Exploring the Dwight Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum

Exploring the Dwight Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum

Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum

Posted July 11, 2024

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I was way too young to vote when I saw my first “I Like Ike” button. It seemed almost everyone liked former President Dwight Eisenhower. He led the allied armies, planned the Normandy Invasion, and promised to lead the country through the tricky years of the Cold War with Russia. He won the 1952 presidency by a margin of 54.9% and won his second term in 1956 by 57.4%. Throughout US history only nine presidents boast a larger percentage of popular votes.

Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum

Eisenhower Presidential Library

The Place of Meditation

Entering the Dwight Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum through the Visitors Center and Gift Shop, my tour began at the Place of Meditation.  Designed as a place for veterans to meditate, this section also serves as the final resting place for Eisenhower and his beloved wife, Mamie along with their first-born son, Doug Dwight Eisenhower who died as a young child.

The colorful windows, marble walls, walnut woodwork, and embroidered hanging evoke a feeling of reverence. Eisenhower’s hope was for visitors to reflect on the ideals that made this nation great and pledge their continued loyalty to those ideals in the meditation portion of the building.

The Library

Entering the library, the first thing you see is a sign asking, “Where are the books?” Unlike a public library, this is a research center, open to all who want to learn about Ike. Papers and archives are kept behind the marble walls and available for research. These precious one-of-a-kind papers must be handled with care to preserve them for future generations.

Highlights of the library include a chandelier – a gift from the people of Czechoslovakia in honor of his help in the war. The room also contains flags of all the NATO nations along with a life-sized statue of Eisenhower facing a group of soldiers before Normandy.

NATO flags in Library

NATO flags in Library

The Museum Shares Ike’s Story

Dedicated on the first Veteran’s Day, the museum started as a place of WWII exhibits and remembrance. It began as a lobby with one gallery. After Eisenhower’s death, the foundation enlarged the building.

Today, the museum provides an immense tribute to both Ike and Mamie. The story begins with his childhood. There is a picture of his parents with Ike and his five brothers. Another shows Ike as an adolescent wearing scruffy overalls with a scrub brush and bucket at work.

Additional exhibits focus on the time he spent at West Point, beginning June 14, 1911, learning the things that would make him the most valuable man in the army later.

The exhibits tell how he met Mamie Geneva Doud in Denver, Colorado, and was smitten. They married on July 1, 1916. The museum shows how they were true partners.

A Look into the History of WWII

The history of WWII features exhibits showing how Ike was called to Washington, then London, and soon found himself in command of the Allied Forces. One exhibit that I found very powerful was an animated circular globe showing the entire world and the activities of the war.

Another priceless exhibit is the “D-Day Table” and 10 Chippendale chairs, the 18th century Sheraton Period table used by General Eisenhower and staff when planning the Normandy Invasion.

Eisenhower’s willingness to accept responsibility is evident throughout the exhibits. When he made the final decision to go with D-Day, some of his advisors advised him against it due to possible weather issues. He balanced that against the risk of top-secret plans leaking by waiting and decided to go forward. The night before, he wrote a letter accepting responsibility for the decision to launch the invasion and full blame should the effort to create a beachhead on the Normandy coast fail.

A separate room contains exhibits on the Cold War including a large map of the world illustrating the havoc a nuclear attack would cause. Ironically, the cities shown on the map are Moscow, Washington, DC, and Abilene.

During his two terms as President, he strongly promoted peace. He stated, “The only way to win the next world war is to prevent it.”

Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum

Ike’s Staff Car

Eisenhower’s Boyhood Home

In his Homecoming Speech in Abilene, Kansas on June 22, 1945, then General Eisenhower stated, “The proudest thing I can claim is that I am from Abilene.”

Although born in Texas, his family returned to Abilene when he was just two and moved into this home when he was about eight. The home remains in its original location. Eisenhower deeded it to the Eisenhower Foundation in 1946 after his mother passed away.

The home is a simple working-class home. There’s a piano his mother, Ida, played and taught the boys, a bible under a glass case, the boys’ three bedrooms upstairs, and the parent’s bedroom downstairs. There were seven boys, but one died in infancy. The bookstands are filled with books where young Ike began his love of history.

Guided tours of the home are offered Tuesday through Sunday. Tours are limited to 10 guests per time slot.

Ike Statue and Veterans Memorial

In the center of the complex, a larger-than-life statue of General Eisenhower stands with his hands on hips as if to say, “I can handle anything.”

An imposing monument to the veterans of WWII stands on a grassy knoll directly behind Ike’s statue.

Veterans Memorial at Eisenhower Presidential Library

Veterans Memorial

Ike’s Legacy

The foundation is working on an Ike Education Facility, a 17-million-dollar project to include a replica of his oval office and help carry on Ike’s legacy. Perhaps his hope for his beloved country can be found in this statement from his 1953 inaugural address; “A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both.”

His Farewell Address in 1961 warned the nation “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”

Click here for discounted accommodations in Abilene, Kansas

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