A Final Salute to General Eisenhower
This week marks 47 years since the passing of one of the greatest Americans — Dwight “Ike” D. Eisenhower. A man revered for his love of family and country, the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe during World War II achieved throughout his life the highest of honors and stature while gaining the unconditional trust of all Americans and free people around the world.
At the 34th President’s funeral, President Nixon, Vice President to Eisenhower from 1953 to 1961, delivered a eulogy both enthralling in his remembrance of the General’s moral authority, and compassionate in his appreciation of his unerring capacity to love and not hate. These were the qualities that Nixon had grown to know, both as his running mate and as his friend.
A relationship built from RN’s young Congressional career in the Senate to the day he ascended to the presidency, it personified uniqueness in every sense of the word. Senator Nixon was a loyal and hard-nosed man of lawyer logic, still fresh from the highs of the Alger Hiss case–a man who General Eisenhower believed necessary and capable of overseeing the political activity within the administration.
General Eisenhower was a monument of men, with a charisma and personal savvy that attracted the hearts of all to him. The dangers of the communist challenge and a glaring divide within the Republican Party at the time compelled General Eisenhower to pick Senator Nixon as his running mate. It was a bold selection, one that certainly molded RN into the leader he became. Their relationship lasted and evolved for nearly twenty years, culminating in a more personal connection made possible by the marriage of General Eisenhower’s grandson David and RN’s daughter Julie.
In preparing for General Eisenhower’s eulogy, President Nixon communicated a goal he wanted to achieve with his speech writers. He wanted to celebrate not only the great achievements of Eisenhower, but also his strength of character. RN’s chief speech writer, Ray Price, ruminated on the nature of the eulogy in a memo that can be seen below:
“This, then, is a final salute: to a friend and former chief; to a man of genuine greatness who presented an age now passing, which yet had values we want to preserve. In the best of military tradition, salutes are rendered with a respect which assumes reciprocity; with dignity; with an inherent recognition that the one saluting and the one being saluted both are servants of the same great cause.”
And it is certain that is what President Nixon wanted to convey in General Eisenhower’s remembrance. The President’s thoughts on how to honor the late commander in chief can be further explored in a copy of his yellow-pad notes:
“I had an unusual privilege- -as Senator – selected as V.P. -as V.P. – great decision (?) – had his support for President -as one who knew him – our families joined – In all the years – I never called him Ike – -a personal dignity – commanded respect – No one targeted him The grin – the warm personality – “
General Eisenhower, Nixon said, personified the best in America. He was everything a mother of a boy would want: strong, courageous, honest, and compassionate. He was a man of immovable moral authority; President Nixon recalled what General Eisenhower said to him at the Walter Reed Army Hospital in the last time the two saw one another: he said that the thing the world needs most today is understanding, an ability to see the other person’s point of view and not to hate him because he disagrees. That was Dwight D. Eisenhower and those were the words Richard Nixon conveyed in his first inaugural address and subsequently throughout his presidency:
“In these difficult years, America has suffered from a fever of words; from inflated rhetoric that promises more than it can deliver; from angry rhetoric that fans discontents into hatreds; from bombastic rhetoric that postures instead of persuading.”
We cannot learn from one another until we stop shouting at one another–until we speak quietly enough so that our words can be heard as well as our voices.”
The great Eisenhower’s time had passed, yet in passing he stood tall and proud in all the hearts of Americans, especially so in the heart of the 37th president.