I wanted to know Eisenhower better. Stephen Ambrose admires his subject. He begins, “Dwight Eisenhower was a great and a good man. He was one of the outstanding leaders of the Western World in this century.” This is the first volume of a two-volume biography of Eisenhower. Anyone interested in leadership would benefit from reading Ike’s story.
Everyone brings a personal “grid” to their reading. I was very interested in Eisenhower’s religious background. Much has been made of the fact that one of the world’s greatest generals was raised in a pacifist home. David and Ida Eisenhower were devout members of Brethren in Christ. David’s nighttime reading was the Bible in Greek; Ida memorized 1325 Bible verses. And yet…
Two traits, ever helpful in his life, were manifest in young Ike’s life: intense curiosity and a remarkable ability to concentrate. As an adult he had another remarkable ability: to shake a depression. Ambrose writes about his vitality:
As a general, Ike comprehended the sacrifice that both the soldiers and their families made.
He was the man who had to total up all the casualties. 293
…only Eisenhower had such a keen sense of family, of the way in which each casualty meant a grieving family back home. Eisenhower’s concern was of such depth and so genuine that it never left him. 293
It wasn’t until he was in his fifties, that Eisenhower received acclaim and notoriety, primarily as the Supreme Commander of Operation Overlord. Eisenhower was also the NATO commander, president of Columbia University and president of the United States. This volume ends with Eisenhower as President-Elect of the United States.
I found Ambrose’s book engaging and helpful. At no time did my interest lag. I was inspired by Eisenhower’s discipline, organizational skills and perception.
A fun coda: I have a habit of immersing myself in books on (relatively) obscure topics. I find myself wanting to discuss the ideas and events I have read about, but coming up short on conversation partners. Honestly, what would dampen a dinner party faster than, “I know, let’s talk about Truman and Eisenhower!”? I discovered recently that among my acquaintances are a couple who were friends with Ike and Mamie Eisenhower during their retirement years in Gettysburg. They were full of stories about the Eisenhowers. I lent them this book; Ray read it through in three days. I’m looking forward to some great discussions. An unexpected gift!