What if the most influential person in the world were a (American) Finn?
That, too, could be possible if we assume that the title is carried by the President of the United States – and if history had gone a little differently. Namely, few people know that Finns of Finnish descent have also been nominated in the US presidential election.
There is no direct candidacy from the land of thousands of lakes, as the U.S. Constitution requires that a native U.S. citizen be elected as president of the country. In other words, to qualify, you must have been born in the United States to be a U.S. citizen.
This condition has been met by second-generation American Finns, but winning the election has remained a rather distant dream for them for quite another reason: they represented so-called third parties as candidates, who have always had a challenge to beat, especially in national elections in the Democratic and Republican-controlled US.
At least the candidates still cannot be blamed for the lack of Finnish content.
Halberg tried Four times
Four times run for president of the United States Gus Hall was born Arvo Gustav Halberg at birth. If he were still alive, Hall, born on October 8, 1910, would turn 110 next week.
Hall’s parents Checkmate and Susanna Halberg had moved to the state of Minnesota from Ostrobothnia and Americanized their names to Matt and Susan. Hall had nine siblings with whom he spoke Finnish throughout his life.
In his youth, Hall also had a famous relative in Finland: the leader of the Lapua movement Vihtori Kosola was his distant cousin. However, the American Finn hardly experienced great sympathy for souls with the leader of the anti-communist organization, as he joined the American Communist Party at the age of 16.
Hall, who earned his living as a forest worker, was immediately able to join the Communist Youth Organization of the United States. He spent the art of the 1920s and 1930s in the Soviet Union, studying at the Communist Lenin School.
After returning to the United States, Hall changed his Finnish name to American and began to become known as a front-line communist and trade union influencer. After serving in the war, he rose further within his party: in 1950, Hall was appointed acting secretary general of the Communist Party.
However, in the post-war, anti-communist atmosphere in the U.S., the fate of Hall and his comrades was fierce. The party leadership, including Hall, was arrested in 1948 on charges of subversive activity but released on bail. During his release on bail, Hall, who was sentenced to imprisonment, fled to Mexico, was caught and transit for six years behind bars.
Hall was not discouraged by this, but returned spectacularly in 1959 as Secretary-General of the Communist Party of the United States. As the leader of his party, Hall spoke fieryly for socialism and supported the Soviet line. He is known to have visited Finland only once, as party leader in 1966 on his way to Moscow.
The Secretary-General’s years were also marked by Hall’s presidential nominations in the successive election years of 1972, 1976, 1980 and 1984. However, the man’s success in the urn remained modest. He achieved his best result in 1976, collecting just under 60,000 votes – 0.07 per cent of all votes – and ranking eighth in terms of votes.
He was elected president at the time Jimmy Carter. In other elections, Hall’s opponents included Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan.
Hall got his wife Elizabethin with two children Barbaran (s. 1938) i Arvon (b. 1947). Over the years, his reputation has been tarnished by an old prison sentence for involvement in violent strikes and accusations of using secret party subsidies from the Soviet Union for personal procurement. However, Hall remained in charge of the Communist Party until his death in October 2000.
Honkala hard background
The more recent Finnish color in the US presidential election is represented by Cheri Honkala, who was nominated as a vice president by the US Green Party in 2012.
The party relied on two women in the election, as medical activist Jill Stein was the presidential candidate. However, the country’s leading duo, Barack Obama and Joe Biden, were voted for the next term. Greens Stein and Honkala garnered about 470,000 votes and finished fourth.
Honkala was born in January 1963 into the family of a father and mother of Cheyenne with a Finnish background. The family, like the Halbergs, lived in the state of Minnesota, where a significant community of American Finns still lives. Honkala’s childhood was tough for her Maynard-father was violent towards his mother. The young girl was transferred from her home to the facility for years.
Honkala had her firstborn son at the age of 17 and lived with him in the car while attending high school. After embracing his experiences, Honkala ended up setting up an organization advocating for the rights of poor Americans and rising to become a well-known influencer specifically in the field of human rights for the poor. As an activist, he often had to deal with the police as well.
Honkala also sought to pursue the cause of the poor and homeless in politics. In 2011, he aspired to become the Sheriff of the City of Philadelphia and finished third in the election. After this, the Green Party Stein said he admired Honkala’s dedication and asked for this as his vice presidential candidate.
Following his candidacy, Honkala received questionable publicity in 2016 when he organized a “fart protest” in protest of Hillary Clinton’s election as a Democratic presidential candidate. The stinking protest at the Democratic Party Conference was intended to “greet Clinton’s rhetorical outbursts on it itself”.
Honkala, who shared his opinions but also received widespread international publicity, was also not elected to the Philadelphia State Congress in 2017.
Others at the top
In addition to Hall and Honkala, who ran in the presidential election, several other people of Finnish descent have also been seen at the top of US politics and society.
Second-generation American Finn, Democratic leader Emil Hurja brought opinion polls to party politics during the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration in the 1930s. His parents, Matti Pitkäkangas and Anna Keisari, had changed their names to Matt and Anna Wild after moving to the United States.
Economist William A. Niskanen in turn, served in the 1980s as a member and chairman of President Reagan’s Council of Economic Advisers. He has been considered one of the key pointers in Reagan’s economic policy.
Finland, who served as head of the US tax office during Obama’s presidency, also has more distant Finnish roots. John Koskinen, the Minister of Homeland Security who took office last year Kevin McAleenanilla and a prominent figure in Florida state policy Dexter Lehtinen.
According to a well-known story in Finland, the person who gave the decisive voice to the independence of the United States had a Finnish background, as Johan Marttisen boy John Mortonin is said to have turned the position of the state of Pennsylvania in favor of independence in the Continental Congress in 1776.