5 December 2009 | bkoganbing
The Human Touch Given A Failed Presidency
This heartwarming tale about three plucky Depression era kids who hitchhiked to Washington to see President Herbert Hoover to get their father out of jail for Christmas is a real tearjerker now, but all too real for people barely subsisting during those hard economic times. The real story though is the story about how that story got out to the general public.
Just about any other president including the last several we had of both parties would have played this up to the hilt. Hoover was going into what was an unsuccessful re-election campaign and being portrayed as an unfeeling, uncaring incumbent. This kind of story would have been a godsend to his political managers.
But Hoover was a strange and silent man, his concept of the Presidency was that he was the CEO of the country and his Board of Directors was his Cabinet. It's how he conducted his mining business, it's how he got the food to a starving Europe during and post World War I. Read his memoirs, they read like reports to his stockholders covering his years of government service. He was a painfully shy man and resolutely silent in enduring criticism, he totally flubbed the public relations aspect of the presidency.
This story gained the light of day when it was published in the memoirs of Hoover's Press Secretary Theodore Joslin. The book is called Hoover off the record and you might find it in a used bookshop or as a library discard. Joslin was a newspaperman who served in the last two years of his presidency from 1931-1933. The memoir shows a most human side of Hoover and this story of the kids was one of many included.
In 1934 when the book came out, Herbert Hoover was in need of all the good publicity he could get. But instead of thanking Joslin, he cut him off completely and never spoke to him again. This very private man felt he was betrayed instead of helped. Go figure.
As for the story itself the film The Angel Of Pennsylvania Avenue is almost Dickensian in nature as these young people, three steps from an Oliver Twist like existence, travel through the highways and byways of Depression America to see the man in the White House. You could easily see Charles Dickens writing a story like this about some ragamuffin urchins trying to see Queen Victoria on a personal matter. She might not have been amused, but she would have been touched as Hoover was and I was.
Robert Urich and Diana Scarwid play the parents and the kids are Teagan Moss, Britney Irvin, and Alexander Pollock. They reminded a little of my own nieces and nephew when they were a bit younger. They're a perfect Norman Rockwell American family. And of course some mention must be given to Thomas Peacocke playing Herbert Hoover. A fascinating man and we learn many times more from failed presidencies than from the successful ones.