Eisenhower’s time offers lessons to ponder

Dave Bergmeier

Oct. 14 was an important birthday for someone in our region we could agree was a great American—Dwight D. Eisenhower.

In the heartland of the country Missouri and Kansas turned out Harry Truman (1945-53) and Ike (1953-61) at a time when we needed great leadership on the world stage. With each president, the achievements of past ones are more likely to go further back in the chapters of our nation’s history.

For Kansans, this was the 130th anniversary of the birthday of Eisenhower, who gained fame as the architect of D-Day invasion of Normandy, France, on June 6, 1941. He then became the reluctant Republican nominee in 1952 and he won by a landslide that November and accomplished the same feat in 1956.

Eisenhower has a rightful place now in Washington, D.C., and visitors can see the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial.

U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, R-KS, who was chairman of the Eisenhower Memorial Commission, spoke eloquently about Ike.

“As we look at the entrance of the memorial to a teenage boy from small-town Kansas looking back at us, we see the hopes of all young men and women as they imagine their future: a reminder that we still have within us our own dreams, and that liberty and freedom make it possible for us to find our way, to pursue those hopes and dreams and to seize the opportunities before us,” Roberts said.

“Eisenhower understood that in a country where destiny is determined not by one’s position at birth, but rather by character and determination of spirit, dreams do come true. Eisenhower understood one person’s ability to chart his or her own course and change the course of the world.

“That American story, the story of a young boy from Abilene, is celebrated at the entrance of this memorial. For me, as a small-town Kansas boy, I never dreamed I would one day dedicate a memorial to Kansas’ favorite son, Dwight David Eisenhower.

“It is with wonder in my heart that I stand near the statues of Eisenhower as general and as president, with the towering cliffs of Pointe du Hoc behind us. And I marvel anew at the lessons he left for us.”

During 1990, Abilene, Kansas, was the hub of the heartland as the country focused on the centennial of his birth. Ike, by then, was moving up the charts of presidential historians as they realized they had not used the proper measuring standards in assessing his presidency. Eight years of peace—during a Cold War—with unprecedented economic growth and disciplined government spending became noteworthy. Speakers offered divergent views about how their country had changed and what work was left ahead—whether it involved race matters or agricultural export markets. Speakers who were knowledgeable about agriculture credited Truman and Ike for understanding that food security was necessary for world peace and prosperity.

For perspective, by the time the centennial weekend (Oct. 13 and 14) arrived, the U.S. was about to head to war under President George H.W. Bush, the nation was anxious about fall elections (in a non-presidential election cycle). Many of those speakers who came to celebrate Ike’s birthday knew the nation’s attention was on the pending war with Iraq after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. Many of them touched upon tough decisions all leaders have to make whether in war or peace.

Today we face uncertain times. But it is not the only time we have been tested. History has a way of showing us the way, if we study it.

Dave Bergmeier can be reached at 620-227-1822 or [email protected].