Friday, December 30, 2016

Old Hickory & Young Hickory

Within an hour’s drive of Nashville Tennessee two US Presidents are honored, Andrew Jackson 7th President of the United States of America, and James K Polk 11th President of the United States of America.

Jackson, known as ‘Old Hickory’ for his toughness from being an orphaned child, held prisoner by the British, and as General of US forces. Polk, referenced as ‘Young Hickory’ as an allusion to the 7th President from the same state as mentor, and the “Napoleon of the Stump” in speaking.

For me there are no more clear examples of there being ‘rock star’ Presidents than these two. One who remains popular throughout the ages and get all the funding, the other the focus of hipster rockers out of New York 

Jackson won a significant battel against the British in the War of 1812 (after it had officially ended) and took the second attempt at the Presidency as a the “voice of the people’s will” shaping the office to be one of a power.

Almost opposite of this Polk was pushed nominated on to the ballot finding out a few weeks later he had won, ran on a strict number of promises and then completed each and every one. Manifest Destiny (a term you may well remember from being a student) was completed by Polk. Unfortunately, Polk died shortly after leaving office never having time to put his history in order. His spotlight is the result of a later in life (after he died) semi adoption of a girl named Sarah by his wife.

If you become President, no matter how hard you work, be certain to plan for after office, or live a long life after, so people will remember what you did for them. 


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Harry S. Truman – 33rd President of the United States of America (1945 – 1953)

Independence Missouri seems the perfect place for Truman’s library.  It’s now a suburb of Kansas City, with the ability to see the skyline in the distance from it’s highest point. It’s on the edge of being modern, but still traditional.

The museum has been fortunate to have a recent renovation within the last ten years. Displays and facts are presented in a very interesting and digestible format. The second room one enter after the welcome movie, shows a series of newspaper front pages. It’s clear to see that from the time FDR passes and Truman takes office, to the time of VJ Day is a few mere months. This is the power of presidential momentum. Over thirteen years of work from FDR is enjoyed over the first few months of Truman’s term in office. He didn’t invest in the bomb, know about it’s construction, or all of the tribulations raised by those averse to its use, until it came time to make a choice to use it. Which he did, twice.

The highly trusted adviser George C Marshall had a plan for the Berlin airlift. He knew how to prepare, execute, and make it happen. Harry got to tell him to do it. There were years of policy and negotiation about civil rights, economy, and other domestic policy which Truman allow to happen when serving out the last FDR term.

When it came time to get reelected, it was close. Under his own command of design things became shaky. Of the Fair Deal, only two items were enacted, and two more in part. Foreign policy choices in APAC had long lasting impact on the following five Presidents. A policy of containment with the Soviet Union was not realized during his time in office as he chased hot spots across the globe.

Truman came to power with great assistance of a local Kansas City party chief Tom Pendergast. He got to the Senate with this backing, a black mark that stayed with him until being nominated for Vice President.

I may not be the first person to be disappointed in Truman. While the museum is a good quality, there is nothing here that is inspirational. His rise seems the most political of opportunity and circumstance. It was surprising that the people writing his legacy would spend so much time justifying his decision to dismiss Douglas McCarthy while fighting the Korean War. The trial of Alger Hiss, the rise of McCarthyism, and his break with the Southern Democrats are topics that are in desperate need of review. Information on these three areas fall flat. I find it funny to have enjoyed the Nixon and Hoover museum more, finding more about these individuals’ lives or actions that I could relate to.

Here is a man who was alive during two presidential assassinations, with an attempt on his on life, and you would think someone would ask his perspective on this. You would think there is an interview to show with his answers.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial

The National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial in Kansas City is an impressive place for learning. It’s location at the top of the city as a beacon of remembrance amongst the skyline has stayed with this great Midwestern community since it first opened in 1926. In 2006 the National World War I Museum opened inside the Liberty Memorial.

The story told here begins with a glass bridge that spans hundreds of poppies, the symbol of veterans from the war. A video overview explaining the complex pressures building in Europe provides a deeper understanding of the how and why.

