Myself: Now and Five Years Ago
What it takes to make a man great is his foundation, training, and drive for the dreams that his mind ponders. Greatness is a term not often used with a name of one human being. Dwight Eisenhower is a great man, and I use that term in the most noble way. He was a man formed by his country like an artist forms a piece of clay. He was molded and fired for strength, but his inner soul has more meaning, such as a piece of Greek Sculpture that has been around for centuries. Most know him by the name of “Ike”, but very few know the man in the comforts of the White House, as he paces back and forth, or the long nights in the tent down in Africa fighting for his country in one of the most terrifying wars of the world. He was a war hero and a defender of freedom and democracy. Not only for his own nation, for any man or woman that searched for such riches in their hearts and homes.
Nestled in the dancing wheat of the Kansas plains is a small farm town by the name of Abilene. The clear rolling waters of the Smokey Hill River were just a stone throw away. It is in this place that the molding for greatness would begin. Dwight Eisenhower was born in a small dusty town in Texas. On October 14, 1890 he lay cradled in the arms of his mother, as his father looked down at his newborn son and wondered what they would do. The business was going under. That next spring his family would move back to their roots of Kansas. As a boy Ike worked hard and played even harder. Ike’s child hood was that of a young farm boy. If he was not found in the classroom, or doing his chores, he could be found along the banks of the Smokey Hill River. This was the place that Dwight would spend his summer days with his friends. Fishing and hunting while he camped along the banks of the clear water. (Steenwyk)
Brought up by his mother, because his father worked long hours as a mechanic, she installed a strong mind, and a solid heart in all of her six boys, including Dwight. Elizabeth Van Steenwyk states in her book, “Ida Eisenhower would stamp her six boys with a philosophy of determination and the need to excel, never admitting defeat or showing disappointment,”(Steenwyk 4). Dwight and his brothers lived up to this teaching and admiration of their mother. Though she installed strong morals in her boys. All of them were known for their brawling, Dwight states “It made us scrappers, any time anybody walked on us, they heard from us. It didn’t make any difference how big or how little he was, if he did something that infringed on our rights, he got a punch then and there.” (Steenwyk 4).
The nickname Ike, was just not his own, but all of the Eisenhower boys. Dwight was known as little Ike, until his older brother Edgar graduated from high school. Through his years in high school, Dwight was a good student, very seldom absent from class. He was as well a great athlete, finding love for football and baseball. His senior year the school board could no longer fund the football team, so Ike went out and headed fund raising. The away games tended to be a problem, so the boys would jump a train to get to the town in which they played that night. In January of 1911, Dwight was admitted into the most admired military school of the nation. Showing no emotions his mother her beloved son he left for West Point. Dwight’s religion, Jehovah’s Witness, was strongly against the idea of war, and enrollment into the army. This was the upbringing that Ike experienced throughout his entire life. Going against his family wishes and beliefs, he made a choice that would build the road for his future. While at West Point, he played football. A young man with the heart of a lion and the determination his mother pounded into to his mind, he would succeed both on the field and off. After a serious injury to his knee, Dwight would never again play the game that he loved so much. It was at this time that the thoughts of returning home pondered his mind. After debating the choice, he decided to stay, and on June 12, 1915, he graduated as Second Lieutenant Dwight David Eisenhower. (Burk)
A few days after, he was sent to Fort Sam Houston, in San Antonio Texas. It was here in which he would meet the very lovely Mamie Doud. A southern belle “saucy in the look of her face and her whole attitude,” (Steenwyk 20). Although Ike fell for Miss Mamie Doud, it was not the same for her. He was one of many young men whom she dated, and after many months of slowly getting rid of the enemy, he proposed to her on Valentine’s Day. In July of 1916, they married. (Steenwyk)
In 1935 Ike was named the senior assistant to General MacArthur. This would mean that Ike would have to go to the Philippines. Eishenhower’s years in the Philippine Islands were very important links in the road that led him to the Role of Supreme Commander in the Second World War. Morin states in his book. “They added another dimension to his training to organize and lead a multination”. (Morin 51) It was at this time that he found himself dealing with proud and sensitive people. He would enter the political world, rubbing elbows and taking orders. “Eisenhower was born a diplomat, a man well endowed with tact and charm. The Philippines assignment developed these natural qualities”(Morin 51).
