Ike and Mamie IKE INSIGHT

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Eisenhower Foundation's Blog

Aug 16

A Cattle Trail and a Future President

Posted on August 16, 2017 at 10:45 AM by Emily Miller

In 1867, 150 years ago, a young entrepreneur named Joseph McCoy started a business that would become the heart of American myth and lore: the long-distance cattle drive. The Chisholm Trail was the route of McCoy’s venture, and began as a solution to an economic problem but ended as the romanticized subject of poems, songs, novels, and movies. This exhibit, The Chisholm Trail and the Cowtown that Raised a President, examines the rise of the cattle drive, its impact on the small frontier town of Abilene, and its transformation into an enduring symbol of the open range era. It also examines the influence of the cattle trail in life and the life of a future president.

 It is perhaps strange to imagine, a young boy born in 1890, the year the frontier closed, and brought to Abilene a few years later would be influenced by the Chisholm Trail. The last large herd of cattle had arrived in Abilene 16 years before Dwight D. Eisenhower was born. Yet, the history of the Chisholm Trail, Abilene, and Ike are intertwined.

The very land the Eisenhower family purchased, farmed, and lived on was at one time a cattle pen for Longhorns arriving from Texas. During construction of the parking lot for the Visitor Center, an old blacksmith shop, dating back to the cattle drives was the subject of an archeological dig. Fragments of history from the past 100 years were discovered.

Along with the physical history surrounding Ike, the verbal stories of “Old Abilene” were passed on to the young boy as well. In his autobiography At Ease, Ike recounts the days of living across the street from Dudley, a onetime town deputy under Wild Bill Hickok. From an early age, Ike was surrounded by a romantic remembrance of the wild days of Texas Street and the cowboys fresh off the trail.

Cowboys who had ridden the Trail as teenagers were now middle-aged and passed their stories of “far horizons, winding rivers, faithful mounts, and thundering stampedes . . . “ on to the younger generations, like Dwight David Eisenhower. Soon, cowboys who rode the Trail would have their stories published. These stories turned into dime store novels that romanticized the cattle drive and the life of the cowboy.

When Ike decided to run for president in 1952, a combination of the pop culture cowboy, Ike’s hometown, and his evenhanded “Middle Path” blended together and produced the unique title “The Man From Abilene.” First used in a campaign ad, the title would continue to be used to describe the President for the next eight years. 
Jul 28

A Day to Remember

Posted on July 28, 2017 at 10:04 AM by Emily Miller

August 6, 1945 is a day that will live on in the memories of millions. It is a day that changed the world forever. It was the day that the United States dropped the atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima, and the day that 90 percent of the city was immediately wiped out, along with 80,000 people, and tens of thousands of others in the days that followed due to radiation exposure. Three days later, another atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, killing another 40,000 people.

People are mixed in their opinions of the United States’ decision to use this new and extremely powerful weapon. While there is no doubt that it played a key role in pushing Japan to surrender — and ending World War II — the sheer destruction it caused is difficult to swallow and even to comprehend for many.

Eisenhower shared his own opinions in 1945 before the bomb was dropped, recalling a conversation with then Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson: “During his recitation of the relevant facts, I had been conscious of a feeling of depression and so I voiced to him my grave misgivings, first on the basis of my belief that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary, and secondly because I thought that our country should avoid shocking world opinion by the use of a weapon whose employment was, I thought, no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives…” Eisenhower would later confirm these opinions in a 1963 interview, stating that “…it wasn’t necessary to hit them with that awful thing.”

Regardless of your opinion, August 6,1945 was a day that would drastically change military and international relations forever. Not only did it set up the foundation for the arms race of the Cold War, which Eisenhower would lead the nation through from 1953-1961, but its effects can still be seen today through the growing nuclear threat in North Korea, as well as conflicts in the Middle East. It is important to reflect on the impact of past events like this one, and to be thankful that the world had great leaders like Eisenhower to lead us through them.

Jul 25

A Step Towards Equality

Posted on July 25, 2017 at 3:43 PM by Emily Miller

When thinking of the fight for racial equality, many people think of the 1960’s, but it was in 1948 that President Harry Truman signed an official order to desegregate the armed forces. Looking back on this today, it’s almost baffling that it took this long for such integration to occur, but nonetheless, it was an important and significant step toward racial equality.

While Truman was signing this order in the White House, Eisenhower was facing pressure from many angles to run for President, an idea Ike was not warm to at the time. In January 1948, after hearing of plans in New Hampshire to elect delegates to support him for the upcoming Republican National Convention, Ike stated that he was “not available for and could not accept nomination to high political office,” and that “lifelong professional soldiers… [should] abstain from seeking high political office.”

It’s rather surprising now that Eisenhower once held such strong views against running for public office only a few short years before entering the Oval Office, but it shows the principled and integrity-driven life he followed. Five years later, in 1953, Eisenhower would be inaugurated as the 34th President of the United States and would lead the country through the critical, early stages of the Cold War, as well as the growing racial tensions that were foreshadowed by President Truman’s official order in 1948. Then, in a 1959 news conference, President Eisenhower would reinforce Truman’s view on segregation when he said, “I believe that the United States as a government…does have the job of working toward that time when there is no discrimination made on such inconsequential reason as race, color, or religion.” He would back this statement up by desegregating Washington, D.C. public schools, and even the White House Easter Egg Roll.