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Leadership Attributes in Times of Crisis

September 1, 2020

Dear Readers,

It is indeed a most extraordinary time. As I wrote recently for the Dallas Morning News’ special section on the presidency, trust is a critical leadership attribute—and it must be earned every day. Americans are adrift without the bedrock knowledge that our elected officials are serving the whole country and faithfully defending the rule of law and the Constitution of the United States.

Many people have written me to say that How Ike Led: The Principles Behind Eisenhower’s Biggest Decisions is highly relevant during this difficult time. Please join me on Twitter and help me amplify the critical nature of sound leadership, especially now: @eisenhowergroup.

I hope in the coming weeks that you will watch the book discussion I had with George Hammond at the Commonwealth Club, now on CSPAN Book TV. Or take time to listen to the podcast that the Association of the United States Army did with me recently. There have been so many events, including a discussion with Michael Steele, former Lt. Governor of Maryland and Chairman of the RNC, about Dwight Eisenhower, race relations then and now, and the future of the Republican Party. These were only a few of the engagements I enjoyed since I last wrote you.

For anyone who would like to tune in for a book discussion this Thursday, September 3, Politics and Prose will be hosting me for a lunchtime book talk.

Next time you hear from me I will share some further thoughts about what leaders do when challenges seem insurmountable. I think, in that context, Ike still has much to say to us—and I have a few thoughts of my own! In the meantime, stay well.

Susan

How Ike Led: “A moving account… there could not be a better time to read this book.” –Michael Korda • Available now

How Ike Led is highly relevant during this difficult time.

Uncle Sam Needs You

August 15, 2020

How Ike Led is a powerful addition to a leader’s bookshelf. The author’s unique perspective as Eisenhower’s granddaughter offers the reader personal anecdotes and insights on strategic thought and character not found in previously published biographies of Eisenhower. To understand Dwight Eisenhower, read Susan Eisenhower.”

Association of The United States Army

“Granddaughter of President Dwight ‘Ike’ Eisenhower and leader of Gettysburg College’s Eisenhower Institute, [Susan Eisenhower] has pored through the record of her grandfather’s career and distilled what made him a great leader both on the battlefield and in government. … A direct witness to Ike’s later years, the author draws on memories of her grandfather, and these highly personal anecdotes supplement her research. Armchair historians will treasure this book.”

Booklist

Dear Readers,

It is with considerable trepidation that one reads the newspapers these days. It seems like a perfect storm of crises has overcome our country. The deep divisions in the United States are what Dwight Eisenhower would say are “a welcomed sight for an alert enemy.” But these fissures are more than a national security issue. Covid-19, the economic slump, racial tensions and now the defunding of the United States Postal Service all threaten public confidence in our democracy’s capacity to ensure justice, access to economic opportunity and free and fair elections. Talk to your friends and encourage them to join this or any other civil discussion about the future of our country. Make sure they vote.

How Ike Led is my contribution to the dialogue we are having with ourselves. We should “expect more”—a phrase someone should turn into a hashtag on Twitter. The book was launched on August 11 and I am especially pleased that I have heard from so many people who are, in their words, learning new things about General and President Eisenhower. I have been especially gratified by the reaction of college-aged students who have found merit in learning about a time when our leaders addressed the crises of the day in ways that inspired confidence, not undermined it.

This week, I will be speaking at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco, as well as the Boston Public Library (in partnership with WGBH). I welcome you to join the conversation.

In case you missed, this last week I also did interviews with a number of outlets, but I would single out the podcast with National Review’s Jay Nordlinger,  From the Green Notebook by military writer Joe Byerly, and AUSA’s podcast Army Matters.

With best wishes and stay well!
Susan

How Ike Led: “Inspirational… with lessons highly relevant and desperately needed for current and aspiring leaders.” –Robert M. Gates • Available now
General and President Eisenhower have much to teach us on leadership in times of crisis

Discussing leadership and national unity with Martha MacCallum on ‘The Story’

July 31, 2020

Yesterday, I appeared as a guest panelist on Fox’s The Story with Martha MacCallum to discuss the deep political divisions in our country. View the link to hear more of this discussion and read the accompanying article. I made the point that our current turmoil is a national security issue and our leaders must place national unity among our highest priorities.

Watch the interview

Martha MacCallum, Trey Gowdy, Susan Eisenhower, and Juan Williams on The Story
Appearing as a guest panelist on The Story with Martha MacCallum, July 30, 2020

Read the article

Susan Eisenhower calls on US leaders to “unify this country,” says division is a “national security issue”

Eisenhower and the Meaning of Victory

June 25, 2020

Dear Reader,

Seventy-five years ago this June, with the German surrender a month before, Dwight Eisenhower visited allied and liberated countries and expressed his thanks to the victorious armies and appreciation for the sacrifices made during the war. He also spoke of the teamwork that was forged by the Allied effort and its meaning for the future. 

