Adlai Stevenson, who was Presidential candidate for the Democrats in 1952 and 1956 and who became U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations up to the time of his death in 1965, was also a very close friend and colleague of former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. When she died in 1962 she was eulogized by Stevenson at a special session at the UN, calling her, echoing President Harry Truman’s earlier reference to her, “The First Lady of The World”. She was one of the primary influences in the formative stages of the birth of the UN and was instrumental in drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. She later Chaired President Kennedy’s “Presidential Commission On The Status Of Women” in 1961. At the time of her death, she was universally regarded as “one of the most esteemed women in the world”.
As a tribute to her legacy and her enduring work, not only with The United Nations, but with countless other causes and endeavors, Adlai Stevenson offered a tribute to her and her accomplishments at the Convention. It was only fitting that Stevenson delivered the tribute – not only were they close friends, but Stevenson had long been regarded as one of the most eloquent.
Listening to this address now, it makes you wonder just exactly what happened. The art of speech making appears to be lost, the art of conveying ideas in an eloquent and thoughtful way seem distant and remote. Stevenson, even during his lifetime, was often derided by opponents as “an egghead politician” who “spoke over peoples heads”. But listening to this address, even in the midst of a crowded convention hall, gives evidence of how powerful Stevenson was at conveying ideas.
Not that we may ever go back there – but Stevenson did represent what was indeed possible, in those best-of-human terms.
Here is that address, as it was delivered on the night of August 27, 1968.