Tag Archives: Dwight Eisenhower

Proud of ‘Ike’s park’

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

EISENHOWER STATE PARK, Texas – Every so often I feel the need to extol the virtues of enjoying the great outdoors in our great state.

That urge has overtaken me yet again.

I offer this brief missive aiming to entice fellow North and Northeast Texas to enjoy the state park system that I continue to believe is one of the major accomplishments of our state government which occasionally draws barbs from me.

My wife and I ventured to Eisenhower State Park, just outside of Denison, right on the Red River and in this region the local news media refer to as “Texoma.” This place is a jewel. It’s clean, well-managed, with well-marked hiking and biking trails. We did pick up an empty Coke can on one of our hikes through the park, prompting my wife to wonder out loud how someone who ventures to one of these places to “enjoy nature” could possibly toss an aluminum can into the bushes.

Summer break is coming up for students all across Texas. That means, of course, that demand on these parks will increase dramatically during the summer. Listen up: If you intend to camp at nearby Eisenhower State Park, you’d be wise to book your campsite soon, perhaps even right now!

Gov. Greg Abbott has lifted many of the mandated restrictions brought to us by the COVID pandemic. That doesn’t mean you can ignore safety measures recommended by infectious disease experts, a point that Abbott has sought to make. Texas Parks & Wildlife officials continue to disallow public use of office. TP&W staffers are still masked up and keeping their distance from those of us who venture to the park.

I want to make another point about Eisenhower State Park. It is named in honor of a great American, the nation’s 34th president, Dwight Eisenhower, who was born in a modest home in nearby Denison. Ike went on to do a couple of pretty big things. He helped defeat the 20th century’s most evil tyrant during World War II and then got elected to two terms as president of the United States. He famously warned us during his farewell address in 1960 to guard against the “military-industrial complex,” which even at the time was an amazing admonition from a man who bore the title of general of the Army.

The National Park Service has put together a wonderful exhibit at Ike’s boyhood home. That, too, is worth seeing … along with the state park that bears his name.

Take my word for it: spending time away from the hubbub and hassle of today’s news provides great therapy for the soul. The Texas Parks & Wildlife Department has answered that need with this – and many other – wonderful parks.

NOTE: This blog post was published originally on KETR-FM’s website, ketr.org.

Ike would be angry

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

EISENHOWER STATE PARK, Texas — There are times when our retirement journey intersects with current events.

It happened when we returned to a place near the birthplace of one of this nation’s greatest statesmen, military heroes … and politicians.

Dwight David Eisenhower was born just down the road from where we parked our fifth wheel. You recall the nation’s 34th president, yes? He graduated from West Point, served in the Army where along the way he took command of Allied forces in Europe during World War II and helped defeat the 20th century’s most despotic tyrant. He retired from the Army and then decided he would run for public office: the presidency.

He won election in 1952 and re-election in 1956. President Eisenhower wasn’t a natural politician, but he declared himself to be a Republican because he believed in the party’s basic principles.

He would be infuriated today at the behavior of the party he left behind. The party has become an organization he likely wouldn’t recognize. It has become the playground of one man, Donald Trump, who in a strange found his way to the presidency in a somewhat parallel path as the great man, Dwight Eisenhower. Trump hadn’t sought public office, either, before launching his presidential bid.

The similarity ends there.

Ike did things, such as launch an interstate highway construction program that revolutionized our way of life. Trump? Well, he hurled invective at his foes, at the media and finally at the government he took an oath to protect.

Our retirement journey is meant to remove us from from the hassles and headaches of the headlines. Sometimes, though, there can be no escape … such as when we venture to a park named after one of America’s greatest Republicans.

Yep, I do like Ike.

Ike exuded wisdom

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

The gentleman in this picture ran twice for president of the United States.

The first time was in 1952; I was a toddler. The second time occurred four years later; I was in the second grade at Harvey W. Scott Elementary School in Portland, Ore. President Eisenhower won both elections in landslides over Adlai Stevenson.

I wasn’t old enough either time to “like Ike,” as the campaign slogan suggested. I do like Ike now as we have suffered through four years of the most hideous individual ever to occupy the office that Dwight Eisenhower once graced.

