His presidential library, located in Abilene, is in the midst of its 50th year. Researchers have came here in droves over the years to find out what drove the nation’s 34th president, an iconic figure who chose his hometown to be the base of his lasting legacy. When he left office Ike was ranked 28th out of 34 presidents. Mostly that was because decisions he made were based on his upbringing and military career – ask the right questions, consider the options and consequences and be decisive.
Eisenhower did not use polls or focus groups to make decisions. The result was for many years after his presidency historians and scholars did not have a base to gauge the results.
This is where the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum come into the fold. Over the past 30 years a renaissance has occurred about the 34th president and as historians and scholars mined a rich library that proved to be a gold mine in how Ike operated as the commander-in-chief in 1953-61, it revealed a leader who understood the need for austerity, true civil rights and peace.
The good that has come from all of that research has been the profound respect that Ike continues to resonate in the political world. More and more politicians, from modern-era presidents to presidential contenders, often invoke the name Eisenhower as a way to say that he is the role model to emulate.
The Eisenhower library staff, led by former full-time directors John Wickman and Dan Holt to current director Karl Weissenbach, have all helped the world, the nation, the state and the community become better aware of Kansas’ favorite son. The library is operated under the National Archives and Records Adminstration, a federal institution, and that agency through the leadership of its national archivist, continues to be a star. After all, there are only 13 presidential libraries but the National Archives plays an important role on many historic fronts.
The Eisenhower Presidential Library has also received a boost over the years from the Eisenhower Foundation and most of all it has received its support from each citizen and international traveler who wants to learn more about an important age in our nation’s history through the eyes of the one of the most influential figures in the 20th century.
We’re glad the library is here because Abilene was home to Ike. What a gift. – Dave Bergmeier