Alfred E. Smith

In l924, the Republican Party nominated Calvin Coolidge for reelection as President. Coolidge as Vice President had become President on August 3, l923 when President Warren G. Harding died in San Francisco. The Democrats met in New York City on June 24, 1924, to choose a nominee to run against President Calvin Coolid ge.
The Democratic Convention was deadlocked for one hundred and two ballots with two prominent Democrats battling for the nomination. Can you name these two men? William G. McAdoo, son-in-law of former President Woodrow Wilson and Alfred E. Smith, "The Happy Warrior" who was governor of New York.
It is the "Happy Warrior" that I want to talk to you about today. Alfred Emanuel Smith was born on the East Side of New York City in l873. He was active in Tammany Hall politics and a very popular f igure in New York State politics. He spoke with a combination of an Irish brogue and Bronx English. I recall one of his speech peculiarities: he called radio--"raddio."
Al Smith had a distinguished record in New York, having served four terms as governor, and although he did not win the Democratic nomination for president in 1924, he bounced back and won the Democratic nomination on the first ballot in l928. Al Smith, as a legislator and governor in New York, was a liberal with progressive social sympathies. In his race for President against Herbert Hoover, he had three handicaps. The first: he opposed the l8th Amendment that outlawed liquor. The second: he was a product of the East side of New York City and the darling of Tammany Hall, the sometimes, notoriously corrupt political organization that had a tremendous political influence. The third: he was a Roman Catholic and no Roman Catholic had ever been elected President. John Fitzgerald Kennedy also a Roman Catholic later became the first Catholic President
Do any of you know who made the principal nominating speech for Al Smith when he won the nomination in 1928? Franklin D. Roosevelt, who had been an assistant Secretary of the Navy under Woodrow Wilson, had suffered a crippling attack of polio and came to the Convention in a wheel chair. Roosevelt's support was a great help in securing the Democratic nomination for Al Smith, and then Roosevelt ran for Governor of New York to succeed Al Smith. Fourr years later in 1932, both Al Smith and Franklin D. Roosevelt sought the Democratic nomination and Franklin D. won out over his friend Al Smith. Al Smith did not like the change in position and a break came between these two, and Al Smith did not support his former friend. Roosevelt defeated Herbert Hoover, who was running for a second term, by an overwhelming majority. The principal reason for Hoover's defeat was the Great Depression of 1929 that lasted almost until the beginning of World War II in 1941.
All of us in this room lived through those harrowing days of the Depression and most of us hope that it never happens again. When Al Smith was running for President, I attended a political rally in Bayfront Park. One of the speakers, a big Republican from New York made the statement that anyone born and raised on the East Side of New York City was not fit to be President. I did not agree with that statement then and I do not agree with it now. It is my firm belief that any hono rable man regardless of his place of birth, should be able to rise above his environment and assume the highest office in the land provided he can convince the people of this country that he is capable of doing the job. This is the glory of this country, though it has some faults and failings. It is still the greatest country in all the world and I love it. Where else but in America could a peanut farmer, Jimmy Carter, be elected President?

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