Do you like Ike? On our recent travels, we visited the Eisenhower Presidential Museum in Abilene, Kansas.
The museum was open from 10 am to 2 pm, and timed tickets needed to be purchased online in advance. Some parts of the complex were still closed, including the Visitor Center and Gift Shop as well as the inside tours of his boyhood home. Also, any “interactive exhibits” (which were touted on numerous billboards) were not working. This included any movies throughout the museum. These closures were a bit disappointing as touring old homes is a favorite way of mine to learn history. In addition, I always learn from a museum’s movies. However, even with these limitations, we elected to still visit, and I’d describe our day as a landslide victory in every way!
We enjoyed gorgeous weather as we meandered about the grounds before our scheduled entry time. We walked around the outside of Ike’s boyhood home which we later learned was “on the wrong side of the tracks” at the time. We visited the Meditation Chapel, saw the outside of the Presidential Library, looked up at the large statue of Ike, and walked among the pylons flanking one end of the campus.
Once inside the museum, the path moves in a chronological order of events. Ike’s parents had seven sons, including one who passed away very young. While he had humble beginnings, the foundation was set for strong values and a life of service. Ike’s mother filled her sons “with ambition and raised them to value learning, discipline, service and hard work.” All of the Eisenhower sons were successful and led lives with purpose.
Note: Any words put in quotes are taken from the exhibits in the Eisenhower Presidential Museum. I would also note that many of the Eisenhower quotes I read in the Presidential Museum are quite relevant today.
As time and the museum traveled on, we learn of Ike’s appointment to West Point and later a reputation there for playing poker and smoking cigarettes. This is a good reminder, I think, that no one is perfect, and we aren’t a finished product as long as we are still alive.
Time moves on, and Ike meets Mamie, a young women raised with privilege and educated for high society.
Ike was the handsomest man… | a far cry from the society boy | lounge lizards with patent-leather hair.-Mamie
Mamie’s background makes her the perfect partner for Ike as her entertaining and social skills helped to promote Ike’s career in the military. Ike had numerous assignments before his eventual promotion to General.
“Dwight carried this handcrafted bamboo house model back to the United States when he returned from the Philippines. He gave it to Mamie as a reminder of their time in Manila.”
As General Eisenhower, Ike led the allies to victory in WWII, but along the way, he acknowledged the horrors of that war and worked to educates others for all time.
… But the most interesting – although horrible sight – that I encountered during the trip was a visit to a German internment camp near Gotha. The things I saw beggar description. While I was touring the camp I encountered three men who had been inmates and by one ruse or another had made their escape. I interviewed them through an interpreter. The visual evidence and the verbal testimony of starvation, cruelty and bestiality were so overpowering as to leave me a bit sick. In one room, where they were piled up twenty or thirty naked men, killed by starvation, George Patton would not even enter. He said he would get sick if he did so. I made the visit deliberately, in order to be in a position to give first-hand evidence of these things if ever, in the future, there develops a tendency to charge these allegations merely to “propaganda”.Dwight D. Eisenhower
After this visit, General Eisenhower requested the press and government officials from Washington and London to visit these camps. He felt it was his duty to “document and publicize the horrors of these camps.” “His efforts helped assure the 6 to 10 million lives lost in the Holocaust are not forgotten.”
After the war, Eisenhower served as President of Columbia University. During this time, he was recruited to run for President of the United States. Both parties wanted Ike to run on their ticket. This was the last time in the history of the United States when the Democrats and Republicans agreed on something. He won the presidency in a landslide victory.
Dwight D. Eisenhower was President from 1953 to 1961. These years were filled with peace and prosperity. President Eisenhower did not believe in racial segregation and worked to eliminate it. He appointed the first African American to the White House staff. He desegregated the Veterans Administration hospitals and federal schools for military dependents. He appointed judges who supported desegregation and civil rights.
President Eisenhower “believed prosperity was a pre-condition for peace at home and abroad. He also recognized that poverty, along with a lack of cultural understanding often leads to conflict. As president, Eisenhower launched programs to help those in need, promote American values, and build trust around the globe.“
President Eisenhower believed in a balanced budget. He promoted economic strength and military strength as ways to protect the nation on all fronts.
As a result of an army convoy in 1919, Eisenhower saw the need for a national highway network, and in 1956, he signed legislation creating our nation’s interstate system.
President Eisenhower died on March 28, 1969. He is interned in the Meditation Chapel beside his Mamie and their young son, Icky. Ever proud of his military service, he is buried in a standard issue enlisted man’s casket.
In front of the stained glass window are several rows of benches. I took a moment to sit in the reverent silence to say a prayer for our country.
Even with the closures, the Eisenhower Presidential Museum and Library is a must see attraction. There is so much more I could have written about, but I realize I can’t recreate the whole experience in a blog post. My hope is that the inspiration I felt visiting this place has come through in this post – even if just a bit.