On a recent road trip out west, I made a stop in Gettysburg to visit the Eisenhower National Historic SIte. I like visiting Presidents homes and Presidential Libraries. Making these visits gives me insight into some facts and US history that I may not know. So far, I’ve been to nine President homes and six Presidential Libraries.
When I visit these places, I’ve usually have done some advance research on the person, like reading a biography. A couple of years ago I read Jean Smith’s book on Eisenhower and found it quite fascinating. Prior to that book, all I knew about Eisenhower was that he was an Army General, he was our 34th President, he had something to do with our Interstate road system, and he played a lot of golf.
Eisenhower the Man
But there was much more to Eisenhower. He was one of the most accomplished man in our history. Here’s some quick facts on the positions he held;
- Served two terms as our 34th President from 1952 to 1960.
- President of Columbia University
- Supreme Allied Commander of NATO
- Supreme Allied Commander Allied Forces in Europe
- Army Chief of Staff
- General of the Army (5 Star)
When I visited his Presidential Library in Abilene, KS, I was floored by the number of awards and medals that were bestowed upon Eisenhower. There are several cases and displays showcasing the medals awarded to Eisenhower from numerous countries.
Those born after the baby boom generation (Gen X, Gen Y, Millennials) have never seen such an accomplished leader.
But, serving in the Army or being a world leader was never a dream that Eisenhower had. He just wanted a way out of poverty in Abilene. So, he applied to West Point as a way to get a free education. He never sought after or lobbied for any position. When he was appointed Supreme Allied Commander Allied Forces Europe in WWII he was promoted over several generals that were more senior to him. Even running for President, he was a reluctant candidate being encouraged by others to run and finally agreeing once he saw the initial primary results.
Eisenhower’s Presidential legacy has a short list of accomplishments. Some were big like ending the Korean War and keeping the atomic weapons out of the hands of the military. But, there’s no blockbuster signature legislation or transformative policies or positions.
Eisenhower operated more like a CEO versus an ideological leader – he ran the government and Congress made the laws for him to carry out. Foreign relations was his key strength. He knew so many world leaders and could resolve conflicts by just picking up the phone.
And while some may consider his Presidency lackluster, he presided over one of the most peaceful and prosperous times in our history.
Eisenhower National Historic Site
On my recent road trip out west, I decided to make a stop at his home in Gettysburg, PA. It was sort of on my way so I spent a few hours touring the property where Ike and Mamie lived after he left the Presidency. It was a worthwhile stop.
Here’s a video I made that shows the house and property along with some commentary about Eisenhower’s later years.
From this visit, I learned more about Eisenhower’s health and what he did after his Presidential term. In his later years, he was not a healthy guy. Heart attacks, bowel obstructions, and crohn’s disease were just a few of the ailments he suffered from.
Like Truman before him, he declined all offers to serve on corporate boards. There were no paid speeches. He didn’t think it was right to cash in on the public role he served as President. Instead, he made his money writing his WWII memoirs – Crusade in Europe and being a gentlemen cattle farmer. He enjoyed painting, loved golfing, and loved playing cards with friends.
Eisenhower was not without faults. Having a girlfriend during WWII and snubbing Truman at his inauguration were a couple of his big ones. But my departing thought as I left his home was this – I wish our present day leaders had more of Eisenhower’s good qualities.