Legacy Organizations

Dwight D. Eisenhower
Legacy Organizations

The American Assembly

Eisenhower Presidential Library, Museum and Boyhood Home

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The American Assembly

Dwight D. Eisenhower founded The American Assembly, a public policy institute dedicated to illuminating issues of national importance, during his time as president of Columbia University. He envisioned it as an experiment in democratic citizenship — one that would address key challenges facing our country and address issues of national importance through the reconciliation of divergent views and interests. It is the oldest legacy organization created by Eisenhower, and his principal legacy as an educator.

HISTORY AND MISSION

OUR WORK TODAY

HISTORY AND MISSION

In the late 1940’s, only a handful of public policy institutions existed and structured conferences were a new and evolving form of exchange. Deeply concerned about the social, economic, and political quandaries we faced as a country after World War II, Eisenhower sought to create a place and a process that would bring together the nation’s brightest minds to address difficult issues and identify effective solutions.

EISENHOWER: A CIVIC THINKER

Through the establishment of The American Assembly, Eisenhower helped create a rigorous framework that could marshal intellectual power across a range of public and private sectors. Though he is most often remembered as a preeminent military strategist and political leader, Eisenhower’s passionate advocacy to create The American Assembly reveals a broader commitment to key issues of democracy and the important role of educational institutions in protecting the democratic process.

 

He claimed: “The basic values of democracy have been won only through sacrifice, and it is essential to explore, thoroughly, all the facts and factors involved in the problems of democracy.”

EISENHOWER’S ADDRESS AT COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY NATIONAL BICENTENNIAL DINNER, MAY 31, 1954

EISENHOWER'S FAREWELL ADDRESS

During his final public speech as 34th President of the United States, Eisenhower emphasized a theme that would become one of the central tenants of The American Assembly: the need for an engaged and knowledgeable citizenry in a democratic society.

 

He once famously said: "In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwanted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist."

EISENHOWER'S FAREWELL ADDRESS, JANUARY 17, 1961

FROM THE WHITE HOUSE TO ARDEN HOUSE

Eisenhower proposed a plan for “America’s First Conference Center” and imagined bringing together citizens who represented a spectrum of views from business, labor, politics, finance, higher education—among others—to cooperate for the greater good.

 

In 1951, Arden House was given to Columbia University by W. Averell Harriman. At the dedication ceremony, he said, "It is a matter of pride that at the very time when people in some other countries are being jailed or executed for deviating from proscribed ways of thinking, we, in in this country, have established this meeting place where differences of opinion can be explored in complete freedom.”

THROUGH THE DECADES

For more than 60 years, The American Assembly has held over 100 convenings on topics ranging from prison reform to health care to nuclear disarmament, and continues to foster non-partisan public policy discussions through convening, research, and publication.

OUR WORK TODAY

Dwight D. Eisenhower’s deeply held beliefs and a mandate to protect democratic society continue to define the work of The American Assembly today. The tradition of fostering non-partisan, cross-sector public-policy discussion is still very much alive in Assembly work on a host of issues from information policy to financial regulation, and particularly in its Legacy Cities program.

AMERICA'S LEGACY CITIES

Legacy cities are places that have changed dramatically since the mid-20th century. Older, formerly-industrial urban areas primarily in the Midwest and Northeast, legacy cities have experienced significant population loss and are facing the challenges associated with vacant properties and diminished resources.


The American Assembly works to advance public policy discussion around this unique set of fifty cities through the Legacy Cities Partnership project.

LEGACY CITIES AT A GLANCE

ASSETS AND OPPORTUNITIES

Despite real challenges, legacy cities also have numerous assets — from strong cultural fabric to abundant historic architecture — that serve local communities and strengthen them as centers of their metropolitan regions. Many legacy cities are becoming hubs of innovation, as leaders develop new, cross-cutting solutions to the challenges at hand.

THE LEGACY CITIES PARTNERSHIP

The Legacy Cities Partnership aims to reverse the trend of neglect among a class of distressed cities by building the capacity of a growing community of people and organizations working together to revitalize legacy cities. Through traditional and updated methods of Assembly-style gatherings, we promote the exchange of resources, information, policy interventions, tools, and programs among local, state and national leaders.

 

Learn more and stay connected at the Legacy Cities website and blog.

