Alfred E. Smith: Sidewalk Statesman

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   In 1928 Al Smith, acclaimed Governor of New York Al Smith is running for president of the United States. His record of political reform and fearless integrity give him a strong chance at winning the presidency. That’s until the Ku Klux Klan and other anti-Catholic groups fan the flames of vague doubts around the country about Al’s Catholic beliefs; they claim that these do not square with the principles of the United States Constitution; that Smith’s allegiance will be a divided one between his nation and the Vatican. What Al spells out for the public in his detailed defense gives food for thought—not just for his time, but particularly for today’s very different conditions.    Here is the story of a New York teenager quitting high school to earn the family’s living, and the ways and means that open his “big heart and brainy mind” to a political vocation. Al, an exuberant fighter, matures in stages of increasing breadth of achievement from delegate in the New York Assembly, to majority leader and chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means, to Governor of the state of New York. Since Al’s time America has changed greatly and so have the challenge thrown to Catholics involved in the political arena. But Al Smith’s life continues to highlight the beneficial influence that men and women of faith can achieve by serving in public office.
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