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Adlai Stevenson, Ruth Merwin: The presidential candidate who shot and killed a girl when he was 12.

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[Adlai] Stevenson’s residual guilt over the incident “may explain his self-doubts and his protestations of unworthiness,” as well as his lifelong habit of “turning triumphs into disasters, honors into burdens, as unconscious penance for his deed.” At the very least, we can say that Stevenson carried the memory of Ruth Merwin with him until he died. In 1955, Stevenson wrote a letter to a woman he had never met, whose son had unintentionally killed another child. His advice was heartfelt and brief: “Tell him that he must live for two.”

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