Quiet Courage: Kansas Congressman Clifford R. Hope
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About this Item
Title: Quiet Courage: Kansas Congressman Clifford R...
Publisher: Sunflower Univ Pr
Publication Date: 1997
About this title
In 1993, a columnist from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram wrote regarding Congressman Clifford R. Hope: "He was a man in the finest tradition of the party of Lincoln." He was "straightforward," never "evasive, ambiguous, or patronizing."
Congressman Hope represented the 7th Congressional District of Kansas (redesignated the 5th District in 1942), from 1927 to 1957.
Quiet Courage is a tribute to this widely respected Representative who was not afraid to tell the people what he thought on major issues.
He spoke out against the Ku Klux Klan in the early '20s, and in 1948 -- in an election year -- wrote in support of President Harry Truman's civil rights program, despite some constituents' thoughts to the contrary. Hope supported Truman's firing of MacArthur, and, despite pressure, opposed the Republican Party line on occasion.
Clifford Hope was called a "perfect gentleman," with a strong belief in duty to country.From the Author:
My father, Clifford R. Hope, had a solid record of substantial legislative accomplishments. He probably spent more time from 1933 until 1957 on farm price support legislation than on any other single issue, seeking to secure a safety net for farmers and, equally important, striving to ensure a stable supply of inexpensive food and fiber for consumers. During Hope's time in Congress, by trial and error, his efforts for the most part were successful. Like others in his time and since, however, he recognized that these legislative efforts were only a temporary substitute, and sometimes a poor one, for farmers' lack of bargaining power in the marketplace.
His more lasting legislative accomplishments were in the areas of soil and water conservation, agricultural research and marketing, and the Food for Peace program. While usually not an eloquent speaker, time after time in his later years, he delivered stirring speeches on the importance of preserving the soil and saving rainwater when and where it fell.
Hope had a unique relationship with approximately 325,000 constituents. He became personally acquainted with thousands mainly through written correspondence. Long-distance telephone service existed in his time, of course, but it was expensive and most couldn't afford it. Sometimes, Hope didn't visit the district for months at a time. Jet service was not available then. He never took polls. The letters he received were his polls.
Hope had what he later described as a penchant for writing long replies -- up to seven single-spaced pages -- to constituents, especially to those with whom he disagreed. He perceived it was his duty to tell the reasons for his views in detail whether the letter writer wanted to know them or not. Once a frequent letter writer wrote back telling him so. The gist of his letter went something like: "I'm writing to tell you what I think. I don't care what you think."
On occasion, Hope was quite sarcastic and feisty in his replies to those who perceived they were experts in government and threatened him with dire consequences if he didn't follow their orders.
Every letter was answered, usually immediately, whether the writer expected a reply or not. A friend of mine in Liberal once observed: "If you'd write ol' Cliff and say Hello,' he'd write back and say Hi.' " If a letter required research, an acknowledgment would be sent at once, followed by a detailed letter as soon as he had time to dictate -- often on Saturdays. He worked six, sometimes seven, days a week and many nights he spent hours studying current issues.
Although preoccupied with agricultural problems, Hope spent many hours studying and seeking the truth on all important issues and legislation, especially during the years leading up to Pearl Harbor, World War II, and the advent of the Cold War. When hindsight proved his judgement to have been wrong on particular issues, he readily admitted it. This was in keeping with his pragmatic approach to problems. He did not reach decisions based on "liberal" or "conservative" positions. His test of any piece of legislation was "Will it work?" or "Will it accomplish its intended purpose?"
Hope's legislative achievements and his pursuit of facts and truth regarding all proposals before Congress were not, in my opinion, the primary reasons he was considered a role model congressman by many of his contemporaries. He was a role model, rather, because of the virtues and values he held dear.
In recent years in America, there has been a rediscovery of -- or at least a renewed interest in -- personal virtues.
Hope was a man of his word. He told colleagues and constituents exactly what he thought. If he did not have an answer, he said so. As previously stated, when new facts were presented on an issue, he did not hesitate to change his mind and admit previous errors.
The most spectacular examples of Hope's courage are described in considerable detail in the book, namely his fight against the Ku Klux Klan in the 1925 Kansas legislature and his defense of President Truman's firing of General MacArthur amidst vitriolic personal attacks. He was the only member of the eight-man Kansas delegation to defend Truman. But most examples of his courage were of the quiet nature he demonstrated in stating his views honestly and in voting his conscience regardless of political consequences and in never giving wish-washy, noncommittal answers to conceal his true feelings.
To sum up, I believe his two most remarkable and distinguishing virtues were: 1) To always say exactly what he thought, regardless of consequences, 2) To never seek revenge against anyone, anywhere, anytime.
More than a quarter of a century after his death, in 1970, Hope is remembered by the few survivors of his generation and by some of their children in Finney County and the surrounding area of southwest Kansas, by some people throughout Kansas, by his few surviving congressional and Great Plains Wheat colleagues, and by historians of 20th Century American history, especially by those who have reviewed his papers.
Those who do remember his legacy often cite him as "the best friend the farmer ever had" or "the best congressman Kansas ever had." Regarding his place in history, I think those simple, heartfelt words would please him most of all.
Clifford R. Hope was a good man who did some great things. He was a man of quiet courage who set a standard for moral conduct for his time and for all time to come.
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