03/12/13

The Parent Generation and Defense of Home

As the Patricia’s Wisdom blog points out today, Capital of the World is a story in which everyday people cross paths with the powerful and prominent – and in some cases, individuals whose legacy was not yet known.  The reviewer was pleased to find that the story includes Prescott Bush, whose son George H.W. Bush and grandson George W. Bush both went on to become presidents of the United States.

Prescott Bush, as a U.S. Senator, 1952-63. (Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress)

Prescott Bush, as a U.S. Senator, 1952-63. (Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress)

In 1946, Prescott Bush was moderator of the town meeting in Greenwich, Connecticut, a town that was caught by surprise when the United Nations selected it as its first choice for the new organization’s headquarters.  Bush was among the civic leaders I refer to as “the parent generation” of World War II, but he was not among the boosters who lobbied for the UN’s attention.  Instead, like some other townspeople in the orbits of growing American cities, he defended the traditional character of his community and its right to self-determination.

Bush summarized his position in a letter to the Greenwich Time newspaper, which published it on February 6, 1946:

Dear Sir:

Because my name has been connected with the opposition to the proposed UNO [United Nations Organization] site, I should like to make clear my feeling in the matter. I presume to speak for no one but myself, although a good many people have called me to voice strong opposition to the proposed site in our neighborhood.

My objection to the proposed site is based on the following points:

1. It certainly appears that the decision of the Committee was reached without the citizens of our community having had any opportunity whatever to express their sentiments regarding the proposition, which was sprung as a complete surprise to our community. Continue reading

02/14/13

The Black Hills and the World

From the beginning, I knew that I would go to South Dakota. Most books about the early history of the United Nations do not pay much attention to the question of where to place its headquarters, but when they do, there is usually a throw-away reference to the Black Hills of South Dakota.  How absurd, they suggest, that such a place would have offered to become the Capital of the World.

Granted, on the surface and in hindsight, it seems far-fetched. During my research trip, one day I sat on a bench in the Black Hills town of Keystone (pop. 337 in 2010) and tried to imagine the diplomats of the world mingling outside the Dairy Queen. Not likely. But spend a little time in and around the region, and the motives for a Black Hills invitation to the United Nations begin to come into focus. Continue reading