‘Great presidents’ inherently ‘possess’ a visionary leadership role; that is they know the direction in which they want to steer the country to, where it came from, and where it currently is. They are leaders with a moral compass in a sense, as they are able to clarify and quantify the ‘needs‘, wants, and ‘anxieties’ of the American citizenry during a particular crisis. It is through these crises that a great president seizes upon opportune moments with bold and decisive action, for better, or for worse.
My favorite President Dwight D. Eisenhower though, missed his defining moments on at least two different occasions. His response to the Supreme Court ruling of Brown v. Board of Education (1954) best illustrate his indecisiveness in uniting a country away from racial segregation. Additionally the United State’s initiated, but deadlocked, nuclear test-ban treaty which was the centerpiece of US/Russia disarmament, was ultimately shattered by Eisenhower’s ill-advised authorization of the disastrous U-2 flight reconnaissance debacle.
Born in Texas on October 14, 1890 Dwight David Eisenhower was raised in Abilene, Kansas where he received most of his formal education. Along with five other brothers, he was reared in a modest single story cottage until he came of age whereupon he entered the United States Military Academy at West Point in upstate New York (1911-1915). While growing up in Abilene he absorbed the “simple and unquestioned values” which were impressed upon him through his community and especially by his parents who inculcated within his moral character “honesty, self-reliance, hard work, ambition, and fear of God”. His parents imparted to him the importance of “getting ahead” which would later prove fruitful and evident in young Ike’s tremendous work ethic. Equally important as a subjective introspection was a fact that in the neighborhood surrounding South East Fourth Street there was not much “racial” or “political diversity” in a town in which most people were “Republican, Christian, and of European descent.” These factors would play a pivotal role in Eisenhower’s ethical and moral reasoning in later years, especially concerning the issue of civil rights.
After World War II, Eisenhower, the wartime ‘Supreme Allied Forces Commander’ and the conqueror of Nazi Germany appeared almost subdued in occupying the position of the Army’s postwar Chief of Staff. During World War II he was our Nation’s single most highest ranking military officer, attaining the rank of a five-star General. In subsequent years, he became President at Columbia University as well. Interestingly, although he consistently led in popularity polls, he appeared uninterested in politics somewhat even reluctant to entertain the prospects of the office of the president. This is somewhat corroborated by the fact that in 1948 Eisenhower reportedly turned down both parties who eagerly wanted him to run on their tickets. However, that flies directly in the face of General George S. Patton’s remarks quoted in 1943 that “Ike wants to be president so badly you can taste it”.
In light of this then it was hardly a surprise that “in a tradition dating back to George Washington, Andrew Jackson, Zachary Taylor, and Ulysses S. Grant” the great ‘Liberator of Europe’ was in fact sought after for the White House nomination. His 1952 platform was what we would now call moderately Republican. He was deftly in opposition to a welfare state which he interpreted as being encouraged by FDR’s ‘New Deal’ reforms (parts I & II), but does nothing to institute his own policies. Essential to...