On September 20, 2018, the Acton Institute was very pleased to welcome Hank Meijer, executive chairman of Meijer, Inc., to speak as part of Acton’s Lecture Series. The lecture, “Arthur Vandenberg: The Global Legacy of a Grand Rapids Boy,” was largely based on Meijer’s biography of Arthur Vandenberg: The Man in the Middle of the American Century.
Before his lecture, Meijer placed a plaque, given to him by one of Vandenberg’s grandchildren, on his podium that read: “This too shall pass.” He revealed that Arthur Vandenberg also kept a plaque with this phrase on his desk.
“This too shall pass” is a wonderfully descriptive phrase for events in the life of Arthur Vandenberg, a Michigan-born politician who experienced both great success and extreme opposition during his service in public office.
Meijer described Vandenberg’s interest and rise in politics, beginning when he was a teenager with great appreciation for President Theodore Roosevelt.
Vandenberg became a senator in 1928, a year before the stock market crashed, and soon created legislation for the creation of the FDIC. At first known for his advocacy for isolationism, Vandenberg later altered those views and gave a famous “speech heard round the world,” calling for an American commitment to an alliance with countries that had fought two world wars in the last three decades. Vandenberg’s dramatic speech set the grounds for the creation of the United Nations and NATO.
Meijer ended his talk with a quote from a tribute to Vandenberg given by journalist Edward R. Murrow. “We are now divided bitterly, hysterically. Had [Vandenberg] lived he would’ve gloried in this conflict and steadied it. And he would’ve been confident that at the end of the day little men of loud voice and small faith will yield to the collective judgement of the American people.”
Hank Meijer took the largely obscured legacy of Arthur Vandenberg and elevated it in the eyes of the audience.