be extremely grateful for because his contribution is enduring today. >> yeah.
i think historically, of course, he's a bridge between the new deal really and the new frontier. he holds aloft the banner of liberalism in the '50s. a difficult era. adlai stevenson believed in american exceptionalism every bit as much as many on the right do today. but it was an exceptionalism that was about ideas, and ideals. it was leading by example. it was not an exceptionalism enforced by military force. and of course the other thing is he brought a whole generation of young people who were inspired by his words, his example, his approach, his very unorthodox approach to politics. >> only a few minutes left. carrie jo, morehead, minnesota,
go ahead. >> caller: in 1952 i was privileged to meet adlai stevenson. he came to the hotel warren where my mom and dad owned the hotel, and i was privileged to wait tables on him. we kids grew up in the hotel, and after meeting him i admired him the rest of my life. i'm now 72 years old. and i am still just so admiring this wonderful democratic person and i am just so thrilled that he was a man of morality and he was a man that fought for the working people. we need more adlai stevensons in this world right now. i'm just so happy that i met him and he -- the rest of my life --
>> all right. thank you for that call. let's let you talk to an adlai stevenson. senator? >> well, you know, the question we are left with is adlai stevenson possible today in this money-drenched, d dysfunctional politics? could he even compete for president of the united states? going from stand to stand raising money from money to interests, for jingles on television, the half hour blocks of time would be impossible. i'm not sure he would be possible today let alone a franklin roosevelt. it wouldn't have been physically possible for him, that's why we created the stevenson center to address the systemic weaknesses in democratic systems that might
make an adlai stevenson possible. we try in my book to recall these values, this history that created this country and contrast them with our politics today. can politics as corrupt as ours be expected to purify? to reform itself? that's the issue we are left with. i don't worry about the american people. i have enormous faith in the american people. they are left with a protest that represents everybody else. >> senator stevenson, as adlai stevenson iii, if you have to go to a store or show your name somewhere, do people react? >> the old folks -- some of the old folks. i with us in a store the other day and saw this young woman at the counter looking at my credit card. she was looking at my name. s i said is that name familiar to
you? she said no, but it's cool. i think we're forgotten and our politics has been forgotten. this has been a wonderful program to recall another politics, another america. >> jim in east brunswick, new jersey. go ahead with your question or comment. >> caller: gentlemen, i would like to ask the group to reflect on an event late in the governor's life. i reviewed several hours of cbs news coverage of the events of november 22, 1963. throughout that afternoon walter cronkite, harry reisner continually referred to governor stevenson visiting dallas a few weeks earlier and having been accosted warned the president not to go there. it seemed an airport event, a woman hit or struck governor
stevenson over the head with a placard. seemed little more than that. i wonder if the panel could reflect on that, any regrets from the governor not stressing -- >> jim, we got that call? richard, you talked about this earlier. the situation. >> yeah. very briefly. it was -- he had gone to dallas for a united nations day event and had been confronted by this bunch of angry people including a woman with a sign. i believe he was spat bon, struck. he certainly left with a vivid sense of potential dangers that the president might encounter. >> and did he call the president and warn him or was that just a thought? >> i don't know the answer to that. i'm sorry. >> senator stevenson, do you know the answer to that question? >> no. my recollection is -- first of
all, somebody said -- he was asking if he wanted this woman who hit him over the head with a placard prosecuted, he said no, i want her educated. i remember -- my recollection is that he did not warn the white house and deeply, deeply, deeply regretted afterwards that he had not. i'm sure had he called and described this experience, it would have had no effect. he felt very guilty for not having done more or anything to try to prevent the president from going to dallas. >> we got time for one more call. richard norton smith, i want you to think about what have we not talked about tonight that we needed to bring out. you think about that. we'll take this call from phillip in texas. hi, phillip. >> caller: good evening. the contenders is one of the great series that c-span has done. i appreciate it. i grew up in the 1960 election i
was 12 years old. i was just becoming politically aware and so i dpru grew up dur the '50s, while i'm a conservative and i always have been so, i doubt mr. stevenson and i would agree on much, i've been exposed to his speeches, his rhetoric, a lot of the things he said. i'm of the opinion that he is one of the last really great political speechmakers in our age. we were speaking a moment ago about jingles, things like that. i saw him making that speech, he was taking some of it from his notes, pre-teleprompter days. it wasn't just coming off the paper. he knew what he was saying. it was coming from his heart. i always admired his speech making abilities. i don't see that in our political process today. he had something to say. he took time to say it at times, but he was a man who knew what
he wanted to say and said it wel well. >> he took great effort in those speeches. he worked on those speeches himself. hour after hour. he was criticized by the politics for spending so much time on the speeches. in some ways that's his legacy. as we wind up the program, i have to say one of the biggest surprises in my life is when he died so suddenly. and adlai iii called me to tell me that he and i were co-executors of his will. i didn't know anything about that before he passed on. but that was touching thing of our relationship. i think as we wind up the program, he was one of -- even though he didn't win, he won the
hearts of millions and millions of americans and won a great place in history. >> he raised the standards. >> the one question i would love to ask senator steven, because at the end of his father's life, it has become almost a kind of folklore has ambassador stevenson was seriously contemplating resigning from the united nations, encouraged to do so by his liberal friends who were lbj's vietnam policies. did he discuss that with his dad? what his sense is of his dad's intent. >> yes. >> i think these labels conservative and liberal can be misleading. arthur schlesinger called my father conservative. what he had was integrity.
when i served in the senates, we weren't democrats, republicans, right or left, we were for the country. products of the enlightenment ideology didn't play much of a role. to your point, he did not tell this to me but i did hear from a very, very, very close friend that he was planning on resigning from the united nations at the end of the year. largely because he was very uncomfortable advocating policies that he didn't support. by that i mean vietnam -- you know, vietnam. he, of course, died in june of '65. july of '65 before you could
resign. i think he was planning to resign. quietly. no protest. that would not have been his way at all. but because he really couldn't continue to advocate policies that he didn't spot. >> that will have to be the last word. adlai stevenson ii is buried in broomington, illinois. senator adlai stevenson iii, thank you for being with us this evening. newton, you as well. richard norton smith. this has been "the contenders" we leave you with this week's "contenders" from the 1956 convention. >> i say trust the people. trust their good sense. their decency. their fortitude, their faith. trust them with the great decisions. i say it is time to take this government away from men who only know how to count and the to turn it back to men and women who care.
weeknights this month on american history tv it's "the contenders" our series that looks at 14 presidential candidates who lost the election but had a lasting effect op u.s. politics. tonight feature barry goldwater. the senator from arizona who was called mr. conservative, lost in a landslide to president lyndon b. johnson but paved the way for younger conservatives. enjoy american history tv this week and every weekend on c-span3. now on american history tv, adlai stevenson's speech accepting the nomination for president in 1952. >> it's going to be quite a moment in the life of adlai stevenson, i judge that it is.