Eisenhower Presidential Library, Museum and Boyhood Home

Today's stately complex of Presidential Library, Museum, Boyhood Home, and Place of Meditation began with the efforts of General "Ike's" Abilene admirers to create a memorial to their hometown hero and the American veterans of World War II. Their work laid the foundation for today's complex, now administered by the Federal government.

NEED TITLE (1944 - 1954)

NEED TITLE (1955 - 1966)

Visiting the Eisenhower Presidential Library, Museum and Boyhood Home

NEED TITLE (1944 - 1954)

As World War II drew to a close, various residents began to discuss a memorial to Abilene's favorite son - Supreme Allied Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower - and the men and women of the US Armed Forces. The Eisenhower Foundation was established, which then acquired Eisenhower's boyhood home and the museum was planned and built.

A Memorial for General Eisenhower

As General Eisenhower earned fame in World War II, his Abilene roots began to attract notice. In 1944, artist Charles Ried wrote to Abilene newspaper editor Charles Harger suggesting the construction of a memorial or "shrine" to the general. Harger began promoting the idea and found that most people wanted to include space for items from veterans and the General himself. When Ike returned for a victory parade in 1945, he agreed to the plan and the Eisenhower Foundation was established the same day. The organization sought to erect a war memorial in Abilene to recognize General Eisenhower and honor the American soldiers of World War II.
“The proudest thing I can claim is that I am from Abilene.”

Homecoming Speech, Abilene, Kansas, 22 June 1945

Address by General Dwight D. Eisenhower at the homecoming ceremony in Abilene, Kansas on June 22, 1945

Establishment of the Eisenhower Foundation

Founded on July 22, 1945, the Eisenhower Foundation began to plan for a memorial and museum. Despite the laudable goal, the nationwide fundraising campaign stumbled when an overzealous promoter boasted that he would pressure potential donors. Eisenhower denounced the idea, and on September 4, 1946, ordered the Foundation to quit raising money in his name. The “crisis,” as the historian of the Eisenhower Foundation described it, nearly killed the organization before it could begin its work. Only the death of the General’s mother shortly afterward, and the need to do something with the now-empty Eisenhower family home, saved the Foundation.

Acquiring Ike's Boyhood Home

The death of General Eisenhower's mother, Ida, in 1946, left the family home empty. The Eisenhower brothers and the Foundation reached an agreement: the foundation would restrict its fundraising campaign to Kansas, and in return it could have the family home. They shook hands over the “gentlemen’s agreement,” and the deed was signed over on December 2, 1946. As the Eisenhower home was opened to the public on June 22, 1947, seven radio stations broadcast the event. More than 500 Kansans toured the home that day; millions have followed them over the last seventy years.The Eisenhower Boyhood Home is the cornerstone of the twenty-two acre site.

Planning and Building the Museum

Eisenhower laid the cornerstone of the museum building when he came to Abilene to announce his presidential candidacy in June, 1952. Construction of the museum took two-and-a half years. Eisenhower returned as president to open the Museum on November 11, 1954, the first official Veterans Day. The building was later expanded, and now has 30,000 square feet of gallery space featuring permanent and temporary exhibits.

Remarks of President Eisenhower at the dedication of the Eisenhower Museum in Abilene, Kansas, 11 November 1954

NEED TITLE (1955 - 1966)

After the opening of the Museum, President Eisenhower decided to give his papers to the Eisenhower Foundation if a suitable library could be built. A state commission was formed to raise money for the construction. Upon completion of the Library in 1966, the campus was given to the National Archives. That same year, the first researchers arrived.

Genesis of the Eisenhower Presidential Library

Soon after the opening of the Museum, Eisenhower decided that he would donate his papers to the Eisenhower Foundation if a suitable building could be built in Abilene.The State of Kansas formed an Eisenhower Presidential Library Commission to raise money for the building. The Library Commission remained in business until 1966 in order to construct the Place of Meditation, a chapel which would become the final resting place of Dwight and Mamie Eisenhower.