Take a few minutes to watch the video of Eisenhower’s epic carriage ride through the crowded streets of London to the Guildhall Hall where on June 12 he was presented with Marlborough’s sword and the citizenship of London. In watching this seven-minute newsreel one is struck by a set of values that have seemingly disappeared. It is possible to get a sense of Eisenhower’s leadership: his humility, his humor, the depth of this thinking, not to mention his capacity to articulate historically relevant context. It should be noted that Ike wrote the speech himself and delivered the twelve-minute speech (in the audio link) from memory. Yes, without a note or a teleprompter! 

I think you will be struck by power of this extraordinary moment, and by Winston’s Churchill’s moving comments at the end. Eisenhower went on to other countries for similar victory parades, eventually returning to the United States where he was given a massive parade, ending with a speech before a joint session of Congress. 

Watch an account of the historic Guildhall Day—including the reaction of the British people:

Listen to the audio of Eisenhower’s full speech:

Guildhall Address, London, England, June 12, 1945

For more on this and other key moments in the life and service of Dwight Eisenhower, How Ike Led will be published on August 11.

My best to you all,
Susan

A Fateful Decision; an Historic Outcome

June 5, 2020

It is difficult to overemphasize the world-changing events that hung in the balance on June 5, 1944. Operation Overlord, the military operation launched against Nazi forces in Normandy, had been postponed a number of times, due to inadequate landing craft and even the weather. In the early hours of June 5, Supreme Commander of Allied Forces, Dwight D. Eisenhower, said “Let’s go.”

This decision was made in the face of more uncertain weather and doubt among some of his senior command that critical Airborne troops—deployed to secure inland areas so that our soldiers could get off the beaches—would survive the assault. The unstable weather conditions would play an outsized role in their necessary success.

History was made the day of the invasion—June 6, 1944. On this anniversary, we are humbled in the memory of those who successfully secured the beachhead in Normandy seventy-six years ago, and went on to liberate Europe. The sacrifices were countless, the heroism legendary, and the courage and tenacity of leadership indispensable. 

Although the on-site commemorations in Normandy have been canceled this year due to the pandemic, my thoughts—and those of all Americans and their Allies—turn again to that titanic struggle to rid the world of Nazi oppression. Here is a link to my comments, in a short film produced by the American Embassy in France:

Video: Susan Eisenhower’s remarks on VE Day and the gift we received from those who served with Allied Forces in World War II.

This time last year, in addition to the memorable commemorations in the American sector, I had the enormous honor of crossing the English channel with Henry Montgomery, the grandson of Field Marshall Bernard Law Montgomery, commander of land forces on D-Day, and nearly forty British veterans of the landings.

The 75th anniversary was an occasion to be remembered, but it will not be the last time thousands of people go to the Normandy coast to stand in silent gratitude.

Susan Eisenhower and Henry Montgomery standing before the D-Day map
Photo: With Henry Montgomery, almost exactly seventy-five years later, at Southwick House where the D-Day decision was made. The original map still hangs on the wall. Credit: Susan Eisenhower. (All rights reserved. Not for reproduction without permission.)

A poignant story on Memorial Day

May 25, 2020

Dear Reader,

Please join me in taking a moment this Memorial Day to pay tribute to those who gave their lives for our country and for causes greater than themselves.

I will remember one such person, who has brought considerable meaning to my own life. I will stop to pause on Monday, during a national moment of silence at 3:00 pm local time, to think of Pvt. Frank Mackey, Jr., from North Philadelphia—a modest pipefitter and avid dancing enthusiast. I never met the man, but I found inspiration in him long after his death.

Mackey was a 21-year-old paratrooper/medic—with a wife and young son at home. On D-Day he jumped and landed near the swampy areas behind Utah Beach, and set up his medic’s station in a little French hamlet near Picauville. He saved the lives of several people, and patched up a French youngster who had injured himself before the invasion. The next day, on June 7, German soldiers attacked his station and Mackey held off the assault, so those under his care could escape from the back exit. The Germans soon broke down the front door and bayoneted the unarmed medic. Four hours later, Mackey bled to death on the main street of the village. There were no other medics in the area to help save this brave man, and the French villagers were under German armed arrest.

