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Grinnellians you should know (or know about): Harry Hopkins ’12

Part of an ongoing series.

This essay is one I shouldn’t have to write. Every Grinnellian should know the name Harry Hopkins, and not just because they pass by Harry Hopkins House [1,2]. Hopkins is one of a small set of Grinnellians who we can confidently say made a huge impact on the world [3].

But when I use the name Hopkins with my students, most typically in a phrase like Hallie Flanagan was a friend of Hopkins, I get a surprisingly large number of blank stares.

So, here’s what you should know: Harry Hopkins was FDR’s right-hand man and a primary architect of the New Deal. If you don’t know what the New Deal was, then Republican defunding of education has clearly succeeded.

It seems pointless for me to write much more than that one italicized sentence as you can read more on the Web or in biographies. But you should know that.

I’ll end with a quote from John Steinbeck’s tribute to Hopkins, describing Hopkins’ legacy, a quote that I hope many remember in these times:

[H]uman welfare is the first and final task of government. It has no other. [4]

We should all be proud that Hopkins was a Grinnellian and strive to achieve similar things, if on a smaller scale.

[1] On the southwest corner of 7th and Park

[2] Not to be confused with the Harry Hopkins (childhood) Home, which is on 6th.

[3] Robert Noyce is another. Those are my top two, but I’m sure others will suggest still more.

[4] Quoted in Hopkins, June, Harry Hopkins: Sudden Hero, Brash Reformer, p. 2. I’m too lazy to find the original.

Version 1.0.1 of 2017-05-28.