Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Road Trip! (Denison)

I enjoy visiting Presidential sites, because I think the American “commander in chief” is an amazing symbol. Even if our elections grow antagonistic, we have about the least bloodthirsty tradition of changing leaders!

I’ve been to Clinton’s homes in Arkansas, Carter’s museum in Georgia, Bush’s library and Johnson’s ranch in Texas, Abraham Lincoln’s homestead, Woodrow Wilson House and birthplaces of Truman, Nixon and Taylor. Also – two Kennedy memorials, the White House, presidential monuments in Washington DC, Mount Harding and Mount Rushmore.

Most recently, I visited Dwight D. Eisenhower’s home in Denison, TX – inches from the Oklahoma border, and coincidentally the birthplace of my father’s elder brother, giving me a family connection as well.

Eisenhower was elected in 1953 and left office in 1961, around the time my parents met. He died a few months before I was born, so I only knew “famous” topics, such as D-Day, the “I Like Ike” slogan, the additions of Alaska and Hawaii on his watch, and of course, I knew he signed the National Aeronautics and Space Act, establishing NASA in 1958.

Details I hadn’t known until recently –

His first name is David, he was third of seven sons, and as a child dreamed of being a major league baseball player. In addition to his well-known roles as Army General and President, he was a West Point cadet, football coach, university president, supreme commander of NATO, civil rights advocate and the reason we have an interstate highway system.

He won an Emmy!
Ike didn’t just “sign” NASA into being; he himself proposed to Congress the creation of a civilian agency, building upon the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) as its foundation and granting a “blank check” budget. This effectively removed from military hands areas devoted to rocketry and space research. Early notable additions included the Army's Jet Propulsion Laboratory at Caltech, Werner von Braun's team at the Alabama Redstone Arsenal and the Langley, Ames Aeronautical and Lewis Flight Laboratories.


1960: Ike and first NASA administrator T. Keith Glennan
examine photographs taken by the TIROS 1 Satellite.

Another thing I hadn’t known – Eisenhower was AGAINST manned space flight to the moon. However, his successor was all for it, and the rest is history.