NPR logo

When TV Changed Politics: Adlai Stevenson Vs. Ike

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/95731817/95751781" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
When TV Changed Politics: Adlai Stevenson Vs. Ike

When TV Changed Politics: Adlai Stevenson Vs. Ike

When TV Changed Politics: Adlai Stevenson Vs. Ike

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/95731817/95751781" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Third of a five-part series

Gov. Adlai Stevenson sits at his desk in Springfield, Ill., in July 1952, a few days after he was named the Democratic nominee for president. That month, he withdrew from the governor's race. Bettmann/Corbis hide caption

toggle caption
Bettmann/Corbis

Gov. Adlai Stevenson sits at his desk in Springfield, Ill., in July 1952, a few days after he was named the Democratic nominee for president. That month, he withdrew from the governor's race.

Bettmann/Corbis

Speaking To The People

Hear Stevenson's speech at the Democratic National Convention on July 26, 1952.

Adlai Stevenson's Democratic National Convention acceptance speech

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/95731817/95733811" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Adlai Stevenson, who tried to "talk sense to the American people," was an old-fashioned intellectual who believed in long speeches and the power of words.

But in 1952, Stevenson faced his Republican opponent, Dwight Eisenhower, in the presidential race on a new battleground — television.

While Eisenhower boiled his campaign down to a few sound bites — "Ike for President" and "You like Ike, I like Ike, everybody likes Ike" — Stevenson believed in longer speeches to sell a message. So he bought 30-minute blocks on TV, but nobody tuned in to watch them.

Ultimately, the former Illinois governor lost to Eisenhower.

Radio Diaries talked with Stevenson's son, Adlai Stevenson III; Newton Minnow, who worked as an assistant legal counsel to Stevenson in 1952; David Schwartz, the chief curator of the Museum of the Moving Image; and Jean Baker, who wrote The Stevensons: A Biography of an American Family.

This story was produced by Joe Richman and Samara Freemark of Radio Diaries.

Related NPR Stories