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Liking Ike - The Presidency of Dwight David Eisenhower


Dwight David Eisenhower was the 34th President of the United States serving two terms between January, 1953 and January 1961. His Vice President was Richard Nixon.

President Eisenhower was born on October 14, 1890 in Denison, Texas and died at the age of 78 on March 28, 1969 in Washington, D.C.

He attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and reached the rank of General in the U.S. Army. During the Second World War he served as Supreme Commander of the Alied forces in Europe, with responsiblity for planning and supervising the sucessful invasion of France and Germany in 1944-45. In 1951, he became the first supreme commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

As President, he ended the Korean Way, kept up pressure on the Soviet Union during the Cold War, made nuclear weapons a higher priority, lauched the space race, enlarged the Social Security program, and befan the Interstate Highway System.

Eisenhower (originally "Eisenhauer") was born to a German-American family in Denison, Texas, the third of seven sons born to David Jacob Eisenhower and Ida Elizabeth Stover, and their only child born in Texas.

He was named David Dwight and was called Dwight. Later, the order of his given names was switched (according to the staff at the Eisenhower Library and Museum, the name switch occurred upon Eisenhower's matriculation at West Point. The Eisenhower family is of Pennsylvania Dutch descent. His ancestors were Mennonites who fled from the Holy Roman Empire to Switzerland in the 17th century.

Hans Nicol Eisenhauer and his family came to Lancaster, Pennsylvania in 1741. The family joined the River Brethren, and were pacifists during the nation's wars. They joined some 300 River Brethren in creating a colony in Kansas. After a brief sojourn in Texas, the family re-settled in Abilene, Kansas in 1892. Eisenhower's father was a college-educated engineer.

Eisenhower married Mamie Geneva Doud (1896-1979) of Denver, Colorado on July 1, 1916. They had two children: Doud Dwight Eisenhower (1917-1921), whose tragic death in childhood from scarlet fever haunted them, and John Sheldon David Doud Eisenhower (born in 1922). John Eisenhower served in the United States Army, then became an author and served as U.S. Ambassador to Belgium. John's son, David Eisenhower, after whom Camp David is named, married Richard Nixon's daughter Julie in 1968.

Politically, Eisenhower was a member of the Republican party. Throughout his presidency, Eisenhower preached a doctrine of social and economic "Dynamic Conservatism." Although he maintained a conservative economic policy, he continued New Deal programs still in operation, especially Social Security. He expanded its programs and rolled them into a new cabinet level agency, the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, while extending benefits to an additional 10 million workers. His cabinet, consisting of several corporate executives and one labor leader, was dubbed by one journalist, "Eight millionaires and a plumber."

Eisenhower was extremely popular, winning his second term in 1956 with 457 of 531 votes in the Electoral College, and 57.6% of the popular vote.

Eisenhower supported the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka U.S. Supreme Court decision, in which segregated ("separate but equal") schools were ruled to be unconstitutional. The very next day he told District of Columbia officials to make Washington a model for the rest of the country in integrating black and white public school children. Liberal critics complained Eisenhower was never enthusiastic about civil rights, but he did propose to Congress the Civil Rights Acts of 1957 and 1960 and signed those acts into law, although both Acts were very weak and added little to the total electorate. Nonetheless, they constituted the first significant civil rights Acts since the 1870s.

The "Little Rock Nine" incident of 1957 involved state refusal to honor a federal court order to integrate the schools. Eisenhower placed the Arkansas National Guard under federal control and sent Army troops to escort nine black students into an all-white public school; this integration did not occur without violence. Eisenhower and Arkansas governor Orval Faubus engaged in tense arguments during this tumultuous period in history.

On January 17th, 1961 Eisenhower gave his farewell speech to the nation from the Oval Office at the White House. Eisenhower raised the issue of the Cold War and role of the U.S. armed forces. He described the Cold War saying: "We face a hostile ideology global in scope, atheistic in character, ruthless in purpose and insidious in method..." and warned about what he saw as unjustified government spending proposals and continued with a warning that "we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex... Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together."


Published in sections: The Fifties ::

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