Eisenhower and the American Crusades

By Herbert S. Parmet | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 20
The Restoration

D WIGHT D. EISENHOWER spent his final collegiate hours saying goodbye to the numerous callers -- and accepting a bronze Columbia lion, a key and a plaque signed by each trustee. The General had never been an integral part of the university. His NATO tour had shortened his stay; and as a military man, scorned by some as a Kansas "hayseed" with a West Point education, a self-effacing rejector of intellectual pretensions, a traditional conservative, he had made no effort to become representative of one of America's urban liberal intellectual centers. Most of the students and faculty members had, in fact, supported Adlai Stevenson during the recent campaign. That Friday night on Morningside Heights, in his final speech as the university's president, his remarks to the thirteen hundred faculty and administrative personnel gathered in the McMillin Theater on upper Broadway contained the aura of innocence that the professors ridiculed and the public appreciated.

He recalled having taken the job amid rumors that "our universities were cut and honey-combed with subversion and there was communism lurking behind every brick on campus and every blade of grass." If that was indeed the case at Columbia, he told the trustees, "I am intolerant. I will not stay in any institution where I can discover a known Communist. If we cannot get rid of a known Communist, I shall not be there, and they agreed." Then his very next words to those in the theater were "I have found universities in general engaged in how to bring up, how to teach, how to develop fine citizens to serve in a free democracy. That I conceive to be their basic purpose.... This is not just a casual argument against slightly different philosophies. This is a war of light against darkness, freedom against slavery, Godliness against atheism."1

-161-

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