Happy Birthday, Ike!

By Jackie Beckwith ’16

How would you celebrate your 123rd birthday? Maybe with fireworks or a huge party with friends and family and of course lots of presents? Well, today happens to be the late but incredibly great President Dwight David Eisenhower’s 123rd birthday so we’d like to tell you a bit about his life as well as share a couple facts we bet you didn’t know about the 34th president of the United States!

One of seven kids, Ike made it to West Point and in spite of all his exploits, he graduated at the top of his class. All the while, of course, he was busy building connections and networking with others along the way, knowing then that he would spend his life serving his country.

That service included holding down the fort on the home front during World War I and playing a major role in World War II – President Roosevelt appointed Eisenhower to the post of Supreme Allied Commander and he oversaw the successful Normandy invasion known forever as “D-Day.” Not surprisingly he emerged from the war a national hero, was begged to run for president by both parties, and eventually capitulated and won on the Republican ticket in the 1952 election. Eisenhower was reelected to a second term and during those eight years he led the country to new heights in the post-war era.

After his presidency, Ike and his beloved wife Mamie, who he fell in love with at first sight after his West Point days, retired to their farm in Gettysburg and lived the retired life to the fullest; indulging in countless games of golf, oil painting, and hosting dinner parties. But, Eisenhower was called upon by Presidents Nixon and Kennedy and they and the visited the Eisenhower estate frequently.

The nation mourned the day when Ike passed away; March 28th will be forever etched in our memory. A memorial service was conducted in the National Cathedral soon after but Ike had wanted to be buried next to his first son who had passed away at age three, and rests in his hometown of Abilene, Kansas  to this day.

Quick facts about the man whose name embodies the American essence:

  • Ike’s parent’s were Jehovah’s witnesses and extreme pacifists, making his choice to enter a military academy that much more surprising.
  • While at West Point, he failed to make the soccer team which he later cited as one of his greatest disappointments, but while on the football team he played against the future Hall of Famer and Olympian Jim Thorpe.
  • He was a man who knew what he wanted; as soon as he laid eyes on Mamie Geneva Doud, Ike knew she was the woman he would marry.
  • Eisenhower led the charge in organizing the Nuremburg trials and was responsible for much of the justice that was rendered.
  • He is one of only five men in the history of the United States military to have been awarded the fifth general’s star.
  • After returning home from WWII, Ike served as the president of Columbia University as well as commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
  • Eisenhower was the first president in the 20th century to have won the presidential office without ever having held a previous political position.
  • Ike was not one to twiddle his thumbs while in office; a few things he was responsible for included ending the New Deal Coalition, deposing the leader of Iran, formulating the “domino” theory, creating the International Highway System, launching the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA), and establishing the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
  • He was an avid golf player and even had a putting green installed in the White House for when he just needed to hit something!
  • Camp David was named in honor of his grandson, David Eisenhower.

This great man will live on in our memories’ forever, and what he did for our country can never fully be repaid. After all, he was the only president in the 20th century to be bald, and how can we knock that? Happy Birthday, Mr. President, from all your admirers of the year 2013 – hope we’ve made you proud!