Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Haunting Poetry in History

There are countless moments in history that stop you short of getting through the rest of your day, making you really think about your place in the world in relation to great and terrible political figures, events in various histories, and those small moments that sometimes show that those you would believe to be above you in the annals of government really don't possess anything more special than simply being alive and living through the same emotions and day-to-day decisions that we do, though ours tend to be far less momentous, yet no less important.

What I'm driving at is from Going Home to Glory: A Memoir of Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1961-1969 by David Eisenhower with Julie Nixon Eisenhower. Eisenhower chronicles growing up as the grandson of Dwight D. Eisenhower, and all that entailed for his family, including John, his father, who served him for decades, including his eight years in the White House.

It's a fascinating story, full of those details that show that presidents, even with all that burden, are indeed human. And there's one particular sobering moment in that vein, toward the end of the book, in which news of Eisenhower's forthcoming death has gone through Washington and triggered many preparations, including a eulogy being written for Nixon to deliver at the memorial service in the Capitol Rotunda, and Lyndon Johnson at work as well:

"At the LBJ Ranch in Austin, Texas, a melancholy Lyndon Johnson drafted a statement beginning: "A giant of our age is gone." Four days later, he would stalk Eisenhower's funeral in Abilene like a ghost, barely noticed by many, eyes glistening in sorrow at the passing of a good friend."

During his presidency, Johnson consulted Eisenhower regularly, and also gave standing orders that a helicopter be provided for him to and from his farm in Gettsyburg, Pennsylvania, that he be permitted use of Walter Reed Army Hospital, and also Camp David.

That is indeed sad poetry, and it's also a testament to David Eisenhower's skilled writing that he can convey that and make one stop reading for a few moments to really think about that, between the Johnson that existed in the White House early on and the Johnson that endured such personal carnage as he oversaw a devastating war, such turmoil that extended to that point in his post-presidential life.

That's not meant to diminish the importance of those who fought and died in the Vietnam War, but as my focus for at least three books is the presidents, that's what I emphasize here.

As to my research, this book included, I don't skim the pages looking for keywords that crucial to the books I plan to write. I read each and every book because I love this subject. What better opportunity to go deep into all of this history?

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