Thursday, October 26, 2017

Arthur Vandenberg: The Man in the Middle of the American Century
by Hendrik Meijer
Wednesday, November 8, 2017 - 6:30 p.m.
Library of Michigan - 702 W. Kalamazoo St

            It would be a fair question to ask why the portrait of Michigan Senator Arthur Vandenberg is displayed alongside those of Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, John C. Calhoun, Robert M. La Follette Sr., and Robert Taft in the U.S. Senate Reception Room in the nation’s Capitol. What distinguishes him to be among those important luminaries?

            A new biography of the Grand Rapids Republican senator by Hendrik Meijer, CEO and executive chairman of Meijer Inc., helps illuminate why Vandenberg is so important to the political history of the United States. Meijer’s book, Arthur Vandenberg: The Man in the Middle of the American Century, took 27 years to research and write, but it was worth waiting for. The author found that a major impediment to writing a book was his day job at the helm of one of the nation’s largest supermarket chains.

            Meijer will join Lansing Community College history professor David Siwik to talk about his new book. The event is free and books will be for sale.

            Vandenberg, who in the first half of his career was a newspaper editor and publisher of the now defunct Grand Rapids Herald, believed strongly that man makes his own destiny. He also strongly advocated for neutrality during World War I until the United States was forced into the conflict.

            The Michigan senator also was noted for his ability to cross the aisle and seek consensus. During the administration of Franklin Delano Roosevelt he was responsible for the establishment of the FDIC. He later sought the Republican nomination for president.

            Meijer also discovered in his research that Vandenberg became close with the author Sinclair Lewis, despite their differing political views. It is thought that Lewis used Vandenberg as the prototype for two characters in his book It Couldn’t Happen Here.

            Vandenberg may be best known for his speech following Pearl Harbor which became known as the “speech heard ’round the world.” Following World War II he was instrumental in the establishment of NATO, the Marshall Plan, and the United Nations.

            The author was aided in his research by numerous scrapbooks, diaries and journals of both Vandenberg and his spouse Hazel. He discovered the family held back one page from a scrapbook…but, you’ll learn more it about if you come to the event!

            Meijer’s book suggests that there is a role in politics for that one person who steps up and puts the good of the country ahead of the party.

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