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Public Papers - 1990 - March

Remarks at a Luncheon Commemorating the Dwight D. Eisenhower Centennial


Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the White House. Senator Dole, Speaker Foley, Commission and Foundation members, family of beloved Ike, and the distinguished foreign dignitaries that are here, Ambassadors, honored guests, I know that many of you have just come from this joint session of Congress. Let me just say welcome to the House that Ike and Mamie graced. Barbara said, You've got your nerve speaking after Walter Cronkite; Jim Robinson; Clark Clifford; Arnold Palmer; John Eisenhower, who I hear paid a magnificent tribute to his dad; and Winston Churchill -- say nothing of distinguished Members of Congress. Well, somebody has to do the heavy lifting around here. [Laughter]

You know, every President admires other Presidents. Harry Truman was fond of Andrew Jackson. Gerald Ford studied Abraham Lincoln. And so, today I say it loudly and very proudly: I have always liked Ike. This year marks the centennial anniversary of Dwight Eisenhower's birth, a date your two groups have already done much to commemorate. And as we gather here, America still likes Ike. We like him because he was a man of character; good will was at the core. He was a healer, not a hater. And he had a deep faith in God, and he believed America to be divinely blessed.

Who will ever forget the last words he spoke on Earth: ``I have always loved my wife. I have always loved my children. I have always loved my grandchildren. I have always loved my country.'' Second, America likes Ike because he liked us. He was one of us. We trusted him to act on behalf of us. In fact -- fracturing syntax -- he even spoke like us. [Laughter] Come to think of it, now I know why he's among my favorite Presidents. [Laughter]

But Ike once said, ``I come from the heart of America.'' And so he did, enjoying what he called the great and priceless privilege of growing up in a small town. From smalltown America, he learned values and ideals -- what we term its culture. And he played football at the Point -- followed it avidly -- loved to read, loved TV westerns. Among his favorite groups was Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians. And a few feet from here is where Ike had his famous putting green. He made golf, as I'm sure Arnold will attest to, a nationally popular sport.

And here's another reason America still likes Ike. He was intensely knowledgeable on becoming President, already a giant in foreign affairs. Of Ike it was said that he preserved civilization. Most Presidents try to save the world after they get elected. Well, he got started a little early. Few men were tested more severely. Think of it: 3 long years from the deserts of North Africa to the beaches of Normandy -- 3 long years, the fate of millions of brave fighting men in his hands.

And last December, off the coast of Malta, I spoke to the men of the U.S.S. Forrestal, where I recalled how, on D-day, Ike addressed the sailors, the soldiers, and airmen of the expeditionary force: ``You are about to embark,'' he told them, ``upon a great crusade. The eyes of the world are upon you.'' Ike was steadfast; he was courageous. As Supreme Commander, he met the supreme test. He helped bring peace to every corner of the world.

And finally, he was decisive, acting on instincts that were invariably wise. You know, some critics can't figure out how Eisenhower was so successful as a President without that vision thing. Well, his vision -- [laughter] -- his vision was etched on a plaque, sitting on his desk, that many of you around here remember because you were there: ``Gently in manner, strong in deed.'' And he used that vision not to demagog but deliver.

Listen to Ike's record of Presidential hits: 8 years of peace and prosperity, 8 years of domestic unity unparalleled in our history. He was a role model, everyone's second father. With Ike as President, father did indeed know best. And of course, he was inspired by one of the most gracious of all First Ladies, Mamie Doud Eisenhower, his wife of 52 years.

What a marvelous legacy Dwight Eisenhower left to all Americans, and how we treasure what he was and what he did. He embodied the very decade that he was President and remains the living symbol of freedom, at home and abroad. Ask anyone who shares the love of liberty: They, too, still like Ike.

In life, he enriched us all, and now it's up to us to tell his story and so enrich our kids. And that's what your Commission and your Foundation are doing, and I thank you for it and pledge my help. And God bless this land that Ike so deeply loved.

Thank you all for coming to the White House.

Note: The President spoke at 12:37 p.m. in the State Dining Room at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to CBS News journalist Walter Cronkite; James D. Robinson III, chairman and chief executive officer of the American Express Co., Vice Chairman of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Centennial Commission, and chairman of the Eisenhower Centennial Foundation; Clark M. Clifford, who served in various capacities in the Truman, Kennedy, and Johnson administrations; golf professional Arnold Palmer; John Sheldon Doud Eisenhower, son of President Eisenhower; and British Member of Parliament Winston S. Churchill, grandson of Prime Minister Churchill.

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