How to Use
Reading 2: Khrushchev Visits Eisenhower's Farm, September 26, 1959.
Excerpt from Eisenhower National Historic Site oral history interview with John S. D. Eisenhower, Eisenhower's son, January 26, 1984, on the porch in the Eisenhower home, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
When my father was president, he developed the habit of bringing visiting world leaders to the farm. Such informality, he reasoned, would make them feel at home. Visiting dignitaries soon got the word of such favored treatment, so everybody had to be brought to the farm, so they would receive what everybody else had! In September 1959, the White House laid it on for Khrushchev to come to Camp David, though we later learned that he was suspicious at first about Camp David what kind of a place it was. The Russians were always afraid for their lives when they came over here. However, when Khrushchev found out what a nice place Camp David was, he was delighted.
Excerpt from Eisenhower National Historic Site oral history interview with Bob Hartley, Eisenhower's herdsman, June 18, 1981.
Khrushchev was here, too. He knew more about agriculture than any of them [other world leaders]. Although, I talked to him, he talked to me more than any of the rest of them but through an interpreter. He really was interested and he asked a lot of questions.
Excerpt from Eisenhower National Historic Site oral history interview with Barbara Eisenhower, Eisenhower's daughter-in-law, August 20, 1983.
I remember when he brought Khrushchev up. Khrushchev was so impressed with individual dwellings, especially as they left the Washington area. He was so impressed with the fact that there were so many individual homes instead of all apartments, like it is in Moscow. He didn't think it was good particularly. He thought we were wasting space. He thought it was improvident more than anything else....[Khrushchev] was here on the farm, and I remember I brought the children over. He gave them each a little red star to put in the buttonhole of their lapel, and I remember after we got back in the car and drove home, I made them give me the stars and I threw them out the window. The reason I did was because they were communist insignia....I just didn't want them wearing souvenirs of his visit....He liked the children very much, and he was very grandfatherly, which is strange. You know, you don't think of him that way. He wanted them to come to Moscow. We were going to make a State visit there and John and I were going to go, and he wanted the children to come. He really pestered my father-in-law about it. He sent his ambassador over almost every week to the White House to try and talk Ike into bringing them.
Excerpt from Eisenhower National Historic Site oral history interview with General Andrew Goodpaster, White House staff secretary, November 7, 1983.
My recollection is that we had all of our activity [with the Berlin Crisis] down in Washington until Khrushchev came to visit at Camp David....I was at Camp David, the official part of it. I think [Eisenhower took world leaders like Khrushchev to the farm] so that he would have an opportunity to talk in circumstances that would encourage a little more freedom of discussion. It would not be so heavily official and it would be his opportunity to get more of what he called "the other man's equation," and also to convey, in a more constructive and positive setting, his own views.
1. Why do you think Eisenhower brought Khrushchev to his farm and home?
2. If you were Khrushchev, how do you think you would have reacted to Eisenhower's hospitality? Why?
3. How did Khrushchev's reaction to American housing patterns reflect his cultural and economic values? Have American attitudes changed toward land use since Khrushchev's visit?
4. How did Barbara Eisenhower's reaction to Khrushchev's visit reflect America's attitude toward communism in the 1950s? Did America's attitude change over the next 30 years?
5. List the advantages and disadvantages of using oral history to learn about recent events. Do you think historians would need to corroborate oral history accounts with other documentation? Why or why not?
From the Eisenhower National Historic Site archives.