Ever feel you are not getting anywhere, despite all your hard work? Are you just plain tired, discouraged? Where can you seek inspiration to keep going?
Our team recently made two trips that re-charged our batteries, and both trips were based on the life of a great leader who pulled himself up from a childhood of poverty in small-town America to become a national leader. No, it was not Abraham Lincoln, but Dwight Eisenhower who reminded us that the American dream is still alive, that we can pull ourselves up.
In September, instructor Tara Wenzel traveled to Abilene, Kansas to run a workshop for the federal probation team from the state of Kansas. They not only wanted to tour Ike’s boyhood home, they had secured classroom space at the Eisenhower Presidential Library for the day-long workshop. To say that the setting helped set the mood of Ike’s tremendous achievements would be an understatement. Attendees toured the Library as well as the Eisenhower home where Ike and his brothers grew to adulthood.
Then in October, I traveled to Denison, Texas, to run the same class (“Lessons from Eisenhower & D-Day”) for two groups from the U.S. Courts of the Eastern District of Texas. In Denison, workshop attendees saw the home where Ike was born, seeing first-hand what a hard life Ike’s parents worked through—a home right on the railroad line (14 trains coming through each day), a house with no running water, and of course no air-conditioning (so the soot from those 14 daily trains came right through the open windows). Our fabulous tour guide, Maxine Minson, spoke emotionally of the amazing strength the Eisenhower parents passed on to their sons. How did people cope without our modern conveniences and have the energy to get past survival-level living to aspire to college and professional careers?
Said Ike, “I have found out in later years that we were very poor, but the glory of America is that we didn’t know it then.”
Despite their lack of money, David and Ida Eisenhower raised six boys—one becoming a lawyer, another an engineer, a banker, a pharmacist, a college president, and a military commander-later-U.S. President. What family values spurred this type of achievement?
The boys learned through hard work, strong family values, and taking responsibility for themselves and one another. In a 1946 speech to graduating students at Gettysburg College, Ike described Abraham Lincoln in terms reminiscent of his own values and upbringing. “Basic to his [Lincoln’s] genius for leadership was a willing acceptance of responsibility and a firm will to render honest service.”
In that same speech, Eisenhower went on to personalize that concept to everyone listening. “This basis is demanded of every one of us if the United States is to maintain its position in the world. For the measure of our leadership as a nation is the sum total of the character and sense of responsibility that each of us applies to our daily tasks.”
After leaving Denison, Texas, I was motivated once again—keep going, take responsibility, and continue to build your character. If you have the chance to visit Eisenhower’s Texas or Kansas homes, please stop and refresh your spirit.
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