The text attributed to Ike in the photo above is more profound now, it seems, than when he said it in 1956.

Yes, we have seen Ike’s beloved Republican Party become a vessel for an amoral nincompoop. The man who helped liberate the world from tyranny in World War II and then became our commander in chief just eight years after that terrible conflict would not like what has transpired in the past four years.

He would be heartened, I believe — even with a Democrat, Joe Biden, about to take over — at what we all hope is a restoration of decency and morality in the nation’s highest office.

White House leadership is MIA

President Harry Truman had that sign on his desk that said “The Buck Stops Here.”

President John F. Kennedy told the nation after the failed Bay of Pigs, Cuba, military operation that “Victory has a thousand fathers; defeat is an orphan.”

President Dwight D. Eisenhower, when he commanded Allied forces in Europe during World War II, planned the D-Day landing at Normandy and wrote a letter he would read to the world if the mission failed; he would take full responsibility for its failure … which thankfully he never had to read.

These men were leaders of the first magnitude. The current president of the United States, Donald John Trump, has demonstrated what I have to label as a “fair weather style of leadership.”

He takes credit when matters go well; he even takes credit when and where he doesn’t deserve it. When the strategy fails? He says he “takes no responsibility at all.”

We are witnessing how leadership becomes missing in action when the fecal matter hits the fan. Donald Trump keeps boasting about what he’s done to battle the coronavirus pandemic. Yet he denies the virtually proven instances when he fell short.

Trump’s leadership, such as it exists, has fallen far short of the kind of presidential leadership that an unprecedented health crisis of this scale requires. Trump can brag and boast all he wants. It doesn’t wipe out what we all know about the federal response to this crisis.

The nation needs focused, driven and dedicated leadership that presents itself at all levels. We are not getting it from this president, during this crisis.

Donald Trump’s mantra, unlike Harry Truman, is that the “buck stops … over there.” 

Where is Ike’s wisdom now?

Yep, to be sure Dwight David Eisenhower was a wise and brave man. He was a soldier, a warrior, a patriot and a statesman.

The 34th president of the United States earned his high office simply by commanding the greatest military effort in world history to victory in World War II.

The quote attributed to him in this blog post sums up the fearful time we have entered with the election of the 45th president of the United States, Donald Trump.

Of course, Ike didn’t foresee the election of Trump when these remarks came out. It was Trump who said that “I, alone” can repair the nation and restore it to greatness. President Eisenhower knew better than to make such a presumption when he first ran for president in 1952. He knew better, even though he commanded all those men and women in Europe, that no “one Great Man” can lead a nation such as ours.

The United States of America cannot possibly be led in the manner that many of us fear is being crafted in this moment by Donald Trump.

Ike’s words serve as a dire warning to what lies ahead in the 2020 election. We can restore the essence of what this country is all about, or we can continue down the frightening path that the current president seeks to take us.

Let us beware.

Does the Trump ‘infrastructure’ plan include this new highway?

EN ROUTE TO LAKE LIVINGSTON STATE PARK, Texas — Donald J. Trump has a few ambitious goals on the table for Americans to ponder. One of them involves what is called “infrastructure.” In other words, the rebuilding, rehabilitating, construction of highways, bridges and the like.

On our way south along U.S. 59, I was struck by signs we saw posted along the highway: “Future I-69 Corridor Project.”

Yep, the plan is to build a new spur in the massive interstate highway network created in the 1950s by another Republican president, Dwight David Eisenhower.

Ike dreamed of the interstate highway system long after he traveled from the West Coast to the East Coast as a young Army officer. It took several weeks to get from coast to coast. That was long before the interstate highway system was built. Eisenhower pushed Congress after being elected president to build the interstate system because he did not want Americans to spend so much time traveling along antiquated roads and highways.

The highway system arguably is Ike’s most profound presidential legacy.

Now there are plans afoot to add to that system through much of East Texas. I would be amazed and impressed beyond all measure if the government is able to pull this off.

