In 1968, Mark Hatfield was on the short list for Vice President. He was also the choice of several influential figures, including Billy Graham. Presidential politics then took over and Hatfield was taken off the list, resulting in Nixon choosing Spiro Agnew. It was a choice whose ramifications still profoundly impact the United States today. Thus it was that Gerry Frank, Hatfield’s friend of more than 50 years and the senator’s Administrative Assistant for roughly two decades, publicly posed a question again that has haunted him ever since: “Imagine what our country’s history would have been if Mark Hatfield had been Nixon’s choice for Vice President in 1968.”
This web site asks that question in another way, especially of the young people of our nation: imagine what the future of our country can be like if Senator Hatfield’s vision and wisdom can influence present and future citizens and leaders?
A genuinely religious man, Mark O. Hatfield (July 12, 1922 – August 7, 2011) was also deeply intellectual and acutely realistic. While his calling was as a teacher, he spent most of his career educating not in the classroom, but through public service: as an Oregon State Legislator, Oregon State Senator, Oregon Secretary of State, Oregon Governor, and United States Senator.
Hatfield was an unabashed admirer of Herbert Hoover, for his values as a peace advocate, humanitarian, conservationist, and his goal of ending poverty with prosperity. Hatfield was an ardent proponent of federalism, an intense critic of military spending and interventions, and a fiercely independent advocate for justice who consistently laid out his vision for the United States throughout his 30 years as a U.S. Senator. Through his speeches on the floor of the Senate and the legislation he introduced, particularly during his first term in office, he laid out an intellectual and legislative framework for the direction he wanted the United States to take. From this, we get a glimpse into the makings of an answer to Mr. Frank’s question of what our country would have been like under a Hatfield presidency.
Experiencing combat in the Pacific during World War II also profoundly impacted Hatfield’s worldview and consequently his politics. Toward the end of his life while he was languishing in the hospital, his youngest son Visko asked him what his father wanted him to do. He answered, “Save a life.” Visko responded, “Whose life?” Hatfield answered, “The first one you can.” That challenge echoes throughout Hatfield’s work and continues to inspire today those who delve into his vision of America the Beautiful more than two centuries after that revolution began.
Mark Hatfield’s religious beliefs, the moral basis of his political philosophy, are found in his book Between a Rock and a Hard Place, originally published in 1975. Its table of contents and a variety of excerpts are located in the Resources section. The Senator ends his book by writing:
“There is an old Jewish proverb… and it continues to give me strength: ‘God gives you the task. He does not ask that you succeed, but he does ask that you not lay it aside.’”
Other than the reference to his book Between a Rock and a Hard Place, and some others as noted, all of the statements found on this website are from the Congressional Record, a set of volumes that record everything presented on the floors of both the United States Senate and the United States House of Representatives, and frequently found in libraries. The research for this site was conducted at the Portland State University Library.
What is presented here sheds light on key issues that confront us and the world today in terms of U.S. domestic and foreign policy, key issues as relevant today as when Senator Hatfield addressed them in the 1960's and 70's. We hope that it will add substance and a sense of history to the issues that confront our country.