1951 Horatio Alger Award Winner
"The United Nations deserves a lot of credit for ending the cold war without it turning into a hot war. And, it's a very crucial thing for the future."
Harold Stassen was born on a farm in Dakota County, Minnesota, in 1907. He graduated from high school at the age of 14 and worked his way through the University of Minnesota as a Pullman train conductor. He earned a law degree in 1929 and practiced law in St. Paul. He served as district and county attorney of Dakota County until 1938, the year he was elected governor of Minnesota. At 31, Stassen was the youngest governor of any state in the history of the country.
While Stassen was serving his third term, Pearl Harbor was attacked. Being a young reserve officer, he resigned to go on active duty in the Navy. He served as assistant chief of staff for Admiral W. F. Halsey in the South Pacific and was awarded the Legion of Merit and a Bronze Star.
In 1948, Stassen became president of the University of Pennsylvania. During his tenure, he grew well acquainted with Dwight Eisenhower, who was then president of Columbia University. After Eisenhower became President, Stassen served as the Special Assistant on Disarmament, or "Secretary for Peace," as he was often called. During that time, Stassen was an active participant in the 1955 Geneva Summit. He drafted the Open Skies proposal initiated by General James Doolittle and presented by Eisenhower, which challenged the United States and the Soviet Union to provide each other with a blueprint of their military establishments and access to facilities for mutual aerial photography. Stassen called the Summit one of the highlights of his career.
Stassen was a two-term senator from Pennsylvania and also served as mayor of Philadelphia. He sought the Republican Party nomination for President nine times, but was never successful.
One of the signers of the 1945 United Nations Charter in San Francisco, Stassen championed strengthening the United Nations. He said, "It's a matter of getting the United Nations organization put into better shape for the future. Without it, I see growing anarchy among states, mounting terrorism, spreading local wars, repeated unilateral action by superpowers, and escalating danger of a nuclear catastrophe."* Deceased