Thursday marked the 50th anniversary of the death of Dwight D. Eisenhower, the only U.S. president who called Kansas his home. He died on March 28, 1969.
Born in Texas in 1890, Eisenhower, who was known as “Ike,” was brought up in Abilene, Kansas. The third of seven sons, he excelled in sports in high school and received an appointment to West Point.
According to the Whitehouse.gov website, in his early Army career, he served under Generals John J. Pershing, Douglas MacArthur and Walter Krueger. After Pearl Harbor, General George C. Marshall called him to Washington for a war plans assignment. He commanded the Allied Forces landing in North Africa in November 1942; on D-Day, 1944, he was Supreme Commander of the troops invading France.
After the war, Eisenhower became President of Columbia University, then took leave to assume supreme command over the new NATO forces being assembled in 1951. Republican emissaries to his headquarters near Paris persuaded him to run for President in 1952.
“I like Ike” was an irresistible slogan; Eisenhower won a sweeping victory to become our 34th president.
Among the memorable quotes attributed to Eisenhower:
“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone.” From the Chance for Peace speech, April 16, 1953.
“Don’t join the book burners. Don’t think you are going to conceal faults by concealing evidence that they ever existed. Don’t be afraid to go in your library and read every book, as long as any document does not offend our own ideas of decency. That should be the only censorship.” From a commencement address at Dartmouth on June 14, 1953.
He is also credited with the quote, “Never waste a minute thinking about people you don’t like.”
Fifty years after his passing, Kansans are still proud of the 34th president and his legacy. Historians were still debating that legacy. Some say he failed to provided leadership in the Civil Rights movement, failed to denounce Sen. Joseph McCarthy and failed to defuse the Cold War. And yet, he kept America at peace and he sponsored and signed the Civil Rights Bill of 1957. He signed the bill that led to America’s interstate highway system.
Here in Great Bend, students at Eisenhower Elementary School are proud to be associated with the 34th president. But then, Ike is the namesake of schools and streets throughout the nation. Is it any wonder that, half a century later, we still like Ike?