|President Dwight Eisenhower wearing "I Like Ike" glasses|
And at the end the day, I like Ike, too.
We are at the Eisenhower Museum and Library, a small campus of buildings in Abilene, Kansas, a town so small its letters on a map need magnifying.
We came here for the presidential memorial. We bought a pass to it last month. But I looked everywhere this morning and couldn’t find it. So I was hoping they had a database with my name in it.
But nope. There is no way to prove we’d already bought tickets.
The 60-something man selling tickets leaned back, crossed his arms high on his chest and stared at me through spectacles a bit too small for his face. “I believe you,” he said shortly. “Want to know why? I’ll tell you why. Because Ike was an honest man. A good, honest man.”
He stamps two tickets and shoos us off to a guided tour of Eisenhower’s Abilene home (starting in two minutes), then yells to our backs as we hustle out: “WHEN THE TOUR IS OVER, COME BACK FOR THE FILM.”
What a nice man.
The lady giving the tour of the family home is nice. The library staff is nice.
And by the end of my visit today, I’ve come to understand Eisenhower was nice, too. Not in a white-washed way. He was a likable man the world embraced. An honest man. I already knew his military excellence, his connections with the U.S.Interstate system and NASA.
What I didn’t know was even his distractors appreciated how decent a man he was.
The museum peddles this decency.
As well as his wisdom:
""Teachers … are developing our most precious national resource: our children, our future citizens."
His considerate leadership.
"I believe that the United States … does have the job of working toward that time when there is no discrimination made on such inconsequential reason as race, color, or religion.”
On the concentration camps he visited at the end of WWII: "I made the visit deliberately, in order to be in position to give first-hand evidence of these things if ever, in the future, there develops a tendency to charge these allegations merely to 'propaganda’."
Good golly. He was a man who modeled decency. Who was married to a woman who could be everyone’s best friend.
So I like Ike, too.