The Eisenhower Years: Themes During the 1950s
Issues that Framed President Eisenhower's Years
Eisenhower was a political and systematic thinker who stood out for his diligence and effectiveness in managing its key objectives. He was a renowned leader during Word War I led a tank training center. In 1941 when the United States entered World War II, Eisenhower was appointed to its strategic division. The rapid advancement in his military career was due to his vast knowledge of military strategy and organization. Additionally, he was defined by his ability to mediate, persuade, and get along with individuals from different backgrounds. During the campaign period, the slogan "I like Ike" was the most popular in American History. He retired from the army after 37 years of active service to campaign for the presidency. Eisenhower served as the United States President for two terms from 1953-1961.
President Eisenhower was renowned as a war hero during World War II when he led the Allied units in Europe to victory. Throughout his campaign, he had a winning strategy that entailed addressing the Korean War, communism, and corruption. As a prestigious commanding general, he focused primarily on keeping the peace. According to Raatma (2003), the Americans had gone through tough economic and political times before Eisenhower was elected President. During his presidency, he reinforced Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal and Harry Truman's Fair Deal projects. President Dwight D. Eisenhower inspired confidence with his heroic image and honest conversations. Hence, an evaluation of the themes that defined his presidency will be integral.
Themes that defined President Eisenhower's Presidency
During his campaign, President Eisenhower pledged to visit Korea and explore the probabilities of ending the Korean War. In this regard, once he assumed office, he signed an armistice treaty to stop the Korean War. Moreover, Eisenhower sent the combat troops into Lebanon in 1958, which was the last time the President sent armed forces during his tenure. According to Pach (2017), he also sanctioned the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to overthrow governments in Guatemala and Iran while providing weapons for Yugoslavia's communist government. In 1954 the President decided against conducting an airstrike to rescue the French troops, thus avoiding the war in Indochina. However, his support for the anti-communist government in South Vietnam would influence the United States' involvement in the Vietnam War.
Additionally, as a peace advocate, the President focused on improving the Cold War interactions with the Soviet Union. In 1955 during President Eisenhower met with Russian, French and British leaders in Geneva, where he proposed the "open skies" initiative. Due to the increasing threat of Soviet nuclear weapons technology, President Eisenhower and Secretary of State John Foster Dulles managed to strengthen NATO and created the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization to mitigate communist expansion in the region (Pifer, 2011). In 1957, the Atoms for Peace speech was successful since sixty-two nations formed the International Atomic Energy Agency. Hence, based on his objectives and strategies, foreign policy was considered a central theme during his presidency.
During his tenure, the President focused on the continuation of the Fair Deal and New Deal programs as he emphasized on a balanced budget. For instance, he ordered the Armed Forces' desegregation in a statement that highlighted that "there must be no second class citizens in the country." Eisenhower used his resources to manage the economy and determine how much would be spent to address different needs. The United States was known as "the land of the free," yet they still had laws that divided the nation. In this regard, President Eisenhower used his presidential term to focus on the improvement of American highways.
As an individual who participated in public relations and saw the German highway system's effectiveness, he used the resources at his disposal to initiate the Interstate Highway System. The highway project created a 41,000-mile road structure that was integral for the economy and made long-distance travel safe and fast. The 1956 Federal-Aid Highway Act was signed. President Eisenhower's administration enforced the Social Security program, increased the minimum wage, and created the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare.
President Eisenhower's administration believed in equality regardless of gender, color, or nationality. According to Nichols (2007), he ordered soldiers into Little Rock, Arkansas, to ensure compliance of the federal court's order to eliminate school segregation. The Little Rock action play was the beginning of President Eisenhower's focus on civil rights initiatives. During his presidency, he signed the Civil Rights Act of 1957, which was the first civil rights policy passed by Congress in the 19th century (Pach, 2017). Further, he elected a Commission on Civil Rights to ensure the citizens are allowed to exercise their right to vote. Penalties were also introduced to individuals who destroyed voter registration records or tried blocking people from their right to vote. The programs that began under President Truman to integrate the Armed Forces were completed in President Eisenhower's administration.
In conclusion, President Eisenhower was identified as an activist president based on his beliefs and actions to ensure equality and justice in the United States. As a renowned military commander, his quest for peace was evident throughout his presidency. In this regard, the themes of foreign policy, domestic affairs, and civil rights initiatives stood out during his tenure. President Eisenhower's focus on development, equality, and justice allowed the United States to reaffirm its position as a developed nation.
Nichols, D. A. (2007). A matter of justice: Eisenhower and the beginning of the civil rights revolution. Simon and Schuster.
Pach, C. J. (Ed.). (2017). A Companion to Dwight D. Eisenhower. John Wiley & Sons.
Pifer, S. (2011). NATO, nuclear weapons and arms control. Brookings Institution.
Raatma, L. (2003). Dwight D. Eisenhower. Minneapolis, MN: Compass Point Books.