Enduring Glory: An Exclusive Interview with Eisenhower's Grandson and His New Memoir about Ike
AT THE END OF his second term, President Dwight Eisenhower left Washington, D.C., and retired to a farm in historic Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. David's family--his father, mother, and four siblings--lived in a home on the corner of Ike and Mamie's farm. David chronicles the final years of Ike's life in his latest book, Going Home to Glory. The Post spoke with David and Julie Eisenhower about the memoir, and the man.
Q: What's the story behind the title, Going Home to Glory?
A: "Going Home to Glory" is lifted from the tombstone of Lydia Eisenhower, an aunt of Dwight's who died in 1874. The idea is that religious faith is the most important thing in life. But the meaning of the book's title is two-fold in the sense that when Eisenhower retired from the presidency, he was the most popular man in the world, so he was leaving the White House bathed in glory.
Q: After serving his country for decades, was he looking forward to retiring from public life?
A: My quick answer is he was. Something that really impressed me, especially when looking at records of his presidency, is the sheer effort those times required. However, people who make it to the presidency are really unusual and extraordinary. They are convinced that they need to serve. But I don't think when you are president you ever totally retire. Presidents are unusual people with unique characteristics. This book is a character study about a man I loved and someone I invite readers to love. He is my grandfather and the book profiles the universal relationship that we all have with our grandparents.
Q: You write that Eisenhower was a self-made man. Isn't is amazing how well the entire family did in their careers?
A: The story of the Eisenhower brothers is something that would be really the topic of a larger book. Their lives coincide with the greatest birth of opportunity the world has ever seen. They succeeded in many fields. It was a question of discipline and conditioning that they received growing up in Kansas. They were close to rural life and virtues that The Saturday Evening Post has expounded on since its founding.
Q: Ike appeared on six of our covers over the years. Would you tell us about the "Eisenhower grin"?
A: Granddad used sports to rally supporters and answer critics along the trail. Boxing was one of Granddad's favorite metaphors for politics. The grin and fight come up in that context. It was a sign of determination and stamina.
Q: Both of you grew up with presidents. What traits have you developed based on what you learned or observed?
A: My grandfather certainly loved history, as does my father, who has written a dozen books. I inherited that love of history from them. My grandfather loved Westerns and claimed he could outdo most authors. My dad said something to me the other day that really made an impression. He was complimenting me on my ability to relax and "play." Dad doesn't feel that he is as good at relaxation as I am. And it was something that he admired in his father, who knew how to relax. He loved to play bridge and golf, cook, paint, and read Westerns--all while working and managing his farm.
Q: In the memoir, he comes across as a very humble man. …