The 50s are often remembered as a peaceful carefree time in American history. Elvis gyrated, kids hula-hooped, the economy boomed, suburbs mushroomed, and everybody loved Lucy.
But the decade was also filled with fear and disillusionment. School children ducked and covered and suburbanites dug bomb shelters. McCarthy’s communist witch-hunt destroyed innocent lives and the Soviet launching of Sputnik shattered American self esteem. In Little Rock, white mobs barring nine black children from attending high school irreparably tarnished America’s image as a bastion of freedom.
As 34th president, it was Dwight Eisenhower who steered America through the decade, maintaining a steady course down what he termed “the middle way.” His proven leadership in times of war, his honesty and optimism, bolstered Americans’ waning confidence in a world beleaguered by the threat of communism and teetering on the brink of nuclear destruction. He was a career soldier who, knowing all too well the horrors of war, strived to keep the country at peace. His bald head and steadfast grin was the emblematic image of the era and served as a grandfatherly reassurance that these were the best of times.