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.
With the idea of "Peace through Understanding", Eisenhower founded People to People International to provide immersive cultural travel, the education of all age groups in global enrichment, and the relevant humanitarian assistance for thousands of people every year.
As a not-for-profit organization, People to People International works to enhance international understanding and friendship across diverse cultures.
President Eisenhower relied on apporixmately 100 remarkable individuals from industry, academia, and the arts to help develop People to People International. Early leaders such as Joyce C. Hall, the founder of Hallmark Cards, Inc. and Walt Disney, as well as the partner program Sister Cities, helped the organization gain recognition and support.
After Office, President Eisenhower engaged his good friend, J.C. Hall, the founder of Hallmark Cards, Inc., to bring People to People International into the private sector. Hall agreed and helped to incorporate the organization as a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) in the State of Missouri on October 31, 1961. The offices moved from Washington, D.C., to Kansas City, with President Eisenhower as Chairman of the Board of Trustees and recognized as the founder of the not-for-profit organization.
Today, the Hallmark Foundation continues to demonstrate the ideals of People to People International through community engagement and inclusion. Learn more about their outreach efforts here.
Following World War II, Disney contributed to Eisenhower’s 1952 presidential campaign in an unprecedented way, creating the well-known “I Like Ike” campaign slogan. Eisenhower became the first presidential candidate to use television campaign commercials, and was the only one for whom Disney offered its services. Throughout Eisenhower's presidency, Disney promoted many of the administration's policy goals by leveraging Walt's unrivaled cultural presence in the American home.
In 1956, Disney attended the White House Conference at which People to People was introduced, becoming an early leader of the organization.
Sister Cities International was created at President Eisenhower’s 1956 White House Conference on citizen diplomacy. Eisenhower envisioned an organization that could be the hub of peace and prosperity by creating bonds between people from different cities around the world. By forming these relationships, President Eisenhower reasoned that people of different cultures could celebrate and appreciate their differences and build partnerships that would lessen the chance of new conflicts. Both Sister Cities and People to People International are closely aligned in their missions and work towards creating a more inclusive, peaceful world.
After becoming President, Eisenhower's dedication to peace and prosperity continued to grow during the unstable and turbulent Cold War. With nations on the break of another war, President Eisenhower decided to take the bold step of founding People to People on September 11th, 1956 under the U.S. Information Agency as a “Personal Diplomacy” Program.
President Eisenhower envisioned the execution and implementation of People to People International to come from the country's citizens, not their government. He understood that a cross-cultural network of engaged and knowledgeable everyday citizen leaders would be an active force in creating and sustaining a more peaceful world. With help from prominent leaders, businessmen and citizens from all walks of American life, Eisenhower brought the People to People program into the private sector in 1961. The organization was deemed not-for-profit and dedicated itself to the sharing of ideas across cultures.
From its founding, People to People International strove to enhance international understanding and friendship through educational, cultural, and humanitarian activities. The organization's mission involves the exchange of ideas and experiences directly among peoples of different countries and diverse backgrounds.
People to People International provides multiple opportunities to engage with the organization. Worldwide chapters connect members from every corner of the globe, various progams encourage education and collaboration in all ages, and travel innitiatives increase knowledge on culture.
President Eisenhower recognized that understanding was the surest way to break cycles of fear and confusion. He created People to People International to allow people yearning for dignity and freedom, the opportunity to create peace. Members of all ages engage in programs that are guided by Eisenhower's vision.
The organization provides programs for peacemakers at all stages of life. Through the School and Classroom Program and the Global Youth Forum, students are encouraged to share ideas and and develop leadership skills. The Cultural Exchange Program allows adults and students alike to travel with purpose and experience other communities. By participating in one or more programs, members are given the opportunity to engage with likeminded individuals across the world.
Learn more about People to People International programs here.
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 and networking opportunities, global learning including international travel, and practical leadership experiences that complement classroom learning. These programs enhance the academic experience of students by providing them with practical connections to a variety of topics of study.
Learn more about the Institute’s programs.
The Eisenhower Institute at Gettysburg College recognizes the value of engaging students, faculty, and local community members in healthy public discourse. In an effort to facilitate an ongoing conversation about civil discourse and promote the critical analysis of issues of long-term importance, the Institute hosts a variety of initiatives throughout the year, including lectures, discussions, and symposia in Gettysburg and Washington, D.C.
The Eisenhower Institute at Gettysburg College 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 more than $3 million to deserving students seeking to further their educational and professional experiences.
Eisenhower Fellowships inspires leaders to think creatively in order to better the world around them. Fellows are given the opportunity to travel internationally to pursue projects that create positive impact across sectors and borders, forging a more cooperative and sustainable world.