Over the decades, due to the efforts of villager Lucien Halsey—whose younger brother Pvt. Mackey had tended to—this story had become something of a legend in the area: the medic’s name was the only one missing on “Lucien’s Wall,” a memorial that the Frenchman carved on the side of his stone barn, which he dedicated to the men who liberated his village in June 1944.

The identity of Pvt. Mackey was unknown to the villagers for seventy-two years. And during that time Lucien and others had tried to find his name. But through the miracles of the online world, and the creativity of my Gettysburg College student Greg Dachille, my associate David Wemer, Normandy local historian Ben Trumble, and WWII expert Col. Leonard Fullenkamp, our team found the identity of this mysterious man, who had given his life to save others.

At first, when I challenged this group to help me find the medic’s name, most of us were skeptical that we might succeed. However, all of us wanted to give it a try—for Lucien. Here is a short clip of the story that the United States Army’s 82nd Airborne Division compiled after members of their unit participated in the village event, three months later, when we disclosed our findings. Please take a moment to watch this moving clip of Frank and Lucien’s shared history.

How Lucien’s Wall came to have a complete list of names of soldiers from the 82nd Airborne who liberated the hamlet near Picauville in 1944.

Today, Frank Mackey’s name is on Lucien’s Wall, carved there by Lucien Halsey himself, with all the physical difficulty of one who has lived more than eight decades of life. Despite the pain and worries, he did so with determination and a sense of completion. Later that fall, Lucien met Frank Mackey’s son who visited this spot to learn that his father had been a revered hero in this little hamlet on the Normandy coast. Lucien’s Wall of remembrance is now a French monument.

This Memorial Day, please take a moment to think about the men and women you might have known or learned about, who sacrificed all they had, not just for us, but also for strangers. It is especially meaningful this year, in our time of loss and gratitude.

Susan Eisenhower

Trumble, Wemer, Halsey, Eisenhower, and Fullenkamp at Lucien’s Wall
This is the team that undertook the search for the medic, in what Col. Fullenkamp told us would be like “trying to find a needle in a haystack.” From left: Ben Trumble, David Wemer, Lucien Halsey, Susan Eisenhower, and Leonard Fullenkamp. (Missing: Greg Dachille.)
addition of ‘F. Mackey’ engraving to Lucien’s Wall
Detail of “F. Mackey” stone, engraved by Lucien Halsey at Lucien’s Wall.
Frank E. Mackey’s headstone at his grave in Normandy, France
Frank E. Mackey’s grave. Taken by the author at The American Cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy on the 75th Anniversary of D-Day.

 

Victory in Europe: 75 years ago

May 8, 2020

Dear Reader,

I hope you will take a moment on May 8, 2020 to remember “Victory in Europe” 75 years ago. Like me you may be filled with both sorrow and joy. Sorrow for allies who perished as they defeated Nazi Germany’s murderous rule and joy that their sacrifice ushered in the possibility of a “second chance.” The post-war world brought with it peace, as well as new, vibrant democracies and economic progress unseen in human history. In looking back on the legacy of that campaign and its aftermath, Dwight Eisenhower wrote a vigorous defense of the capacities within democracy to achieve our urgent goals. In his book, Crusade in Europe he noted:

“Victory in the Mediterranean and European campaigns gave the lie to all who preached, or in our time shall preach, that the democracies are decadent, afraid to fight, unable to match the productivity of regimented economies or unwilling to sacrifice in a common cause.”

We are being tested today in a different way, but in the memory of all those who were part of the war effort, let us recommit ourselves to shoring up the basic tenants of our democracy, and promoting peace, justice and cooperation in facing our contemporary challenges.

Yesterday, to mark VE Day, I interviewed Col. Leonard Fullenkamp, an internationally recognized historian and strategist.

On EI LIVE, we examined the legacy of the war in Europe and its relevance in today’s world. I hope you enjoy our discussion.

Susan Eisenhower

***

Listen to General Dwight D. Eisenhower’s V-E Day Statement, May 8, 1945:

‘How Ike Led’ coming soon

March 4, 2020

How Ike Led: “Inspirational… with lessons highly relevant and desperately needed for current and aspiring leaders.” –Robert M. Gates

My new book, How Ike Led: The Principles Behind Eisenhower’s Biggest Decisions will be published on August 11th by Thomas Dunne Books, an imprint of St. Martin’s Press. It is now available for preorder in print, ebook, and audiobook format.

The book is a retrospective of Eisenhower’s wartime and presidential leadership, which includes biographical details, observations, and anecdotes about his character. I was fortunate to have known Ike well, and I am delighted to have the opportunity to share what observers, scholars and family members had to say about the leadership style of a man who will be memorialized on the Washington mall in September.

