A persistent feature of the 2016 Presidential election campaign has been Donald Trump’s steady stream of promises to “make America great again”. The constant repetition of that mantra has motivated me to look back to the time when America was great – and to take another look at how our President was motivating everyone in this country to make such significant strides.
Although television has provided us with constant reminders of President Kennedy’s great oratory skills, that medium has offered us little of what his predecessor, President Dwight Eisenhower offered by way of motivational elocution. After all, the years of the Eisenhower Presidency (1953 – 1961) marked the era when America’s middle class strengthened to the level where young families were buying newly-constructed, air-conditioned homes – as well as shiny, new cars – on a grand scale.
In honor of Ike’s birthday (October 14, 1890) it seems only fitting that we should look back at some of his most noteworthy statements:
Ike gave a speech before the National Association of Newspaper Editors on April 16, 1953. Joseph Stalin had just died on March 5 of that year, and there was heightened pressure for increased military spending, as a result of the burgeoning arms race with Russia. The never-ending debate on whether government expenditures should favor “guns or butter” became the key subject of this speech:
“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron.”
The ever-expanding rift between the Republican Party’s so-called “Freedom Caucus” and the mainstream Republicans has prompted many GOP commentators to quote the wisdom of President Eisenhower, when discussing this subject:
“Extremes to the right and to the left of any political dispute are always wrong.”
Many of the obnoxious political bloviators, who pollute the airwaves with their toxic commentary, would be wise to take heed of this sage advice from Ike:
“Never question another man’s motive. His wisdom, yes, but not his motives.”
President Eisenhower offered us another bit of important advice to keep in mind during an election year:
“Never let yourself be persuaded that any one Great Man, any one leader, is necessary to the salvation of America. When America consists of one leader and 158 million followers, it will no longer be America.”
When you ask most people to recall a quote made by President Eisenhower, the usual response is a reference to his warning about the unrestrained power of the military-industrial complex. Those remarks were included in Ike’s farewell address, which he presented on television, when he left office on January 17, 1961 – three days before his term expired. I suggest watching the entire speech. It lasts only fifteen minutes and it has remained every bit as relevant today as it was in 1961.