Remarks by President Eisenhower at the groundbreaking for the Eisenhower Library, Abilene, Kansas, 13 October 1959

Library Dedication

Eisenhower returned to Abilene to break ground for the Library on October 13, 1959. He formally dedicated the building on May 1, 1962, in a ceremony attended by Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson.
“"When this library is filled with documents, and scholars come here to probe into some of the facts of the past half century, I hope that they, as we today, are concerned primarily with the ideals, principles, and trends that provide guides to a free, rich, peaceful future in which all peoples can achieve ever-rising levels of human well-being."”

President Dwight D. Eisenhower's Speech at the Ground Breaking Ceremonies for the Library, 13 October 1959

Becoming Part of the National Archives

In 1966, the completed Library was donated to the United States and became part of the National Archives system. It is a Federal facility built by private funds that is now owned and operated by the Federal government. The Eisenhower Presidential Library collects and preserves archival materials and makes them available to visitors and researchers. Annually, the site receives visitors from every state in the union and dozens of foreign countries. Around 13,000 researchers have visited the Library to date.

Eisenhower's Burial in the Place of Meditation

Dwight D. Eisenhower died on March 28, 1969, at Walter Reed Army Hospital. After a solemn funeral in Washington, D.C., his body was brought to Abilene by train for burial in the Place of Meditation on April 2, 1969. A crowd of national dignitaries and locals gathered together to witness the interment ceremony. Several years earlier, the body of Dwight and Mamie's first-born son, Doud Dwight, had been interred there. After Mamie's death in 1979, she was buried alongside her husband.

Visiting the Eisenhower Presidential Library, Museum and Boyhood Home

A multi-faceted experience awaits visitors. Experience the history of World War II and the 1950s at the Museum, stroll the manicured grounds of the 22-acre campus, shop at the Visitor Center, delve into historical records at the Library, and reflect on the Eisenhower legacy at the Place of Meditation.

Research and Access

Researchers from around the world visit the Library to delve into its original holdings. More than 26 million manuscript pages, 350,000 photographs, supplemented by audio recordings and film footage, are kept here. Records spanning Dwight D. Eisenhower’s life form the core, including iconic treasures such as Eisenhower’s never-delivered “In Case of Failure” message and the reading copy of his famous Farewell Address warning of the “military-industrial complex.” Over 500 collections donated by his associates and over 500 oral histories add breadth and depth. Some items have been placed online, but most exist only in their original format.

Permanent and Temporary Exhibits

Various indoor and outdoor attractions beckon visitors. The Museum's permanent galleries explore Dwight D. Eisenhower's careers as a military officer and as president through a wealth of artifacts and displays that bring World War II and the 1950s to life. The table at which the Normandy invasion was planned, Mamie Eisenhower's wedding dress, Eisenhower's World War II staff car, and many other extraordinary items await visitors. On the grounds, Robert L. Dean's imposing bronze scupture of Dwight D. Eisenhower and a series of majestic pylons add grandeur to the walking paths around the attractive 22-acre campus.

Public Programs and Education

Whether your interest lies in lectures, book talks, civic discussion forums, concerts, or classic movies, you are likely to find an event that interests you. Many activities are available for students, including learning experiences centered on museum exploration and research in archival records.

Step Back in Time in Ike's Boyhood Home

In 1898, seven-year old Dwight Eisenhower moved into a two-story clapboard house with his parents and brothers. He grew up there, sharing a bedroom and learning to cook in the small kitchen, until he left for West Point in 1915. Dwight's parents, David and Ida, continued to live in the home until their deaths. By agreement, the home has been preserved as it was upon the death of Ida in 1946. Visitors may tour the home with knowledgeable guides, seeing artifacts such the radio on which Ida listened to war news, and rugs woven by Dwight's grandfather.

Shop and Learn at the Visitor Center

Purchase museum tickets, learn about coming events, and find locally-themed and vintage style souvenirs, gifts, and a selection of books on World War II, Eisenhower, the presidency, and other topics in the Visitor Center. An informational film on Eisenhower's life is shown on a daily schedule.

The Place of Meditation: Final Resting Place of the Eisenhowers

Dwight D. and Mamie Eisenhower are buried in the chapel-like Place of Meditation, along with their first-born son, Doud Dwight, who was re-interred there in 1966. The travertine marble walls and walnut woodwork echo the design of the Library building. As Eisenhower's wished, he was buried in an $80 government issue casket. Visitors are encouraged to take time to reflect, as Eisenhower hoped, on the ideals upon which the nation was founded.