Thursday, May 4, 2017

Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library & Museum

I was five years old when I first became aware of a Presidential election. I recall seeing photographs of President Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, and John F. Kennedy and asking my mother who they were. After being told that Eisenhower was our President now but that Nixon and Kennedy were running for the office, I studied their photos, and said, "I like Kennedy best. He's handsome."

Perhaps not the most astute political decision, but hey, I was 13 years away from voting age, so I had time to grow in my ability to choose a favorite candidate.

It was a thrill, therefore, to visit the Dwight D. Eisenhower Museum today and learn about the man who was in office during my first five years of life.

The museum has been placed in a beautiful setting, and unlike the other Presidential Museum/Libraries is separate from the research library.

Eisenhower's childhood home is here as well, and we toured it first. This is the family parlor (the Front Parlor can be seen just beyond, and was only used for honored guests.)

Note the coverlet in the lower right of the photo. It was woven by DDE's grandfather, who was a professional weaver, in 1850.

It was woven in panels on a narrow loom, and in this close-up you can see the seam down the middle.

DDE was known as the "Man from Abilene," and he was very proud of that fact. Part of the exhibit focused on the history of the area, including the Chisolm Trail, which ran from San Antonio, Texas to Abilene, Kansas. Cattle would be driven from the ranches to Abilene, where the animals were loaded onto cars on the Kansas Pacific Railway and taken cross country to feed a hungry nation.

Eisenhower excelled in school and graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point and became a career soldier.

During WWII he was a five-star general and served as Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces in Europe before becoming our 34th President of the United States from 1953-1961.

There were cases and cases of Eisenhower's medals, and a large portion of the museum focused on his military experiences.

This display fascinated me. These are straw boots worn by German sentries on the Eastern Front during the war, to prevent frostbite. The German forces were inadequately dressed for such a campaign because of Hitler's overconfidence that the war would end quickly before cold weather arrived.

I love campain buttons and enjoyed seeing this case with iconic I Like Ike buttons.

So here is my "down and dirty" summary of Eisenhower's accomplishments as President of the United States:
*Launched the Interstate Highway System, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA), and established a strong science education via the National Defense Education Act.
*Sent federal troops to Little Rock, Arkansas for the first time since Reconstruction to enforce federal court orders to desegregate public schools.
*Signed civil rights legislation in 1957 and 1960 to protect the right to vote by African-Americans.
*Supported a nationwide distribution of a polio vaccine and appropriated $28 million to innoculate those who could not afford it, thereby almost completely eradicating the disease.
*Created a Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, extended Social Security to previously ineligible retirees, pushed laws providing assistance to physically disabled people, and increased the minimum wage by 33%.
*Opposed Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy and contributed to the end of McCarthyism.
*Actively encouraged U.S. private sector investment and trade with Western Europe, Latin America, and Asia, and increased dramatically the number of American firms doing business outside the U.S.
*Slashed the national debt from more than 100 % of GNP in 1953 to about 60% in 1960. He left office in 1961 with a balanced budget.
*Deposed the leader of Iran in the 1953 Iranian coup d'̩tat and used nuclear threats to conclude the Korean War with China.
*Prioritized inexpensive nuclear weapons and a reduction of conventional military forces as a means of keeping pressure on the Soviet Union and reducing the federal deficit.
*Forced Israel, the UK, and France to end their invasion of Egypt during the Suez Crisis of 1956.
*Sent 15,000 U.S. troops to Lebanon to prevent the pro-Western government from falling to a Nasser-inspired revolution.

Dwight David Eisenhower was the man we needed at the time, first as a soldier and then as our nation's leader. He once said, "Tell the truth, the whole truth, don't try to conceal anything." Advice that many of our leaders have not heeded over the years. While no President is perfect, Eisenhower did move the country forward in many ways and did his best to be a true servant of the people.

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