There are three following sections. The first includes a massive timeline that looks at actions and quotes around the war, with historical points that align for events taking place outside of the war in other parts of the world. Section one deals with Europe, the armaments, supplies and efforts that it took to fight.  The second area is a combination of video and movement that explains why the US became involved in the war effort.  The third section is similar to the first, but focuses only on the US involvement.

One of the stories that I appreciated most during my visit here was the expression of nationalism, isolationism, and globalism. The impact of the industrial revolution on empirical rule, societies hungry for colonialism and goods, and the importance of capitalism to provide swift and scalable support was another great insight.

I highly recommend a half-day here. The perspective this museum provides for understanding the 20th century, and the decisions made during and following it can be traced back to much of what is covered here.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Dwight David "Ike" Eisenhower - 34th President of the United States of America (1953 - 1961)

Abilene Kansas is located in the center of the state. Rolling hills and plains surrounds it. I am disappointed in movie and television depictions of Clark Kent’s childhood capturing a flat and featureless American landscape of farms, when Kansas is the opposite. It’s the land of cowboy’s and beautiful pastures where cattle graze. Abilene is the pleasant small town America one can discover in each state.

Ike was not born here, but raised here after the family moved from Texas. He was the middle child in a set of siblings successful in each respective field. Two quotes that stand out from the trip were one from Dwight’s mother when asked if she was proud of her son, she replied, “Yes, of course, which one?” The other from his mother, that anyone seeking an education could find it.

This is what Ike did when joining West Point. Getting an education when he could not pay for school. Ike did well in the things he was interested in and poorly in those he didn’t. Classmates included famous military leaders from WWII including George Patton.

Ike’s time in service missed WWI, or the Great War, and put him in charge of the Allied Command of WWII. After the war he was President at Columbia University, an author, ran NATO, and became the candidate for the Republican ticket for US President.

In Abilene you will find a pleasant campus to hold the gift store, where tickets are purchased, the library, where his documents and papers are housed, museum, and a place for meditation, in which he, his wife, and child who died early in life are buried.  All of these building surround the childhood home he was raised in, and mother lived through the end of her days.

Parts of the museum have been updated recently; I would look forward to a return when more has been revisited. In many presidential museums we learn about the impacting people and influential circumstances that helped to shape them. It helps us to understand why they made the choices they did. And while there is a small part about the man, his life, and loves, this story is primarily a history of WWII. It is the build up, the causes, the players, and the execution of war. There are lots of guns, artillery, and mortars along with the vehicles that supported and moved them.

“Stories I Tell My Friends” was the inspiration to visit all of the Presidential Museums. After reading this book by Ike, I wanted to learn more about what made these men of leadership choose the actions they took. While a great book, and the museum showed many of these accomplishments and drivers, I was disappointed that it was focused so much on WWII. That is, until I went to Kansas City the following day to see the WWI museum. The combination of these two locations together give a much better appreciation of the lead up to the second world war, and how the clear goals and plans Ike made helped to end this long running struggle.

For me there were a few decisions that Ike made that were unclear until I visited.  The first was the landing area for D-Day, which later became an engineering marvel of Mulberry Bay. If you don’t know much about this topic, I highly recommend looking into it.  This may be one of the key plans that helped to win the war. Second, why not aid the Hungarian revolution in 1958? In an interview after office on a movie reel, it was clear, no neighboring country would allow the US to move over their territory. So he focused on a crisis in Egypt that month instead.

I like Ike. I like Ike a good deal. There is something about him that comes across as being an honest and intelligent man. Many of the positions he held were not ones he sought out, but instead asked him to serve. Like Hoover, there is a solid pattern of people seeking advice and guidance from him years later, Kennedy, LBJ, Nixon.

My travel here was in November, so there were few people. I suspect the best time to visit might be the spring on first bloom of trees and the fields are green and lush. There is a restaurant on the north side of town by the highway called the Brookfield Hotel that has AMAZING chicken dinners. Go there to make the trip complete.