U.S. 59 is a nice highway as it is at this moment. We had a wonderful drive south from Northeast Texas through the Piney Woods to Lake Livingston. It is divided by a median along some stretches; even where the medians don’t exist, the highway is well-maintained with smooth pavement.

The plan, if it comes to fruition, is going to result in enormous disruption of people’s lives in communities that sit astride U.S. 59. Cities such as Nacogdoches, Lufkin and Livingston will be torn apart by heavy construction as federal, state and local crews create a limited-access highway through the Piney Woods.

I favor infrastructure improvement. I am not sure that Donald Trump will be able to preside over this massive project. It doesn’t matter to me which president takes credit for its completion.

If such a project is to include the I-69 Interstate Corridor, then the folks along the current highway right-of-way — from Texarkana to the Rio Grande Valley — need to prepare themselves for a serious disruption of their lives.

Trump’s weird association with evangelicals takes an even weirder turn

It looks as though the nation’s strangest political alliance has taken a strange new twist.

Donald Trump has hired a thrice-married, money-loving televangelist to be his link to the evangelical Christian community that continues to support the president, even in the wake of a mountain of impeachment evidence that is piling up all around him.

This person’s name is Paula White. She is far from your run-of-the-mill person of the cloth. She has been marred by marital scandal. She lives in a glitzy mansion in Florida. She reportedly believes God wants believers to gather wealth. She delivers her ministry on television.

Doesn’t sound so, oh, very Trumpian? I believe it does.

The New York Times noted some fascinating spiritual comparisons.

The Times reported that Presidents Eisenhower and Nixon turned the Rev. Billy Graham, who the Times said was “so ubiquitous he became known as America’s Pastor.” President Obama turned to Rick Warren, whose best-selling book “The Purpose Driven Life” became the second best-selling hardcover book in American history; the No. 1 best-seller is, um, The Bible.

Read the Times story here.

Paula White comes from a vastly different mold than previous presidential pastors. She is, shall we say, more than a tad unconventional in her approach to God’s holy word.

She preaches something called “the prosperity gospel,” which the Times reports has drawn widespread criticism from mainstream religious leaders. Imagine that … if you can.

But there she is, working within the White House as a sort of “spiritual adviser” to a president who, to my way of thinking, has lived one of the most un-Christian lives of any notable public figure I’ve ever seen.

Didn’t he once tell us that he’s never sought “forgiveness”? He has admitted cheating on two of his three wives; and there’s plenty of evidence that he’s fooled around on Wife No. 3. He has preached a doctrine of toughness to obtain business success. Trump has mocked others’ physical disabilities, their appearance, their intelligence.

Does any of that resemble what Jesus Christ would endorse?

Don’t answer that.

Now he has someone named Paula White advising him. She will work to shore up his religious movement support.

Weird, man.

‘OK … we’ll go’

U.S. Army Gen. Dwight Eisenhower had to make the most difficult of decisions on this day 75 years ago.

Does the supreme Allied commander of all forces in Europe send men into a storm, or does he wait for the sky to clear enough for these men to save the world from the tyranny that had conquered much of Europe?

The weather over the English Channel had forced one postponement of the launch of an invasion. The general waited and waited. Then Ike told his high command, “OK, we’ll go.”

On the morning of June 6, 1944, thousands of men from the United States, Great Britain and Canada climbed into landing craft and proceeded to launch an invasion that many historians believe turned the tide toward victory in Europe. Ships from many nations bombarded the shoreline. Warplanes dropped thousands of bombs and strafed the enemy. Paratroopers flew during the night and dropped behind enemy lines to begin the attack.

The main invasion force landed on five beachheads on the coast of France. Normandy became the bloody battleground where those men fought their hearts out to liberate a continent.

Dignitaries from the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada — and many other Allied nations that played a role in that liberation — will gather at Normandy to pay tribute to the men who answered humanity’s call. The president of the United States Donald Trump will be there, along with British Prime Minister Teresa May, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

They will no doubt be joined by a few of the dwindling number of men who are still among us. They are old men now. The next landmark commemoration, in five years, when we mark the 80th year since the D-Day landing, well could occur without any of those brave warriors. They are well into their 90s now and, of course, time is not their friend.

