Sunday, January 9, 2011

I Like Ike

Last month I heard David Eisenhower on a radio interview discussing his latest book, "Going Home to Glory" , a memoir of his granddad's final years. His granddad was former President Dwight D. Eisenhower. I enjoy a good memoir and decided to read the book.

When I told my sister, Carolyn, I was in queue at the library for this current release, she reminded me that she had always been an Eisenhower supporter. I remember it well. When Ike ran in 1952, Carolyn sported an "I Like Ike" campaign button which she says she still has and has occasionally worn when she doesn't particularly like the party's candidate. My parents always voted Democrat and being a mewing conformist who was inclined to sit on daddy's lap and say "I love you daddy", I liked Adlai Stevenson in 1952. Cut me some slack. We were too poor to be Republicans and it was 1952. I was seven years old. David Eisenhower would have been four.

David is the only grandson of the former WW2 hero and fifties president. Ike had two sons. One died at age three leaving David's father John the only surviving child. The family was very close and John Eisenhower was also a West Point Army man who worked with his father during and after the White House years. The family then lived on a house on the property of the Gettysbury farm where Ike & Mamie retired.

David grew up around powerful people. He tells of writing his first story and having granddad's secretary type it up so he could sit outside Ike's Oval Office selling copies for a small sum. Before reading the book, the only thing I remembered about David was that he married President Nixon's daughter Julie. She is listed as co-author of the memoir. In the book there is a cute photo of them as children standing with the Eisenhowers and Nixons as David steals a glance at Julie.

I was born in the waning days of WW2 and President Eisenhower was in office during my school years. My memories of him are mostly that he was a war hero, commanding the invading allies push to overthrow Nazism in Europe. I don't think I knew much about the man except he liked to play golf and warned about a "military-industrial complex" as he left office. That was a strategic warning and I am not sure we heeded it. As I read the book my esteem for the late president would grow.

David writes with the discipline of the historian he is and the love of a grandson. His affection shows but it doesn't come across as a white-wash. He recalls his granddad's temper. He was a general and didn't tolerate incompetence. He was a general and after leaving office declined to be called "Mr. President". He requested JFK restore his General rank and wanted to be addressed as General instead of Mr. President. He had spent his lifetime earning that title.

I had not thought of Eisenhower as championing civil rights, but wasn't he the one who sent federal troops to the Mississippi and Little Rock? During his presidency he had tried to stop Lyndon Johnson's opposition to civil rights legislation. Lyndon's heart would later change.
I didn't know he opposed the John Birch society. I didn't know of his counsel to Lyndon Johnson during the Vietnam War and Lyndon's great esteem for him. Perhaps that war would have had a different outcome if they had followed Ike's advice.

He was a man of faith and belief in a moral standard based on the bible. He was opposed to supreme court rulings that stopped the practice of teaching biblical principles to school kids.

He didn't criticize his successors similar to the position President George W. Bush has held.

He didn't talk about the war. He did tour Europe in the early sixties bringing his young grandson David and granddaughter Anne. That esteem of European heads of state left an impression on young David. Ike gave the eulogy at Winston Churchill's funeral at the invitation of the queen. He was a close friend of Winstons.

I didn't know the memoir he wrote about his presidency is called "Waging Peace" and he was very proud that no American soldiers had died on his watch.

I have not quite finished the book. The final chapter waits for me because I know the end. It spans the years after leaving offiice until his death. I am not quite ready to say goodbye to this good man.

I wish I had an "I Like Ike" button. I would wear it too. Farewell General Eisenhower.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Makes me want to sign up on list to read his book.