I have heard so many people say Eisenhower was this, or he was that. It is usually in the context of discussing how the tax rate for the wealthy was at 91% (However, I wonder how much they actually paid?). First of all, I think if they actually paid .91 for every dollar they make they are being cheated. I think all of us should hold our government accountable for the amount of money they spend. A great example is the state of Washington. We have incurred increased fuel taxes, property taxes, among others, and in the paper the other day it was reported that in 2017 there will be another budget shortfall. We have given the government more, but it still wants even more from us. Don’t get me wrong we do need to pay for government, but we also need to make sure the money is being spent wisely. Now let’s get back to the discussion I wanted to write about.
Eisenhower was out President from 1953 through 1961. He was a very popular President His top five accomplishments were, keeping America at peace, ending the Korean war, balancing the budget (not once, but three times), sponsoring and signing into law the Federal Aid Highway Act, and sponsoring and signing the Civil Rights Bill of 1957. However, I found his final speech before handing the Presidency over the John F. Kennedy very interesting. Following are some important elements I gleaned while reading his speech.
First, his relationship with congress started out bad, but ended up being one of cooperation working together for the national good. To me that seems critical for a good leader. Having the ability to create a shared vision that people can come to consensus. This doesn’t mean there is no debate, but there is recognition of a common good that all are working towards.
He described the United States as the “strongest, most influential, and most productive country in the world.” Remember, World War II had ended, the Asian and European supply chains were devastated, and we had emerged as a technological behemoth. This was the time of Eisenhower’s Presidency. An integrated global economy had not developed at this time, although there was trade, but it was nothing like today, nor did India and China have the technology and manufacturing capability that it does today. Basically we were the only game in town.
His desire was for the United States to “use its power for the interests of world peace.” This should be our common desire. Last week, Paris had a horrible event, and we were praying for Paris, but this week we have Mali, we should be praying for Mali too. May our political interests never be skewed just to the few!
I think every Republican and Democrat should be reminded of the next comment. In response to the many issues and needed actions he stated, “But each proposal must be weighed in light of the broader consideration: the need to maintain balance in and among national programs.” He identified this necessary balance as being between several elements: public and private economy, national and individual duties, and current and future needs. “Good judgment seeks balance and progress; lack of it eventually finds imbalance and frustration.” Come on Congress; let’s find some balance. Let’s figure out how to move forward in a manner where all can find the ability to be better next year than this.
The following comment I found extremely interesting, especially as a child of the 60’s. “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought by the military/industrial complex. The potential for the rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.” This danger is still prevalent today. Whether it is large corporations, large Unions, or some other elite, we must all pay attention. All that is needed is for good people to do nothing.
Eisenhower continued to warn America, “Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields, In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers.” It seems to me he is warning of the influence of power associated with the purse strings.
It doesn’t matter who that powerful person is, “Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of the scientifictechnological elite.” He seems to be identifying several entities that could destroy Democracy. When an individual or group has access and influence based on relational cronyism, Democracy fails.
And finally, “You and I, and our government – must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering, for our own ease and convenience, the precious resources of tomorrow. We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grand children without risking the loss also of the political and spiritual heritage. We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow.” Amen to this. My generation has been the plunderer. It is time to think about the future that we want to pass on. I have eight grandchildren, another on the way, and I want them to have a meaningful life.
All of us must pay attention to the elements that Eisenhower warned us about.
And that is my thought for today!