It’s been reported many times that Gen. Eisenhower wrote two statements prior to sending those men into battle. One of the statements referred to a failed mission. Ike was prepared to take full responsibility for that failure.

He didn’t have to read that statement to the anxious world. The mission, which was fraught with error and misjudgment, nevertheless succeeded. The men secured the beachhead, caught their breath, gathered up their equipment and then began the march across Europe.

So, we will honor those men’s untold bravery. We must always honor them for the valor and the righteousness of the cause for which they fought — and died.

74 years later, D-Day still stands alone

The Greatest Generation generally is defined as millions of American men and women who stood firm against tyranny during an intense, bloody and desperate global conflict.

Meaning no disrespect to those Americans who answered the call for freedom, let me suggest that the Greatest Generation comprised men and women from around the globe.

Seventy-four years ago today, American soldiers — along with Canadian and British comrades in arms — splashed ashore at Normandy, France. They had just completed a harrowing journey across the English Channel to pierce Adolf Hitler’s Fortress Europa.

These brave men endured unspeakable horror. They faced a determined enemy intent on keeping the land they had conquered four years earlier.

The D-Day invasion today stands as the greatest amphibious assault in the history of warfare. Five thousand ships supported the attack. Hundreds of airplanes flew sorties over the Nazi defenses.

What often gets short shrift, though, is the composition of the entire attack force. It was made up of French fighters and Poles. They formed gallant military units after their own countries fell to the Nazi juggernaut. Other nations took part: Denmark, Greece, The Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand all participated in this mammoth endeavor.

What’s more, French, Dutch, Belgian and Norwegian resistance fighters never stopped battling the occupiers in the years preceding the launching of Operation Overlord.

It was an international event of the first order.

And I cannot dismiss the bloody fight that was occurring along the Eastern Front as the Red Army marched from the Soviet Union, into Poland, Czechoslovakia and Germany as it sought to rid the world of the tyrant Hitler and his minions.

One final note I want to make: Supreme Allied Commander U.S. Army Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower was prepared for the worst on D-Day. He drafted an announcement that he never had to make. He would take full responsibility for the failure of the invasion had the international force been unable to secure the beachhead at Normandy.

That, dear reader, is true leadership.

The Greatest Generation, comprising fighters from many nations, ensured success in the weeks and months that followed the titanic assault against the forces of evil.

We owe all of them an eternal debt of thanks.

Happy Trails, Part 23

Please excuse this latest retirement blog so soon after the previous one, but I want to offer tribute to one of the greatest Americans … ever!

Dwight David Eisenhower served his country in two profound capacities: as a senior military officer and strategist who commanded all Allied forces in Europe during World War II; and as 34th president of the United States.

My wife and I are embarking on one of what we expect to be several lengthy trips along the interstate highway system, which happened to be Ike’s crowning achievement — in my view — as president.

We intend over time to haul our fifth wheel RV along back-country roads as well. There’s plenty to see in this great country of ours — as well as the rest of North America — that doesn’t straddle the interstate highway system.

We’ve relied almost exclusively on interstate highways to get us from point to point in our post-retirement adventures.

Ike’s vision for speeding up ground travel across the United States makes it easier for folks such as my wife and me to enjoy this newfound pursuit of ours: RV travel.

The president relied on an experience he had as a young Army officer. In 1919, he took part in a convoy that crossed the country along what was known as the Lincoln Highway. It took him weeks to make the trip.

Thirty-four years later, he took the oath as president and embarked on another journey of a political kind to persuade Congress enact the Interstate Highway Act. Construction began in 1956, with states competing for attention over which of them had the first “interstate highway.”

Whatever the case, what we have now is a remarkable network of highways. Some of the are turnpikes that require motorists to pay tolls to pass along them; we plunked down $5 at two toll booths in West Virginia, but didn’t begrudge the state one bit, as the highway is magnificent.

President Eisenhower was a visionary man, although he might not have been called one at the time he led the nation.

His legacy is laid out in every single state of this great nation.

Yep, make no mistake: I like Ike.