As I worked on the book I was surprised by the contemporary resonance of many issues that emerged: from Eisenhower’s full acceptance of responsibility for the potential failure of the D-Day landings to his commitment to building a political Middle Way in the United States to assure national unity and a foreign policy consensus. Some of his quotations read like they were written today.

I hope from time to time over the next year to be adding more stories here on this site. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the book.

Preorder now ›

Praise for How Ike Led

“A well-written reflection on one of the most significant American presidents. The compelling substance of How Ike Led is enhanced by the author’s sensitive style. It brings one of America’s most remarkable public figures into lasting focus.”

Henry A. Kissinger, U.S. Secretary of State 1973–1977

“Susan Eisenhower’s How Ike Led is not only a moving account of her grandfather’s major decisions, but an astute and timely reminder that his virtues—good judgment, taking full responsibility, self-control, courage and devotion to the truth, however uncomfortable—remain the lodestar of leadership in peace and in war, and of his own long, remarkable career of public service as a general and president. I had a wonderful time reading it—and there could not be a better time to read this book.”

Michael Korda, author of Ike and Hero

“This riveting account of Dwight David Eisenhower’s brilliant World War II leadership and his visionary Presidential accomplishments sets a new benchmark for excellence in the study of strategic leadership. Once again Susan Eisenhower brings her extraordinary storytelling skills to bear in this compelling history of one of America’s most gifted leaders of character and courage; the result is an authoritative and revealing perspective on “Ike’s” unparalleled role in shaping his era and our own.”

Lieutenant General David Huntoon, US Army (Retired), former Superintendent of the US Military Academy at West Point

“Susan Eisenhower’s How Ike Led distills from her grandfather’s life the enduring qualities of successful leadership. Those qualities—dedication to duty, sincerity, fairness, optimism, humility, patience and restraint, moderation and accountability—are illuminated through anecdotes both moving and entertaining from Dwight Eisenhower’s decades of unparalleled service to America. It is an inspirational book with lessons highly relevant and desperately needed for current and aspiring leaders, especially those in public life.”

Robert M. Gates, U.S. Secretary of Defense 2006–2011

“An eloquent, compelling tribute to our 34th president, lovingly—but not uncritically—penned by the author’s granddaughter. This eminently readable book is laced with personal anecdotes and insights from his friends and closest advisors. Although Eisenhower’s life and presidency have been the subject of abundant scholarly study, the family details and flowing style of How Ike Led make a special contribution to our understanding of him as a person and as a leader.”

Dr. Susan Hockfield, President Emerita, MIT

How Ike Led takes us inside the mind of one of the towering figures of the 20th-century, indeed one of our nation’s most accomplished and yet still misunderstood presidents. Our host on this journey, Susan Eisenhower, one of the revered general’s granddaughters, uses personal stories and memorable anecdotes to provide a deeply-moving insight into one of the master-strategists of our time. As her book makes clear, Eisenhower’s leadership and his sublimation of ego stand in stark contrast to the qualities of far too many elected officials today. Read it with pride and be reminded of the virtues that defeated Nazism and contributed mightily to the nation that we Americans too often take for granted.”

Robert Edsel, author of Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History

“Susan Eisenhower has given us an insightful and inspiring profile of Ike’s brand of leadership; his authority was grounded in his unshakable integrity and deep commitment to the service of others. Drawing on extensive research and her own personal experience, Eisenhower paints a 20th century portrait that is even more relevant in the 21st century. This book calls us to remember how essential true leadership is for American democracy to thrive.”

Frederick M. Lawrence, Secretary and CEO, The Phi Beta Kappa Society and Distinguished Lecturer, Georgetown University Law Center

“This remarkable book is a priceless gift to people young and old, seeking the secret of America’s past success: wise and selfless leadership; written by an expert on the life, times, and personal values of a man called Ike.”

Ambassador Richard T. McCormack, Former Executive Vice Chairman, Bank of America and former undersecretary of state

“Susan Eisenhower’s unique insights into the values, vision, and courage of our 34th president and unmatched command of the history of his era deepen and at times transform our understanding of the events that shaped the modern world, from D-Day to Little Rock, from Suez to Sputnik…Ike’s humanity as well as his wisdom shine through as he steered the Nation to peace and prosperity…A must read for anyone who cares about America’s past, or its future.”

Daniel B. Poneman, CEO of Centrus Energy Corporation and former Deputy Secretary of Energy

A Note to the Reader

February 28, 2019

Over the years, I have found it enormously satisfying to write this blog and to offer comments on our current political scene. It has been some time since I have made a contribution to this site, but I hope to continue writing here on the completion of a book I have undertaken. My publication date is May 2020.