Aug 4, 2016
Eighty-eight years ago a Happy Warrior from the streets of New York ran for President of the United States. His name was Al Smith, and he deserves to be remembered now as another bitter presidential campaign enters its decisive phase.
In writing my new book Catholics in America (Ignatius Press) profiling 15 prominent Catholics who mirror the pros and cons of the Americanization process at work in American Catholicism, I had no hesitation including Smith.
Here was a Catholic politician who stood by his Catholic faith despite what it cost him politically. The Church and American politics today would both look greatly different-and healthier-if Catholic politicians since Smith had generally followed his lead.
He was born poor in Lower Manhattan in 1873. Dropping out of school at age 13 to help support his family after his father's death, he rose by dint of intelligence, decency, and hard work to become a four-term governor of New York. He was recognized as a champion of progressive social legislation on issues like workmen's compensation, pensions for women, and child labor.