The Pursuit of Peace

Friday, February 15, 2019
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Hoover Institution

Centennial Secrets, a new weekly publication, will feature the surprising, compelling, and thought-provoking stories, facts, and archival materials that the institution has collected since its founding. This weekly channel will release new articles every Friday.


In 1919, Europe was in recovery from the devastation of World War I, the Russian Civil War was raging, the Versailles peace negotiations had begun, Adolph Hitler gave his first speech to the German Workers Party, and the world was awash in change. Herbert Hoover had witnessed firsthand the devastating aftermath of the war as Chairman of the Commission for Relief in Belgium, where he led the relief effort for the food crisis that Belgium faced after the German invasion. He recognized that history was being forged around him and in 1919 he sent $50,000 to his alma mater, Stanford University, to be used to archive materials from the “Great War” for future generations. Thus, the Hoover War Library was born, later re-dedicated the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace, a library, archive and public policy research center dedicated to understanding the causes of war and revolution and promoting peace.

In the intervening years since 1919, the Hoover Institution has grown from a few boxes of World War I archives in the Stanford library to a preeminent institution, filled with a treasure trove of rare and vital archival materials, visited by world leaders, home to eminent scholars dedicated to the pursuit of ideas defining a free society. The archives now include collections from across the globe—from the czar’s abdication letter to the diaries of Chiang Kai-shek to the letters of Milton Friedman. The Hoover Institution fellows’s work is found in news outlets like the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and the Washington Post. Fellows have testified at Congressional hearings on numerous occasions as experts and leaders in policy research and policy reforms. Many fellows have served as cabinet officers both before and after their tenure at Hoover, including George P. Shultz, Condoleezza Rice, H.R. McMaster, and James Mattis.

As Hoover stated in his dedication of the Hoover Tower, “The purpose of this institution is to promote peace. Its records stand as a challenge to those who promote war. They should attract those who search for peace.” From the ashes of the Great War and the insight of a great man, a renowned policy think tank and preeminent archives were born. The Hoover Institution remains a testament to Herbert Hoover’s legacy, with fellows and staff promoting peace through their research and work and will continue to shape the legacy of the Hoover Institution over the next one hundred years.

In 1941, with a new world war raging in Europe, Herbert Hoover dedicated Hoover Tower to promoting peace. The dedication took place in concert with Stanford University’s semicentennial celebration.