Dwight David Eisenhower was born on October 14th, 1890, in Texas and raised in Abilene, Kansas as part of a family of a well to do Mennonite sect. He and all of his brothers also graduated from high school, which was no small feat in turn of the century mid-west America. Sports may have been his original calling, but a potentially life-threatening leg injury and subsequent infection ended any of those aspirations. Fortunately, Eisenhower was already a student at West Point at the time, and his military career would continue despite an impressive list of demerits he received during this time of transition in his life. Eisenhower graduated from West Point as a second lieutenant. At one point during this time, Eisenhower swore off women, then quickly changed his mind upon meeting his future wife, Miss Mamie Geneva Doud.
Eisenhower wanted to ship out to France upon America’s entrance into WWI, but was instead assigned to coach football, much to his dismay. With the days of his potential from ground combat behind him, Eisenhower moved to the Panama Canal Zone in his early 30’s. There, he fell under the tutelage of General Fox Connor, who educated him in military science, history, and on the inevitability of a second world war. Eisenhower’s education would continue in Washington, then Paris, and finally in the Philippines before the coming of that war. His time to shine on the battlefield came as he went up against the forces of Erwin Rommel in North Africa and later, led the successful invasion of Sicily. These victories catapulted him into the role of Supreme Commander of the Allied forces in Europe, and gave him the international support need for his final push into Germany to end the second world war.
Before his presidential run in 1951-’52, Eisenhower served as the President of Columbia University, and Supreme Commander of NATO. His presidency witnessed the birth of a new world, already fully enveloped in the clouds of Cold War, but years of experience dealing with the complexities of international and in house conflicts may have better prepared him for such political rigors. His open interactions with the American people and the press led to around two hundred press conferences in his two terms.
Eisenhower was a conservative. He also continued all of the New Deal programs from the FDR era including Social Security. He authorized the use of Federal money to create an interstate highway system, openly spoke of peace with the Russians, declared racial discrimination a national security issue, and used federal authority to overwhelm racist policies by political figures who believed that the states had a right to discriminate, which may a few reasons why his name doesn’t pop up as often in speeches on behalf of the modern Republican party, whose far right wing elements he openly disfavored back in the 1950’s.
The life and achievements of Dwight D. Eisenhower are far to numerous to account for entirely in one weekly video here at the Alaska Commons, but I do wish that you might take some time to learn more about this subject, as we do with all of the issues that we cover here. President Eisenhower died on March 28th, 1969, still surrounded by the controversy of his time in office and the coming of the new American century.