Steven A. Levine
Coordinator for Educational Programs
Check out this video of 1946 newsreel footage of Fiorello LaGuardia visiting Italy as director-general of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA), along with beautiful cards drawn by Italian children thanking LaGuardia for the aid they received. Sixty eight years ago this month, Fiorello La Guardia left Gracie Mansion and become a private citizen. After twelve years as mayor, he would, in the words of his biographer CUNY Distinguished Professor Thomas Kessner, be able to have “some comfortable earnings and the easy life of a pundit and commentator.” Three months later he rejected this option, returning to public service as director-general of UNRRA to feed and rebuild the world’s war torn nations. Sadly, as La Guardia fought for aid to be distributed without political consideration, UNRRA‘s mission became mired in Soviet-U.S. Cold War divisions. La Guardia, who opposed the politicization of relief, resigned his position before UNRRA’s mandate expired in December 1946. During its existence UNRRA distributed $3.7 billion in aid, funded mostly by the United States.