There is one person in our American history whom you probably do not know. His name is Hiram Bingham IV. Some may recognize the name of his relatives, however.
Hiram Bingham IV’s descendants found documentation about his bravery and decided to let the world know what he would not. A Distinguished diplomat, Hiram lost his job as a diplomat from the State Department for daring to go against regulations. Yet, years later he was honored by the same U.S. State Department. Colin Powell presented the family with the honor entitled Constructive Dissent in 2002. A U.S. stamp was made in his honor and his son, Robert Bingham Sr, has written a book called Courageous Dissent.
These are some words of Hiram’s son, Robert, taken from an interview and from the Hiram Bingham website concerning him: 1)Harry’s personal motto, taught to his children, was relevant: “Give the Best that You Have to the Best that You know.” During the Holocaust, saving lives was “the best that he knew.”
2) He believed there is a “spark of divinity” in each human being. He saved not only luminaries but also many ordinary refugees. It was painful for him to remember the long lines of individuals outside the consulate desperately seeking exit visas. He once told me he thought they were “treated like cattle.” He could not talk about his experience without displaying agony and a deep frown on his face.
3) His family’s missionary “zeal” may have augmented his motivation: Hiram the 1st led the first missionaries to Hawaii in 1918 (he was depicted as Abner Hale in Mitchener’s “Hawaii”); Hiram II was also a missionary in the Sandwich Islands who single-handedly translated the entire Bible into written Gilbertese; Hiram III was a public servant who also became an explorer (who discovered Machu Picchu in Peru) and later became a US senator of Connecticut. Hiram IV neither converted souls nor entered politics, but, with equal zeal of his forbears, he “quietly battled to save lives” from the Holocaust…”
This story of a man who stood for those who could not stand for themselves. It says much to all of us today. There are times when we have to do the right thing regardless of the cost. Coming from a Christian background, Hiram Bingham believed that every human has worth. He knew what he had to do…and did it.
After his death, Hiram Bingham IV was also awarded posthumously the Medal of Valor along with Sir Winston Churchill and Pope John Paul II. More than 450 supporters of the Simon Wiesenthal Center gathered for the 2011 Humanitarian Award Dinner.
Now that you have read about the awards and honors, you may be asking, “How exactly did he save the lives of so many people? The video below will give you the full details.
As we have just had the Holocaust Remembrance Day, this would be a worthwhile story to share with your family to remember history and one who bravely did what was right.