On this day in history, October 22, 1928, GOP nominee Herbert Hoover gives speech on ‘rugged individualism’

On this day in history, Oct. 22, 1928, Republican presidential nominee Herbert Hoover spoke of the “American system of rugged individualism” in a speech at New York’s Madison Square Garden, according to multiple sources — coining the term “rugged individualism,” which amplified his philosophy of personal freedom and volunteerism, not government intervention. 

Hoover was the 31st president of the United States, serving in that role from 1929‐1933. 

He was born in Iowa in 1874 and grew up in Oregon. 

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He enrolled in Stanford University when it opened in 1891, graduating as a mining engineer, according to WhiteHouse.gov.

Hoover advocated that the philosophy of rugged individualism would bring prosperity to Americans, according to several sources.

He further advocated for traditional understandings of the American constitutional order rooted in decentralized and limited government — which would work cooperatively with private businesses and individuals to advance social and economic progress, according to The National Constitution Center.

During his famed 1928 New York City speech, Hoover proclaimed, “Our people have the right to know whether we can continue to solve our great problems without abandonment of our American system. I know we can,” he added, according to the speech transcript provided by The Miller Center at the University of Virginia. 

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“We have demonstrated that our system is responsive enough to meet any new and intricate development in our economic and business life,” he also said.

“We have demonstrated that we can meet any economic problem and still maintain our democracy as master in its own house and that we can at the same time preserve equality of opportunity and individual freedom.”

Historians also said that Hoover credited Republican policies for the economic prosperity of the 1920s, while blaming the effects of the Great War for lingering problems in various industries, according to The Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum. 

“The key to economic success, Hoover believed, was full employment.

If every man had a job, every family would share in the nation’s prosperity,” the same source recounted.

On Nov. 6, 1928, Hoover defeated Alfred Smith, winning 83.6% of the electoral college and 58.2% of the popular vote, according to The American Presidency Project.

When Hoover became U.S. president in 1929, the stock market was climbing to unprecedented levels, and some investors were taking advantage of low interest rates to buy stocks on credit, pushing prices even higher, the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum stated. 

“In October 1929, the bubble burst, and in less than a week, the market dropped by almost half of its recent record highs. Billions of dollars were lost, and thousands of investors were ruined,” the same source cited.

After the stock market crash, in November 1929, he summoned business leaders to the White House and secured promises from them to maintain wages, the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum indicated.

“Hoover received commitments from private industry to spend $1.8 billion for new construction and repairs to be started in 1930, to stimulate employment,” the same source cited.

Despite Hoover’s early and proactive interventions, the downward spiraling of the American economy continued for more than a decade and led to yhe Great Depression from 1929 to 1941. 

The Great Depression was the longest and deepest downturn in the history of the United States and the modern industrial economy.

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It lasted more than a decade, beginning in 1929 and ending during World War II in 1941, according to Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

On Nov. 8, 1932, Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt defeated Republican President Hoover. 

“The 1932 election was the first held during the Great Depression, and it represented a dramatic shift in the political alignment of the country,” said Britannica.com.

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After his presidency, Hoover devoted his time to public service and social causes such as the Boys Clubs of America and the Hoover Institution, a research center he established on the Stanford campus in 1919. 

He also wrote more than 40 books during those years, said The Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum.

President Hoover died on Oct. 20, 1964, at age 90. 

He was laid to rest in Iowa — where he was born.

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