A Brief History
On January 17, 1961, outgoing President Dwight David Eisenhower (better known as “Ike”) made his farewell address to the nation, a tradition of outgoing Presidents since George Washington left office.
Ike’s speech was unique in that he warned the public of the “Military Industrial Complex,” the big business of war.
Televised for the US public, this stunning speech warning of such downfalls must have sounded a bit odd, since while he was President Ike did nothing especially to reduce these alleged spending pitfalls. Ike perpetuated the New Deal programs, even to the point of expanding them. Ike supported the gigantic Interstate Highway program and also supported our entry into the Space Race. In fact, only 3 of Ike’s 8 budgets (he was President from 1953-1961) were balanced budgets. Ike’s time in office also saw the last 2 states admitted to the Union (Alaska and Hawaii).
Eisenhower had been a popular World War II hero as a five star general (Army) in charge of the Western Allied European Theater, including command of the D-Day Invasion of Normandy. In fact, Ike was the only General elected President during the 20th Century, after the previous century in which many Presidents had been generals. Ike’s time as President was marked by the cloud of the Cold War, although the US was still reaping the benefits of having been the only major industrialized nation not devastated by World War II. It was a time of prosperity and optimism.
Eisenhower’s farewell address, especially the “military industrial complex” part has often been referred to as a warning about how big moneyed interests may steer our nation into wars that may not be necessary or moral, but for the benefit of big business and defense contractors. This specter was often raised during the War in Vietnam and again during the Gulf War I and II.
A heavy smoker (3 packs a day), Ike had suffered from 7 heart attacks between 1955 and his death in 1969. He had also suffered from gall stones and adrenal tumors. Generally considered a respected and popular public figure and President, one thing Ike may be criticized for was giving us Richard M. Nixon as his Vice-President! Question for students (and subscribers):Do you like Ike? Please tell us what you do and do not like about this war hero and President in the comments section below this article.
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