Taking pride in what he did, he always had compassion in his life for his wife, and the men that he led on the battlefield. On November 8, 1942, Dwight’s troops landed in Africa. This was the first of many exciting yet struggling times for the young Commander. In letters he wrote to his wife, is where we find the man that paces the tent at night, wondering if he will come home, but more importantly wondering if his men that fought under him would again see the faces that meant they had made it home alive. It is in his letters that we find the kindness, and the heart of a great man. He states in one, “My little dog took sick just before I left London and I had to leave him behind. I haven’t had any report of his condition which worries me, because I miss having him around”(Eisenhower 60). Dwight rarely wrote to Mamie about the thoughts that clouded his mind. Instead he is more interested in what she is thinking. He is a man that set aside his feelings for a moment and locks them away so that he may ease the mind of others. In another letter he writes, “Since I cannot even guess at how much the home newspapers print of this affair, I don’t know what your particular mental picture of it may be.”(Eisenhower 62). The war would continue on, and his mind often would picture his beautiful wife, standing on the porch of their home in Gettysburg. The only thing the young man didn’t know was that when the war was over his life would get even more hectic. (Stassen)
Dwight Eisenhower is greatly thanked for his actions in the war by receiving the medals that dangle from his chest. The successful invasions into North Africa and Sicily were the strong points in the turning of the war. On May 7, 1945, Dwight Eisenhower stood proud for his country, along with thousands of troops, in Rheims, Germany, as the Nazi forces surrendered. The war was over, and it was time to go back. Back home to his loving wife and his family. Ike had a feeling that it would not be long until another struggle would surface. And it was not long after that the cold war and the fear of the atom was to rise against the peace of the world (Ambrose).
As a general in the army, you could see his “down home country upbringing” in his men. He liked the fact that they called him Ike, “When they called me Ike, I knew everything was going well”(Hargrove 10). His strongest skill in the field of battle was the caring of his men, “throughout 1940, he showed his skill at organizing the movement of large numbers of troops, as well as feeding, housing, and training them.”(Hargrove 49) He was a modest man standing next to some of the most prestigious men in the world.
Winston Churchill is the main member of the British Army in which Eisenhower would work with. His relationship with Churchill would soon grow very strong. They became friends and stayed that way even after the war. In a letter that he sent to him on his eighth birthday, Dwight writes, “Dear Winston, I know I speak for my fellow countrymen, as I know I do for myself, in sending you warmest congratulations on reaching a landmark in a life that is in itself a series of great landmarks”(Davis 113).
After his successful service as the chief of staff, Eisenhower looked to the country as they cried out “We like Ike,” the slogan for his campaign. Nearly thirty four million Americans where singing the phrase, as they walked to election booth and marked Ike on the ballet, the Republican candidate for the presidential election of 1952. His running mate was a U.S. senator from California, Richard Nixon, and it was an easy victory for the two (Hargrove 65). In his presidency, Eisenhower performed great tasks for which we are still very thankful for today. The most important were motivated by his morality and his beliefs in his position. (Andersen)
The Eisenhower Doctrine was a doctrine to help the third world countries. The problem with this was that the American society was blind to fact that these people needed help, and they didn’t understand that it would soon effect them. Dwight Eisenhower stated in his second Inaugural Address
New forces and new nations stir and strive across the earth. From the deserts of North Africa to the islands of the South Pacific one-third of all mankind has entered upon an historic struggle for a new freedom: a freedom from the grinding poverty. New nations were emerging, or struggling to emerge, from the wreckage. Most had not been prepared by their rulers for independence. Many had raw materials unavailable elsewhere, particularly oil and minerals that were crucial to the Western industrial system. All of the new nations appeared to be more or less in danger of falling to the Communists. (Ambrose 376)
In this speech, Ike made a strong statement, to defend that in which is weak. It is in this time that we begin to see the strength of our nation as a super power and lender to those whom need it. This Doctrine will lead to many fights and struggles that many people believed had nothing to do with America. They did not think about that every time they filled their gas tank on a frosty morning. He passed that Doctrine to make sure that the country in which his grandchildren would play was safe, and could prosper. To many Americans this is the thing that showed Ike’s character the most. He lifted this nation to a new level of thinking, as we where sought for the first time around the world, as the police men of international affairs.(Ambrose)
Dwight Eisenhower passed away when he was seventy on March 26, 1969. Ike may have been a farm boy raised by hard country values, but it was these values that made him the most admired man in the country two years after his presidency ended. He stood on the grounds of Africa and defended this world against dictatorship. He was the man that made sure his high school would have a football team during his senior year. He was a man that made a bold statement to not only defend the freedom of the nation in which he lived, but for any nation that wanted the freedom he had.