Hope for America: Performers, Politics and Pop Culture Opens at the Libarary of Congress

Bob Hope - with his trademark golf club - at Lackland Air Force Base in 1990.

Yesterday marked the opening of a new, ongoing exhibit at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC, that’s very near and dear to our hearts.  Titled “Hope for America: Performers, Politics and Pop Culture,” the exhibit features such USO memorabilia as the golf club Hope swung onstage during his 1969 world tour, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom awarded that same year by Lyndon Johnson, for service to the men and women of the armed forces.

For many, that item is the penultimate symbol of Hope’s universal appeal during his five decades of supporting the Troops.  “Some of the younger troops have asked me what the golf club is all about,” Stephen Colbert said during his own USO tour in 2009. “Well, it is partly an homage to Bob Hope who did USOs like this for 250 years. Good man.”

Colbert, in fact, kicks off the exhibit with a humorous video message, a fitting tribute since Hope’s own 85,000-page catalog of jokes is on display for the first time.  Woven throughout are images and reminders of Hope’s unfailing patriotism and support of the military, no matter the circumstances.

“Hope for America” also focuses on Hope’s unique takes on politics and the culture of Washington: “There are so many congressmen and senators here,” he said to an audience gathered at the Kennedy Center Honors in 1985. “I don’t know whether to tell a joke or pass a bill.” Pause. “As if there was a difference.”

The exhibit is on long-term display in the Library of Congress’s  Thomas Jefferson Building, located on 1st Street SE between Independence Avenue and East Capitol Street; the events schedule can be found online.  Hope (get it?) to see you there!

Remembering Bob Hope’s First USO Show

Audience reaction to Bob Hope show at Seoul, Korea October 23, 1950. (Photo by Capt. Bloomquist)

Can you believe it’s been 69 years since Bob Hope performed his first USO Show, at California’s March Field?  The words “thank you” are simply not enough when we talk about all he did for the Troops and the USO.

Hope toured with us for nearly five decades after that first show, culminating in a final USO tour in December 1990, when he brought laughter and Christmas cheer to troops participating in Operation Desert Shield in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.  In 1997, the USO successfully worked with Congress to designate Bob Hope the first honorary veteran of the U.S. armed forces. And that same year  - at what was then known as the USO Holiday Gala – we unveiled the “Spirit of Hope” Award. It is a portrait bas-relief of Bob Hope, created by St. Louis sculptor Don F. Wiegand and Michael Fagin a major donor to the USO and carries on Hope’s legacy to this day.

We found this amazing fund-raising film that Hope created for the USO back in 1946, and in many ways it’s just as apropos today.  The USO continues to lift the moral of the Troops and their families to this very day and – even as we reflect back at the incredible legacy of supporters like Bob Hope – look forward to all that we’ll do in the future…