In 1953, a group of businessmen gifted President Eisenhower an international leader exchange program for his first birthday in the White House. From it's conception, the organization has been dedicated to promoting leadership through inspiration, engagement, and collaboration. Eisenhower Fellowships strengthens Eisenhower's legacy by creating a global network of innovative leaders.
On October 13, 1953, the eve of President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s first birthday in the White House, the rural town of Hershey, Pennsylvania hosted an historic event. The festivities included a crowd of 14,000 celebrants who feasted on fried chicken, cake, and ice cream. There was singing and dancing and a giant birthday cake. But the crowning jewel of this momentous occasion – actually a political fundraiser at $100 a plate – was a lasting gesture by a group of Pennsylvania businessmen who sought to honor President Eisenhower’s devotion to world peace. Led by Thomas B. McCabe, then-CEO of Scott Paper and former Federal Reserve Chairman, they created and funded a private, non-profit, non-partisan organization, dedicated to fostering international
Early in 1953, a group of businessmen concluded, after discussing their plan to give President Eisenhower a meaningful gift on his first birthday in the White House, that something symbolic of his deep and abiding interesting in world understanding would be more to Ike’s liking than anything of a tangible nature.
They studied the entire field of internationals relations with an eye to what might be done on a people-to-people basis. As a result, they founded Eisenhower Fellowships.
This support continues today with a board of trustees that includes a broad range of leaders reflecting the breadth and depth of the Eisenhower Fellowships global network.
Eisenhower Fellows are men and women of good will that better the world through greater knowledge and understanding. Fellows work across professional sectors and national borders to pursue positive impacts in their societies. Through transformative programs, Eisenhower Fellowships provides a diverse group of leaders with the opportunity to grow both personally and professionally.
Since 1953, Eisenhower Fellowships has identified more than 2,200 men and women well on their way to positions of regional or national leadership and provided them with opportunities for professional, intellectual and personal growth. Fellows hail from every professional sector,and their mission is to work together to better societies through their concrete actions.
When Eisenhower Fellowships was founded in 1953, American women were under tremendous pressure to aspire to a husband, not to a degree and the job it could deliver. This cultural norm was reflected in the low level of women’s participation at all levels within our organization and fellowship
programs. Until 2015, only 21 percent of our Fellows were women.
To address this underrepresentation, EF hosted two Women’s Leadership Programs, in 2010 and 2015. This served both to create gender parity in the fellowship network, and to empower the next generation of women leaders around the world to solve problems.
As many African countries undergo seismic transitions, with unprecedented population growth bringing new demands for sustainable economic development, Eisenhower Fellowships hosted the first program dedicated exclusively to Sub-Saharan Africa in its long history.
Since its founding, EF has hosted a total of 182 African Fellows. The first class of Eisenhower Fellows, which graduated in 1954, included Ghanaian diplomat Frederick Arkhurst.
The Eisenhower Fellowships impact is visible around the world every day. Fellows undertake programs to achieve sustainable, real-world impact across sectors, borders, and regions. The organization's diverse network of innovative change agents and partnerships create long-term impact for a world more peaceful, prosperous, and just.
As leaders who better the world around them, Eisenhower Fellows use the transformative power of their fellowship experience to translate their enhanced personal capabilities into action.
Commencing in 2014, the fellowship expanded from a journey of individual growth and leadership development to include a project component, or initiative to be tested and refined while on fellowship travel, and implemented upon Fellows return home.
Lifelong connections and collaborations for Fellows, by Fellows and with Fellows. Eisenhower Fellows reside in over 100 countries globally. Their collective strength is through expansion and transfer of knowledge during and after their fellowships. Active leaders regularly convene to inform and encourage each other in active pursuit of key national projects.
The Eisenhower Journey is a quest to explore, question, open doors wherein Fellows engage in an intellectual and personal dialogue with themselves and other Fellows across sectors and cultures. The aim: to evolve, refine, pivot – reach for higher ground and improve our societies.
Annually, a group of exceptional U.S. citizens are selected to participate in the Fellowship program. In the program they are given the chance to travel abroad, meeting with leaders in their fields, as well as Eisenhower Fellows in the region. Fellows hail from all professional fields, and represent the private, public and nonprofit sectors.
Learn more about the impact of Eisenhower Fellowship Programs here.
Two international programs annually bring a total of 25 Fellows to the U.S. for an intensive seven-week program each spring and fall.
Each Fellow travels to 8-10 cities, following an individualized itinerary of 40-50 individual meetings with leaders on relevant subjects of relevance to them. While travelling, Fellows explore and hone their research in order to refine and prepare to undertake a project that will have significant, positive impact in their region.
Learn more about Eisenhower Fellows Programs.