Dr. Arthur Larson speaks to the University of Utah in 1960

By Briella Brice


Portrait of Dr. Arthur Larson that was published in The Daily Utah Chronicle, October 26, 1960.

Dr. Arthur Larson was the director of the World Rule of Law at Duke University and special event coordinator for President Dwight Eisenhower. Larson was an assistant to the Eisenhower Administration starting in 1954 and shared a close relationship with the president. After attending the Pittsburgh Law School for only nine months, Larson played a substantial role in the way the Eisenhower Administration was perceived by citizens at the time. Larson provided support in areas where Eisenhower lacked communication skills and helped convey what the Republican party stood for at the time. David L. Stebenne stated in his book, The Modern Republican, that Larson served as the secretary of labor, director of the United States Information Agency, and chief presidential speechwriter between 1954 and 1958. (p. x) Many thought of Larson as a political celebrity, before his name was forgotten and much of this period of Republican fame was erased from America’s political history. (Stebenne, p. x)

After the release of Larson’s most popular book, A Republican Looks at his Party, he was labeled by the New York Times as “chief theoretician” of the Eisenhower-era Republicanism. (Stebenne, p. x) His book was published at a time when Republicanism in America was transitioning to a newer version that did not fit into the characteristics of existing political parties, specifically “Old Republicanism.” The goal of Larson’s writing was to show the connection between the Eisenhower Administration’s views and how they compared to 1950s America, a time of strong agreement throughout the country. (Stebenne, p. 157) Eisenhower stated that Larson captured all of his philosophical ideas the best he had seen for a book the size of A Republican Looks at his Party.

This was an important topic at the time because of substantial changes, confusion within our own country and others around the world, and lack of political knowledge. Businesses were becoming more aware of the positive aspects of government intervention and the government was experiencing extreme growth and change in regard to the economy. America had changed from a place of agriculture to industry, leading to more international responsibilities, and revising of policies put into place at a simpler time. (Stebenne, p. 159)

While serving under the Eisenhower Administration, Larson was heavily involved with social insurance policies and workers compensation. Inspired by British policy, he used a comparative approach to research the topic, examining contrasts and potential problems in America. Larson saw a relationship between good health and economic security and recognized that the current policy needed reevaluating.

“The best way to minimize the likelihood of such expenses, Larson suggested, was good preventive medicine.” (Stebenne, p. 104) This quote expresses Larson’s cautious and heedful personality that brought success into many aspects of his life. His research on this topic shows American pride that had been stirring throughout the country for the past twenty years, and the optimism Larson expressed toward America led him to further accomplishments.

Larson’s vigilant behavior toward economic security reveals the reason behind his passion of spreading knowledge about the positive aspects of America. Larson delivered a speech to the University of Utah in the Union Ballroom on Thursday October 27, 1960. The topic of his talk was “What Are We For,” regarding American life at the time including our accomplishments, ideals, and aspirations. Larson was passionate about the aspects of American life and the importance of government.

It was stated in the Daily Utah Chronicle that the United States equalized private enterprise and government intervention and we were constantly trying to find a balance between private freedom and public interest. According to Larson, we had to understand ourselves and know what we stood for in order to accurately portray an image to the rest of the world. For this reason, Larson emphasized the importance of foreign students attending his speech at the University. The University of Utah Students from Abroad Committee sent invitations to each international student, in hopes their attendance would help fulfill Larson’s goal of more foreigners understanding the way America operated. People were confused about the Republican party at the time and Larson’s speeches were important in making their new objectives clear. The following quote was stated in Larson’s speech given at the University and reported in The Daily Utah Chronicle on October 28, 1960:

One of the most crucial tasks our country is faced with is to convey to people all over the world the idea of what we stand for. We know we are against communism; but if we do not have a clear idea of what we are for the people of the world will have no way of identifying themselves with us. This identification might be presented as our chief objective.

IMG_6018According to an article in the Chronicle titled “Petty Issues,” there was controversy regarding Larson’s visit to the University of Utah, as well as other prominent Americans. The year 1960 was an election year in the United States, which made some individuals suspicious about speakers brought in to speak to the University during this period. Larson was very well known for representing the Republican Party, and some saw this as a way to involve more students and faculty with that political group. The article published in the Chronicle suggested that the University limit the number of political speakers and reserve this spot for those who have never been affiliated with a political party.

Larson made his way back to Salt Lake City two years later to deliver a speech at Westminster College. According to an article published in The Salt Lake Times in 1962, the topic of his talk was “World Rule of Law,” a different theme from his speech delivered at the University of Utah. Among Larson’s many accomplishments, he taught at the Duke Law School for twenty-two years and made many contributions to the Duke Law Journal. Individuals from Duke who had the opportunity to work with Larson had strong positive opinions of him. As Norman Cousins stated in the Duke Law Journal, “It is impossible to pay too high a tribute to such a human being.” (p. 391)

Larson’s views regarding the World Rule of Law reflect his political views. Instead of trying to portray a positive image of America, his talk at Westminster was based on showing strong leadership in order to share a new approach to law and make it a reality across the globe. Both of Larson’s visits to Salt Lake City show his willingness to spread ideas and make his thoughts heard.

It is important to remember this time in history because of the position of the Republican Party at the time. Although there are gaps where crucial pieces of conservatism history could be missing, the information we have can assist individuals with similar goals. The controversy of why the university decided to host Arthur Larson is also important. While influencing listeners may not have been the overall goal, it opens our minds to the impact events have on the University of Utah community, even today.

Briella Brice is a junior at The University of Utah. She is majoring in communication with an emphasis in journalism and minoring in parks, recreation, and tourism with an emphasis in sustainable tourism and hospitality.

Primary Sources

Ike Consultant, Dr. Larson Slates Speech,” The Daily Utah Chronicle, October 26, 1960, 1.

Larson Outlines Purpose, Defines Government Role,” The Daily Utah Chronicle, October 28, 1960, 1.

Dr. Arthur Larson Schedules Talk at Westminster College,” Salt Lake Times, April 20, 1962, 2.

Larson To Discuss U.S. Ideals, Prestige,” The Daily Utah Chronicle, October 27, 1960, 1.

Petty Issues,” The Daily Utah Chronicle, October 27, 1960, 2.

Larson, Arthur. A Republican Looks at His Party. New York: Harper, 1956.

Secondary Sources

Cousins, Norman, et al. “A Tribute To Arthur Larson,” Duke Law Journal 385 (1980): 387-415.

Stebenne, David L. Modern Republican: Arthur Larson and the Eisenhower Years. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2006.