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THE OFFICIAL BLOG OF EISENHOWER NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE
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FORTY FIVE YEARS AGO, IN THE MIDST OF TUMULT, EISENHOWER NHS WAS BORN
1967 was a tumultuous year. American troop presence in Vietnam increased to over 475,000. Anti war protests throughout the U.S. increased as well - 100,000 marched on Washington. Muhammad Ali was stripped of this heavyweight title for refusing induction into the army. In the face of social unrest and an escalating war, LBJ saw his Great Society crumbling around him, yet was reluctant to withdraw from Vietnam for fear of being branded the only president to lose a war. In the Middle East, Israel went to war with Syria, Egypt, and Jordan in the Six Day War. OPEC announced an oil embargo to those countries supporting Israel.
Once again in the summer, race riots broke out in American cities. Seven thousand National Guard were sent into Detroit to restore order. Ironically, the summer was at the same time referred to as The Summer of Love, as teenagers "tuned in and dropped out" by smoking pot, dropping acid, grooving to the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane, paying a pilgrimage to San Francisco, living on a commune, preaching peace and love, and generally rebelling against Establishment values
And it was in November of 1967, that General and Mrs. Eisenhower's farm was quietly donated to the National Park Service and designated a national historic site.
The afternoon of November 27 was sunny but blustery when Secretary of the Interior, Stewart Udall, arrived at the Eisenhowers' farm via helicopter. The General met the Secretary and his party outside and escorted them to the sun porch where Mamie was waiting. She told them that she and Ike had been "observing Quiet Hour," she playing solitaire and watching TV, he painting at his easel.
Secretary Udall had brought with him the deed transferring ownership of the farm to the U.S. government. Ike and Mamie signed it without drama, fanfare, or media presence. It was an emotional moment for both of them. Mamie's eyes welled up with tears as she reminisced about their time together on the farm. The General mentioned that his wife actually had not wanted to sign the deed.
The following day Ike and Mamie were scheduled to head west to California by train. Along the way they planned to stop in Abilene to see the site where they intended to be buried. An LBJ aide who accompanied the Secretary to the farm commented later in a letter that the General looked quite frail and it was clear that Mamie worried they may never return to the farm together.
And they didn't. Ike suffered his third heart attack on April 29, 1968 just before their return from California. He was taken to the hospital at March Air Force Base and a month later transferred to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington. He died there ten months later on March 28, 1969, having never returned to the farm.
The deed originally called for Mamie to stay on the property for six months after the General's death, but when she voiced a preference to continue residing on the farm, a new agreement was reached to grant her lifetime residency. Mamie passed away on November 1, 1979. The farm was opened to the public on June 2, 1980.
Since the site's establishment in 1967, America suffered another six years of war in Vietnam and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, each time ignoring Eisenhower's dictum, "Never use force in international affairs. Never. But if you do, do so overwhelmingly."
Today Eisenhower is looked upon by many as a leader who could adeptly and confidently deal with international crisis. His penchant for patience and diplomacy coupled with his shrewd use of power, his strength of character combined with his modesty and willingness to hear out all sides, are recognized as traits that leaders today would perhaps do well to emulate. Those character traits and that leadership/management style are embodied in his farm. How he used his farm - both as a diplomatic tool and as a showcase for sound conservation practices - still has relevance today in a world fraught with war, terrorism, political turmoil, and the threat of environmental disaster.
Did You Know?
President Eisenhower named Camp David after his grandson. Despite all his renovations to the official presidential retreat, Eisenhower preferred to spend his time 18 miles down the road at his Gettysburg Farm.