15. Coming Home

Asked by President Woodrow Wilson to head the new U.S. Food Administration in 1917, the Hoovers headed home. Many Americans wanted Hoover to run for President in 1920, but he held back. "I do not believe that I have the mental attitude or the politician’s manner. Above all I am too sensitive to political mud."

In the war's aftermath, America was largely disillusioned with the "war to end war." Peace brought an endless round of inflation, strikes, race riots, Red scares, shattered dreams and pointed fingers. Prophets as dissimilar as Einstein, Freud and Marx weakened the traditional American code of personal responsibility, emphasizing instead the many forces beyond individual control.  

In contrast, Hoover attempted to promote a more caring individualism. His philosophy would "preserve the initiative, the inventiveness ... the character of men and yet will enable us to synchronize socially and economically this gigantic machine that we have built out of applied science."

Cartoon by Clifford K. Berryman, published in the Washington Evening Star, 1917