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.
In the late 1940s, 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.
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.”
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 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.”
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
The Eisenhower Institute at Gettysburg College promotes the undergraduate study, analysis, and understanding of critical public and global issues and develops engaged citizens guided by President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s example of principled leadership.
Gettysburg College is a highly selective national four-year residential college of liberal arts and sciences.
Gettysburg College has long been associated with the life and legacy of Dwight D. Eisenhower. A half-century after the Civil War, Eisenhower took command of a tank training camp on the Gettysburg Battlefield. The College provided housing for the young officer and his wife, Mamie, at the home of Alpha Upsilon, the Gettysburg Chapter of the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity, where the Eisenhower Institute office is located today.
The Institute has offices on both the historic Gettysburg campus, in what was once the home of Dwight and Mamie Eisenhower, and in the heart of the nation’s capital, just blocks from the White House. This unique historical relationship and legacy of the Eisenhower Institute, combined with the premier education offered by one of the top liberal arts colleges in the United States, provides undergraduates with unparalleled opportunities for learning. Learn more.
Gettysburg is a significant historical location, serving as the site of the most important battle—the Battle of Gettysburg—in the American Civil War.
During World War I, as a captain in the U.S. Army, Eisenhower and his wife, Mamie, lived in Gettysburg while he was stationed at Camp Colt, MD. And in 1950 the Eisenhowers returned to make Gettysburg their permanent home.
Gettysburg College was originally founded in 1832 by anti-slavery theologian Samuel Simon Schmucker. When the Civil War erupted, the College stood in its midst. Elements of two great armies swept through campus on July 1, 1863, the first day of the decisive Battle of Gettysburg. Pennsylvania Hall, the College's first building, served during and after the Civil War battle as a hospital for the wounded, treating more than 700 Union and Confederate soldiers.
On November 19, 1863, Gettysburg College students walked from Pennsylvania Hall into the historic town to hear President Abraham Lincoln deliver his legendary Gettysburg Address. Today, the annual First-Year Walk honors this important moment in history.
Learn more about Gettysburg College.
The Eisenhower World Affairs Institute was founded in 1983 by colleagues and confidants of President Eisenhower. Susan Eisenhower, the granddaughter of the late President, was a founding director and later the first president of the Institute. In 1991, she founded the Center for Political and Strategic Studies (CPSS), which merged with the Eisenhower World Affairs Institute in 2000 to create the Eisenhower Institute. In 2007, a new leadership team was appointed to integrate the Institute with Gettysburg College.
The Eisenhower Institute at Gettysburg College, as it is known today, has continued to transform and grow, expanding its programming to meet the distinct demands of a world that is more globally interconnected and technologically advanced than ever before.
Grounded in President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s legacy of leadership, the Eisenhower Institute at Gettysburg College promotes nonpartisan discourse and critical analysis of issues of long-term importance through competitive fellowships, access to renowned experts, and symposia.
The Institute prepares undergraduates to assume their responsibility as global citizens in public, private, and nonprofit sectors—students learn how to lead with integrity, build capital to garner influence, and translate knowledge into action.
A distinctive feature of the Institute is a series of programs led by experts in a variety of fields and on dynamic topics—from the challenges facing the Middle East, to environmental policy, presidential leadership, women in leadership, and everything in between.
Students have access to mentoring/networking opportunities, global learning including international travel, and practical leadership experiences that complement classroom learning.
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The Institute believes in engaging in healthy public discourse and contributing to the greater community. Every year the Institute invites prominent policy makers, leaders, and elected officials to speak on issues of current importance; past speakers have included Secretary of Homeland Security and Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge, Senator Russ Feingold, New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman, Ambassador of Nicaragua to the United States Francisco Campbell, House Majority Leader Richard Armey, journalist Gwen Ifill, Attorney General Richard Thornburgh, and Senator Tom Daschle, to name a few.
Learn more about the Institute's programs.
The Institute provides a variety of national scholarships and fellowships for recipients to engage in dialogue with noted public servants and to pursue a study of public policy. Since the founding of the Institute, it has provided in excess of $3 million to deserving students seeking to further their educational and professional experiences.
Learn more about the Institute's programs.