Kansans who think they’re familiar with the life and times of favorite son President Dwight D. Eisenhower may be in for a surprise.
The overhauled museum honoring Eisenhower, the 34th president of the United States, opened recently to rave reviews. A project a year in the making, the renovated and upgraded Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum in Abilene delivers the opportunity for guests to see the legendary Kansan and his wife, Mamie, in an entirely new light.
Visitors who tour the 25,000-square-foot museum will take in new interactive displays and exhibits that bring Ike and Mamie to life.
The newly reopened museum will help visitors better understand the couple through their own words. The museum relies heavily on their letters and videos, as well as Eisenhower speeches, to tell those stories — and with newer technology designed to be even more engaging and interesting, which should reel in a new audience that may not be as up to speed on Ike’s legacy.
The $9 million project was made possible by private donors who are to be commended for their help in injecting new life into a museum that saw its first comprehensive renovation since the 1970s. The endeavor breathed new life into a museum that already did a fine job of spotlighting the remarkable accomplishments of a two-term president who enjoyed tremendous popularity while in office.
Displays at the museum touch on his life as a boy in Abilene, and the path for Eisenhower that saw him launch a distinguished career as a military officer. A graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Eisenhower served as an officer in World War I, rose through the ranks to be appointed commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces during World War II, and gave the go-ahead for the WWII D-Day invasion.
He would go on to contribute so much more.
As president, Ike made sure the 1954 school desegregation order by the U.S. Supreme Court was enforced, and is credited with starting the nation's interstate highway system. He also sounded the alarm over massive military spending in Washington, D.C.
His greatest contribution as president may have been his efforts to keep peace during the Cold War. While that wasn't easy in the 1950s, Eisenhower made sure to note that those who've been in war understand better than anyone the need to avoid it at all costs.
“I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity,” he said.
Lessons Eisenhower provided throughout his career seems all the more relevant today at a time of divisiveness nationwide.
A more traditional Republican, Eisenhower sought common ground with lawmakers of all political persuasions. Folks in both parties in Topeka and the nation’s capital should look to Eisenhower as an example of enlightened and enduring leadership.
That history lesson is one of many reasons to celebrate and support the newly renovated museum honoring the life of a famous Kansan know for an extraordinary run of public service.