The Most Important Question
Articles Inspirational articles from Hay House authors
The Most Important QuestionWhat would you ask the President?
Sometimes it’s the shortest moments that create the longest impact. And sometimes it’s the most “I had nothing to do with it” facts of our life that have the most to do with what we are doing with our life.
It was not lost on me as I delved deeper and deeper into Barbara Marx Hubbard’s life that all of the dominoes were set up in perfect alignment to fall in perfect sequence once the first one toppled. Let’s call the first domino her birth. Everything after that lines up magnificently with the logical appearance on her 83rd birthday, as the principal public figure at the Day One event on December 22, 2012.
The entirety of Barbara’s life, including that moment in 2012, has been animated by a single question. But it wasn’t something she asked of just anyone. Rather, she asked those whom she fully expected would have an answer. And when a particular person she queried didn’t, the moment stuck with her for the rest of her life.
She sensed that it was important that he did have an answer. She very much felt that he should have had an answer. Yet he did not. And if he doesn’t have an answer, Barbara asked herself, who does?
Barbara’s question was asked of the President of the United States, standing in his office.
To understand how this young woman even found herself in a position to pose such an inquiry of such a person in such a place, we need to know a little more about Barbara’s family of origin.
As a little girl, there was nothing Barbara really wanted that she could not have. Her father was Louis Marx, the creator of the biggest toy company in America—and arguably, in the world. As might be expected, Barbara went to the best schools, eventually attending Bryn Mawr College outside Philadelphia. She spent her junior year abroad in Paris; and like something straight out of a movie, she fell in love with a disaffected, earnest, handsome, young American artist who happened to join her at a tiny table in a smoke-filled coffee shop tucked away on some side street. She returned with him to the States, had a fairy-tale wedding, and settled down to become the model 1950s wife and mother.
Over the years, Barbara’s father had occasion to meet many interesting people—included among them not a few military generals. That happened because Bernard Gimbel, a powerful New York businessman, had brought General Hap Arnold of the Air Force to Louis’s office to see if his factory might have a part of a missing toy train that Arnold had lost. Louis had someone locate it on the workroom floor, and he gave it to the general. The two became friends, and through him, Louis befriended other generals—including Dwight Eisenhower, who would later, of course, become President of the United States.
By 1952, Louis had remarried and eventually had five new sons. Each had a general as a godfather. Not long after a gathering of the Marx family and the generals, Barbara was invited to make a courtesy call on the President in the White House.
At the appointed hour, she and her father were ushered into the Oval Office, located in the southeast corner of the huge mansion on Pennsylvania Avenue. The President was on his feet and put his hand out to Barbara’s father. “Louis, it’s always good to see you,” he said congenially, and he meant it. “Please, sit down.” The three of them moved to the facing couches that stood a few feet from the Chief Executive’s desk.
Dwight Eisenhower and Louis Marx then entered into a discussion about the growing power of the military/industrial complex. “It’s not something to take lightly, Louis,” the President said.
“I know,” Barbara’s father replied. “There’s an awful lot of power there.”
Barbara shifted her weight, drawing Eisenhower’s attention. He picked up on her silent signal that she had something she wished to say.
“What can I do for you, young lady?” he asked kindly.
“Mr. President, I have a question for you,” she said.
“And what is that, my dear?”
“You and Father spoke just now about our awesome power.”
Looking into his brilliant blue eyes, she was, for an instant, speechless . . . magnetized. But only for an instant. Then Barbara Marx Hubbard asked President Dwight David Eisenhower: “What is the meaning of our new power that is good?”
The President appeared startled, glanced at Louis, and then looked back to Barbara and shook his head. His voice sounded sad, almost depleted. Then, slowly, he replied: “I do not know. I have no idea. . . .”
The thought occurred to Barbara: Well, then, we had better find out! But she didn’t say that to the President. She simply sat quietly, respectfully, and smiled.
“Your daughter seems to have asked the question of the century,” President Eisenhower ruefully noted to Louis.
“Yes, well . . . she has a way of doing that,” Barbara’s father remarked and chuckled.
It was Barbara’s turn to be startled. She didn’t know what kind of answer to expect from the former war hero and five-star general—who knew all about the exercise of power—but she had hoped for some sort of answer.
This little incident turned out to be not really a “little incident” at all, for it fueled the experience of Barbara Marx Hubbard for the better part of her life thereafter.