03/18/13

Why Not Morristown?
(It Was Good Enough for George Washington)

This weekend, The Press of Atlantic City highlighted the visit of United Nations diplomats who spent a weekend at the seaside resort in January 1946 as part of their search for a home for the UN. Their hosts were sure that they would see their honored guests again. Why? Because the leader of the mission allowed sand to be poured into his shoes. By local custom, this guaranteed a return visit.

Morristown's attachment to its colonial and Revolutionary-era history is clear in the advertisement calling residents together to consider their mayor's plan to attract the United Nations. (Morristown Daily Record)

Morristown’s attachment to its colonial and Revolutionary-era history is clear in the advertisement calling residents together to consider their mayor’s plan to attract the United Nations. (Morristown Daily Record)

While the diplomats visited the shore, communities in North Jersey towns within commuting distance of New York also scrambled to attract attention. Among the most vigorous of contenders was Morristown, located 30 miles west of New York City.

Morristown Mayor Clyde Potts was sure that he had the best possible argument for placing the United Nations in his town. Like world capital promoters in Philadelphia and Boston, Potts viewed his community’s connection to the world in terms of local and American history. In Morristown’s case, this meant the town’s connection to George Washington. While Commander of the Continental Army during the American Revolution, Washington had selected Morristown as one of his headquarters – so why shouldn’t the United Nations do the same? Continue reading

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