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Adlai Stevenson


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(b. Los Angeles, 5 Feb. 1900; d. London, 14 July 1965)

US; Governor of Illinois 1949–53, Democratic presidential candidate 1952, 1956 Stevenson took a BA at Princeton University and an LL B at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. He practised law in Chicago. Following the election of President Roosevelt in 1932, he was appointed special counsel to the Agricultural Adjustment Agency. He took a keen interest in foreign policy issues. He was actively involved in the Council on Foreign Relations in Chicago. He opposed isolationism in the 1930s and became a member of the Committee to Defend America by Aiding the Allies.

In 1941 he was appointed special assistant to Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox. In 1945 he was appointed personal assistant to Secretary of State Edward Stettinius. He headed the American delegation to the meeting of the Preparatory Commission of the United Nations in London in 1945 and acted as senior adviser to the American delegation to the first session of the United Nations General Assembly in London in 1946.

In 1948 he was elected Governor of Illinois. He implemented important reforms of the corrupt state administration, substituting a merit system in place of political appointments. He attacked organized gambling interests, boosted education, and extended the state highway system.

In 1952 he became the Democratic nominee for President. He was reluctant to be the candidate, but his accomplishments as an effective reformer as Governor and his expertise in foreign affairs led him to be drafted. He lost heavily, however, to his Republican opponent, Dwight D. Eisenhower. He resumed law practice in Illinois.

In 1956 he was again the presidential candidate of the Democratic Party. Although the Democrats had regained control of Congress in 1954 and increased their majority in Congress in 1956, he was overwhelmed in the presidential election by Eisenhower, who retained immense personal popularity.

In 1960 he again sought the Democratic nomination. He resented the ambitious drive for the Democratic nomination by John F. Kennedy, while Kennedy's supporters resented his unwillingness to stand aside and give his full support to Kennedy. After the Democratic victory in 1960, Kennedy considered him as a candidate for Secretary of State, but, partly due to his hesitant support in the campaign, he was passed over in favour of Dean Rusk. He was instead given the less significant post of American ambassador to the United Nations. He conducted himself with distinction at the United Nations. During the Cuban missile crisis in October 1962 he displayed great skill in demonstrating Soviet mendacity in their emplacement of nuclear missiles in Cuba with a dramatic presentation of photographic evidence. He played an important role in winning the support or at least neutrality of Third World countries in the Cuban missile crisis.

Stevenson was revered by liberal intellectuals in the 1950s. His self-deprecating wit and keen intelligence won him enthusiastic supporters in educated circles. He lacked the common touch, however, which was required to mount a successful presidential campaign. Moreover, his critique of the 1950s as a decade of complacency in domestic affairs and confrontation in foreign affairs had some merit, but his proposed alternative policies on such issues as civil rights and aid to developing countries were relatively limited.


Subjects: History

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