It wasn’t by design but we have traveled to two very impactful areas of the Midwest that a couple of the most important presidents called home. The first was Medora, ND where Teddy Roosevelt was molded into the future US leader he became. Most recently was here in Abilene, KS where a humbled upbringing created a man that helped shape the world forever. At the end of the day, he was just fine with being a kid from Abilene.
*We would like to thank the folks at the Abilene, Kansas CVB for coordinating this tour. Our admission was complimentary and the views expressed are always of our own. Let’s gallivant!
I believe in the energy of certain places and the real feeling of it when it occurs. The high summer temps were in effect in Abilene during our visit here and we invited the warm weather. The Kansas skies went from partly cloudy, to a gray overcast, to intense blue with few of the clouds dotting the horizon. This is another day on the prairie and causes no surprise to the locals. Travelers and tourists come to the area by the car and bus load to absorb the rolling farmlands and nearby Flint Hills. There’s another major reason why generations are discovering Abilene, and its an understatement to call it an important visit for all that stop-in. This is the Eisenhower Presidential Library & Museum. This is America’s triumphant, inspirational, and dramatic story all in one.
To be a true leader you must be taught by another. Ike’s mother, Ida was just that pillar of leadership in his life. This picture was taken during the war years reading a letter from her son. Though he was the Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force he shared an all too common reality with every soldier no matter their rank. A family back home awaiting a letter from their child across an ocean with gut-wrenching worry that it could someday be the last.
There was a lot of of love in the Eisenhower family and it came with a lot of education from Ida. Here in their Abilene home, she taught Dwight and his brothers how to cook, sew, mind their socks, gardening, and everything that helped keep an orderly and beautiful home. This took a disciplined approach with all the motherly care that comes with it. The Eisenhower home is in unbelievable historic condition that has been in the care of guides who respect it with every moment they’re here. The home is kept in the same manner it was in when the Eisenhower’s were busy growing up within it’s walls. “All that’s missing is Ida”, is what we were told about the house. Ida’s presence has made an eternal mark here and you can feel that welcoming energy I talked about above. We can’t thank Ida enough for having us see her family’s beautiful home.
We made several laps around the paths and soaked in the Kansas summer. There was a respectful silence to the grounds mixed with the all the typical sounds that make up an Abilene day. The mechanical workings of the nearby grain elevators, the ever present prairie breezes bouncing off the stone buildings, and the peaceful fragrance of Ache Juniper around the plaques at the far end. Much has changed with this piece of land, since Abilene was founded, but it still has much of the same feelings and familiarity that captures the senses that did so in the days of Ida and her boys.
Eisenhower’s museum is one huge piece of gratitude the great commander had for his hometown of Abilene and his country. You will see this fact above all his accomplishments, medals, awards, and political gain.
I don’t know when “weight of the world” was first uttered. If it was during WWII in regards to the ultimate duty Eisenhower had with the allied command, I’d believe it. This museum gives you the modern and interactive experience with the classic exhibits and artifacts with the intense feeling of the war era. I must stress that the pictures you see are just a mere sample in comparison to everything else on display.
It was a long renovation process and the locals were just as eager to see the doors reopen as the tourists who have had this museum on their bucket lists. The flow of this presidential facility is truly unique; and is as much of testament to the Abilene citizens as it is to Ike. He wanted to be a known as common man, a fellow soldier, and son of Kansas before any title like General or even President. His museum does a perfect job of honoring him in the legacy I think he would appreciate without glorifying his work.
I felt the pressure of leadership and inspiration that can come from it here in Abilene. I felt humbled and grateful for the generations that fought, worked, and lived with the man they call Ike. He was also a spiritual leader for the countless that adored him around the world. The overcoming feeling of duty called to him his whole life. Negotiating tense foreign affairs as president. Pushing through sleepless times of wartime preparations and heartbreaking invasion planning knowing full well that thousands would never make it home. The loyalty to family and the daily tasks Ida trusted him and his brothers with. The unwavering duty to Abilene and never forgetting where he came from.
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Go to the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library & Museum website and get your own visit marked on the calendar.